Monday, April 5, 2010

Cowboy Mummy Found in Desert

 
There are many strange stories in the Arizona files. One that is told is about the mummy found in the desert near Gila Bend nicknamed “Sylvester”. Many believe that he once was a 19th century cowboy, a con that loved to play cards. Stories are told that he finally got caught cheating and was shot in the stomach. He made a hasty exit while bleeding profusely from his wound. He got as far as Arizona’s Gila Bend desert when he fell off his horse and died face down in the sweltering heat. Shortly afterwards, he was covered by the blowing sands, which appeared to have dried his body overnight. This apparently preserved his body resulting in the mummified form he was found in.

The more believable story was that he was found shortly after death and preserved in a high level of arsenic. Arsenic was used to stop the physical occurrences of a corpse rotting by killing bacteria and insects that invaded it. This custom of using arsenic was found to be poisonous by the 1900’s and never used again. No one really knows who put his body in arsenic. Perhaps it was one who profits on this type of behavior. His mummified body was displayed in a sideshow for all to gawk at. People wanted to see the Wild West outlaw mummy that was found in the desert. In 1955, the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington acquired Sylvester and put him in a glass case for display. This is where Sylvester has been ever since.

There were many that wanted to know if Sylvester’s story was true, or just an urban legend. Experts were sent to examine the body to see if it was a real person or a very clever wood carving made to look like a mummy. They would have to head up to Seattle, Washington, to get their answers.

Upon first inspection they noticed that Sylvester was highly polished and weighed about 100 pounds. The desert sands would have soaked out the liquid of his body, leaving the mummy to weigh about 20 percent less of his living weight. The mummy's weight meant that Sylvester was a very heavy man, around 500 pounds. Also, if he was mummified by the desert sands, his skin should have been dry, not smooth and shiny. They expected to find a varnish on the surface to explain the glossy phenomena, but found none. They did find a great quantity of arsenic in the analyses of the hair and skin.

The next thing they tried was to use an X-ray machine to see what the image will reveal. They were surprised to find internal organs and human bones. This means that he was once was a real live human and was mummified in death. They examined him more to see what the cause of death would have been and found a bullet in his abdomen and another in his collarbone. They still didn’t get an answer why his was so heavy, so the used a 3-D imager to get a distinct view.

After all the scans and X-rays, they found all his organs complete, with buckshot fragments lodged in several areas of his body and even one in his right cheek. The massive buckshot could explain the weight. The examination of his teeth revealed that he was probably between 35 and 40 years of age when he died.

The question still remains, was he really mummified in the desert while on the run, bleeding from his wounds? Or, did someone find him right after he died, preserved him in arsenic and used his mummified body as a sideshow freak display? I just may have to take a trip to Gila Bend to find the truth, if it is out there.

24 comments:

  1. So cool...although that pic scared the bajesus out of me as I was scrolling through my blogroll on my dashboard. LOL!

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  2. Every time I'm out hiking around in the desert, I kid around about finding a mummy. That is such a creepy story. The arsenic worked, though. He's awfully well preserved.

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  3. Kim; LOL, that picture is pretty creepy. I would like to see this mummy in person. Maybe, one day.

    Autumn; who knows how many more bodies are lying out in our desert, mummified by the elements. Don't forget your arsenic, lol.

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  4. Arsenic, eh? I guess that's one mummy you're not going to want to eat. Unless you're a zombie. Then its probably fine. Except, don't zombies only eat living flesh? Wait, what was I talking about? Cool story, anyway :)

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  5. That is one creepy looking cowboy mummy.

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  6. Nate; LOL, love your comments. I'm not sure if a zombie would like to chew on a mummy. They prefer their meals live. Muhahaha!!

    Jessica; I totally agree, he is very creepy!

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  7. I can't remember if it's in Arizona or New Mexico... the "thing found in the desert"...

    It appears to be an old mummy of a mother and child... one of those road side, side show things... I was wondering if it was still in business.

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  8. @eloh; I did see on my TV news about the mother and baby mummies but I can't remember where they were found. They were well preserved and you could see her eyelashes.....pretty cool.

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  9. That is some wild stuff. You'd think they'd be able to figure out if it's fake or not. I say real. Cowboy mummy...way cool!

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  10. He is at "Ye Ol Couriosity shop" in Seattle. Very cool place to visit.

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  11. I have lived in Western Washington most of my life and have seen Sylvester a lot over my life. They now also have a female mummy right next to Sylvester named Sylvia. "The Ye Ol' Curiosity Shop" is located down by the Washington State ferries along the waterfront. Very cool place indeed! They have the coolest things in this place, the Lord's prayer written on a grain of rice, and other novelties. It's been a while since I've been there, but I'm only a ferry ride away and will have to check it out again. It is great and reminds me of my childhood everytime I go inside. (No, it doesn't cost anything to go in and look as Sylvester or Sylvia), at least it didn't cost anything about 5 years ago when I was there last.
    -Shanna

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  12. In the mid 70's I was driving through AZ and stopped at a small turquoise shop / museum. There was a mummified body like this one in a glass case. They said the body was a miner that died in the desert and the copper and minerals in the sand preserved him. In the case he was standing. At first glance I thought it was the same body, but it says that this body left AZ in 1955. Any one know about the one I saw?

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    1. I saw the same man in AZ in 1974. Same story about copper preserving him. And don't laugh, but I remember the face! He was standing upright in that glass case. I don't know who they sent to WA?

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  13. I visited "The Thing" in southern AZ ( a few miles east of Benson) a couple of years ago. The mother and child mummy is still there in a glass case. I remember it 40 years when I visited it as a child.

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  14. Here is my Story---I met Sylvester for the first time in Idaho in the late 50's, in a "western museum"--you know--Rattlesnakes Alive! and all that. I met him again, to my astonishment, in a store very much like Seattle's "Ye Ol' Curiosity Shoppe"...but it was in Boston, near Fanuell Hall in the late 60's. I was really surprised at meeting him again in the late 80's, at Pier 54's Ye Ol' Curiosity Shoppe in Seattle!! (although glad to see he'd settled down and gotten married!) Yes, same name, same story, same cloth, same bullet hole. Either he's been passed around a bunch, or he has a few brothers! I'd love for someone to clear up THIS mystery about Sylvester the Mummy!

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    1. Interesting! He either has a twin or he has been one busy mummy doing lots of traveling. I would like to know more about him as well.

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  15. First time I seen Sylvester was when I was about 9 we lived in Olympia, we were on Seattle and found the shoppe and we would go there on occasion just to see him, years later I took my wife to see him kind of cool actually

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  16. Kate, he has been in Seattle as long as I remember, it was about 68 or 69 when I first saw him in seattle

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  17. I would think mummies would be like people jerky to zombies.

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    1. Hi i have seen a documentary in the UK i think he's beautiful i do feel sorry for him on display for all to see i think ur right mummy might be a bit jerky compared to zombies

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  18. HEHEHE

    80 pounds of shotgun lead

    hehehhe

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  19. I traveled through Arizona in 1974. We stopped to see what they had. Seeing this picture of the preserved man on their site, was like re connecting with an old friend. I remember reading how there was a mine, years ago. Cooper I think. Anyway, the combination of natural minerals in the sand, preserved him.

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  20. Hi wow that's amazing to think that there are two sylvesters i sent a comment on a documentary here in the UK about Sylvester I found it very interesting and he is beautifully preserved but feel sad for him he's not at rest at least he has company with Sylvia

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