Sideshow Bandit

Marie Wilson

Book Cover



    Core Theme



    19th Century,20th Century (multiple decades)










    In 1976 a mannequin hanging in a funhouse ride is discovered to be a real human body. An autopsy sends us back to 1911 and the brief but intense life of a failed train robber. Dead by age thirty-one, the Oklahoma Bandit finally finds fame as a sideshow mummy – for sixty years. This is a true story.



    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34

    Target Gender: Universal


    Bangor, Maine; Pawhuska & Guthrie & Osage Hills, OK; Iola, Kansas; Fort Leavenworth; Carterville & St. Joesph, MO; Los Angeles.

    Based on a True Story


    Starting Description

    When a mannequin hanging in a funhouse is found to be a real human body, the LA Coroner's Department conducts an autopsy, which sends us back in time to the cadaver's embalming in 1911; and then further back to the birth of the child who would end up being the funhouse mummy at the LA Coroner's.

    Ending Description

    Following a shootout in 1911 that kills thirty-one year old Elmer McCurdy, his mummified cadaver plays the carnival circuit for sixty years, billed as the Oklahoma Outlaw. When he is discovered in a funhouse in the 70s and identified, he is at last given a proper burial.

    Pitch Adaptation

    In 1976, a mannequin hanging in a California funhouse ride is discovered to be a real human body. The L.A. Coroner's Department conduct an autopsy and each clue uncovered casts us back in time to reveal who the mummy was in life. Told in flashback, we follow Elmer McCurdy from his birth to an unwed teenager in 1880, through his strife-filled boyhood in a small town in Maine, to his final dramatic hours. As a boy, Elmer dreams of following in the footsteps of Jesse James but as a young man his dreams are dashed as the Old West gives way to the 20th century. Elmer rides the rails and romances women, lives in hobo camps and does time in jail. In a stunning turn, he successfully defends himself in court, demonstrating what he might've become had he the opportunity. Through all his valiant attempts at making something of himself runs a fatal lack of confidence and an uneducated passion for blowing things up. There are train robberies that play out like Keystone comedies and shoot-outs to rival Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Following his death by a single bullet, Elmer's life as a sideshow attraction begins. Interwoven throughout the screenplay are various carnival and film appearances by Elmer’s mummy. At every show, the cadaver is visited by someone who knew Elmer in life, someone who leads us into the next part of his fantastic tale. This is the story of a forgotten man, remembered. This is a true story and a great piece of Americana.

    WGA Number


    Mature Audience Themes


    Plot - Other Elements

    Philosophical Questions

    Plot - Premise


    Main Character Details

    Name: Elmer McCurdy

    Age: boyhood to 31

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Clumsy,Desperate,Engaging,Insecure,Naive,Underdog,Uneducated,Lone Wolf,Empathetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Sydney Hawk

    Age: 32

    Gender: Female

    Role: Logical

    Key Traits: Decisive,Educated,Sexy,Outspoken,Skillful,Badass

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Sadie McCurdy

    Age: 17 and then 35

    Gender: Female

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Empathetic,Faithful,Naive,Uneducated,Selfless

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Charlie Revard

    Age: 30

    Gender: Male

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Charming,Empathetic,Flexible,Gracious,Educated,Skillful,Visionary

    Supplemental Materials

    Information not completed


    Based on a true story. A mummified corpse, accidentally uncovered at an amusement park, is found to be that of an unfortunate bank robber who died over 65 years in the past. This is the story of how that came about.

    What We Liked

    - The “crazy” idea of a corpse being able to hide in plain sight for so many years is a compelling concept. It is based on a true story, which makes it even more intriguing;
    - The story spans decades which allows for expansive character and plot development;
    - The main character, though not a really good guy, has an unfortunate life that isn’t entirely his fault. It leads him to his untimely demise and in turn to the somewhat gruesome journey of his mummified corpse over the span of many years. However, he is quite relatable and able to draw a great deal of empathy out of the audience;
    - The vast time span of the story lends itself to the cinematic retelling of the life, times and post life times of the main character. It is presented in an accessible, concise structure with a clear beginning, middle and end with a somewhat stylistic manipulation of timelines that lends itself nicely to this format.


    In 1976, while filming a television show at an amusement park, a crew member makes a grim discovery -- what he thinks is a dummy turns out to be an actual corpse. An autopsy reveals that the body belongs to one Elmer McCurdy, a small time bank robber from sixty five years in the past.

    Late 19th century. Elmer learns that Helen, the woman he thought was his mother, is actually his aunt; and Sadie, who he thought was his aunt, is actually his mother. Later in his teen years, Elmer gets into fights and falls in love with a young woman called Willa. Sadly, they can’t marry until he’s successful, so they’re forced to wait. After his mother’s death, Elmer stows away in a railway car and ends up in a hobo camp. He finds companionship in a little dog he calls Dog and finds work as a plumber. Soon, Elmer learns that Willa married someone else and, when he tries to court a young woman called Blossom, her father, Mr. Bambrick, forbids her from dating a “commoner”.

    He’s fired from his job after getting drunk one night and telling his coworkers some secrets. He joins the Army, but is soon arrested for possessing burglar equipment. He is ultimately found not guilty, but meets a new “friend”, Jarrett, in jail. They begin to rob trains together. The first robbery ends in tragedy when the explosives used to open the train’s safe melt the silver inside. The same thing happens when they try to rob a bank. The haphazard pair have another disaster when they think they are robbing a train carrying Native American tribal payments, only to realize they got the times wrong and net only meager spoils from the passengers. Caught by the police while hiding in a barn, Elmer is shot dead at 32.

    The body is sent to Mr. Johnson’s funeral home. With no one to claim the body, Mr. Johnson disrespectfully decides to embalm the body and put it on display as an attraction for people to put coins in its mouth. During Elmer’s stint as the funeral home attraction, Mr. Johnson is tricked by some carnival owners wanting to profit off the corpse. Through many years, they display Elmer’s embalmed body in carnivals all over the United States. In 1976, Elmer’s body is finally laid to rest in a formal burial in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Willa, an old woman by then, secretly attends the funeral.

    About The Author

    Marie Wilson was born in Vancouver, BC. After studying art and theater at UBC, she moved to Toronto to become a professional actor/writer. Marie has published work in a number of magazines and newspapers. And Harper Collins published her novel “The Gorgeous Girls”, which is currently being adapted for the big screen.