Dead Man Gawking

                The girls complained about my boyfriend’s story for a while before I interrupted them.

                “Okay, okay, girls. He gets it. It was gross,” I said, winking at him. It didn’t help that he kept making dripping noises toward them. He loved to pester them.

                He made another dripping sound by melting chocolate and dropping it onto a leaf. “Hey, Heaven, you think that’s what it sounded like when he brought the head in?”

                “Oh my God, will you shut up? You are so gross,” she said, crossing her arms in a pout.

                “Dude,” I said to my boyfriend, “will you cut it out? It’s my turn to tell a story.”

                “Fine,” he whined.  “What this one about?”

                “It’s about a murder on an amusement park ride. It involves our town!”

                Heaven sighed sarcastically and Emily dropped her head in her hands.

*    *    *

                Devon and Amy had waited in line for over thirty minutes for this ride. Their stomachs were empty and the smell of the surrounding food wasn’t helping. Amy’s stomach roared as she saw someone walking by eating the delicious, powdery funnel cake. Her feet stuck to the ground as her eyes longingly followed the stranger. She looked at Devon. The same look was covering his face. They were too close to the front of the line for either one to leave to get food. They should have thought about food when they were at the back of the line.

                “I’m glad we saved the best for last. This ride is supposed to be awesome,” Devon said.

                “I know. I’ve been so excited since it opened. It’s only been open for, like, three weeks, right?”

                “Yeah. I’m surprised the line was so short. I figured we would be here for a lot longer.”

                “Me too. Thank God we don’t have to be. I’m starv-”

                “Next!” the conductor called. He was dressed in a red ringmaster suit.



Hanging Man. Website. Sir Fadi Blog
             Devon and Amy handed him their tickets and sat down on the rollercoaster-like seats. It was an underground ride, and they had no idea what to expect. Other passengers loaded on with them- four in front of them and two behind them. The ride jutted forward through two doors. It was dark inside. Amy put her hand in front of her face. She couldn’t see it. A loud explosion erupted in front of them, a mixture of fake fire and light, but still Amy screamed. She heard Devon laugh next to her.

                All of a sudden the ride dropped straight down, bringing their stomachs up to their throats. Water sprayed them as they hit the bottom, but not enough to soak them. A loud siren wailed all around them as lights flickered on and off, revealing their stone surroundings. A voice came over the speaker telling the riders that there was engine trouble and they would have to stop.

                They sat in the dark, in silence, and Amy reached for Devon’s hand.

                Fire erupted in front of them again, blocking their path forward. Even though she knew the fire wasn’t real, only orange and yellow sheets mixed with the perfect amount of light, Amy was still scared. The ride jerked forward through the “fire” and on the other side were burning houses. There were screams all around them as dummies hung out the windows of the burning buildings. Amy was transfixed. She couldn’t take her eyes off of her surroundings. She looked into the houses wondering what she would be able to see. She saw a swinging shadow behind an open doorway. Her brow furrowed in confusion. She touched Devon’s arm and pointed to where she was looking.

                “It’s just a prop,” he yelled into her ear.

                She nodded her head in response, but something inside told her different. The shadow’s feet hadn’t been touching the ground, and why would they have someone hang themselves when the people were supposed to be burning? It didn’t make sense.

               Her thoughts were interrupted by water hitting her face and body. Soon doors opened and the ride came to a stop. It was over.

                “You were so scared!” Devon teased.

                Amy rolled her eyes.

                “You were!” Devon said again, jumping up and down.

                “Oh, like you weren’t. I felt you jump, butthole.”

                Devon stopped jumping. “Whatever,” he retorted. Amy smiled to herself.

                “Food?” Amy questioned.

                “You read my mind.” He walked over to a vendor and bought them each a funnel cake and lemonade. It was the most delicious thing Amy had ever tasted.

*    *    *

                “Um, what was so scary about that? The chick and her beau went on a ride. And?” Heaven snidely remarked.

                “Well, that’s not the scary part. That ‘shadow’ that Amy saw wasn’t a dummy. It came out in the papers a couple of days later that the ‘swinging shadow’ was a man that had been hung. And here’s the best part. He wasn’t recently hung; he had been dead for a while, like years. They think someone had hid his body and then masked it in the ride when it was built. All the workers were questioned, but no one was ever caught. They shut down the ride for a while, but it’s back up now.”

                “How did no one smell the body?” Emily asked.

                “They put in a sulphur smell for the fire. That smell overbore the rotting flesh,” I answered.

                “Oh. So what does this story have to do with our town?”

                “Well, the guy that was hung? He’s buried here. He was originally from here, but then became an outlaw, a bank robber, and fled.”

                “Is it sad that this is the coolest thing about our town?” Heaven said nonchalantly.

                We all laughed. Hell, it was true.


 *    *    *


Dead Man Gawking. Website. Snopes: Dead Man Gawking


Author’s Note:

                I made some significant and insignificant changes to this story. According to Snopes, the hanging dead man was discovered in 1976 by a worker when he moved the “prop” and one of the arms fell off, and let’s just say it wasn’t stuffing inside. The amusement park was actually Nu-Pike Amusement Park in California. The hanging guy’s name was actually Elmer McCurdy, who really was an outlaw. He had robbed a train of $46 dollars and some whiskey in Oklahoma back in 1911. A shoot-out ensued and McCurdy was killed. Apparently after his embalming, the funeral director thought he looked really good and, since no one showed up to claim McCurdy, he kept him around as an attraction that people could see for five cents.  Eventually two men showed up claiming to be McCurdy’s brothers, but they were really carnival people who wanted to use him as a prop. After McCurdy was discovered to be a real person, he was transported back to Guthrie, Oklahoma, and is buried in Summit View Cemetery under two cubic yards of concrete. This was so no one could use him as a prop anymore. I decided to go with the discovery of the body as the main element to my story. I felt it would be more eerie, and entertaining. He was originally a prop in a funhouse, not a ride, but I thought the ride aspect would be more fun. I also based the ride in my story off of “Fire in the Hole” from the Silver Dollar City Amusement Park in Missouri.