10 Times People Saw Dead Bodies In Public And Didn't Even Know It

There are quite a few ghastly stories of corpses discovered out in the open long after their death. How could a dead body be hiding in plain sight? In most cases, people believe it's part of a gag or an elaborate Halloween decoration and do nothing about it. 

Most people don’t expect to casually come across dead bodies in public, but it has happened. And while some argue calling the police for every scary body prop you see is a bit of overkill, when you realize that actual bodies have gone ignored in the past, the inconvenience of calling the police officer is far better than the alternative. Because sometimes what seems like a harmless decoration or a silly act can actually be quite deadly. 

Photo: RightBrainPhotography / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • Elmer McCurdy in the Spook House

    A spooky ride in a California amusement park featuring a tunnel full of ghouls, demons, and skeletons called the "Laff in the Dark" also had an actual human corpse jumbled in with the props. The TV show The Six Million Dollar Man was gearing up to film, and maintenance workers were going through checking the decorations of the ride. What people thought was an incredibly detailed mannequin hanging from a noose was revealed as a dead body when an employee of the amusement park accidently broke off an arm and found what he held was bone and layers of actual skin.

    As it turns out, the body was that of Elmer McCurdy, an outlaw who was shot by police 65 years before the “Laff in the Dark” opened its gates in 1976. McCurdy's body was left in a funeral home in Oklahoma, and when no one came to claim it, the funeral home director charged people a nickel to view the dead man. He preserved the corpse with embalming fluid.

    Seeing the moneymaking scheme the funeral director has started, a carnival man came to the funeral home claiming to be a relative of McCurdy. He took McCurdy's body, traveled around the country and charged people for nearly 60 years to see the strange attraction. McCurdy's body eventually ended up in Long Beach, CA, and under the assumption McCurdy was just a prop, found its place in the "Laff in the Dark" ride. 

    Police were notified, and the body was identified as McCurdy. He is finally at rest in Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, OK, with a thick layer of concrete over his casket to make sure he stays down there for good.

  • People Thought This Burning Man Was A Mannequin On Fire

    On July 4, 2016, shoppers outside a strip mall in Pembroke Pines, FL, saw what they thought was a burning mannequin outside of a store. A witness called authorities around 7 am claiming a mannequin was aflame on the sidewalk. When authorities arrived, however, they discovered something much different. 

    "When the fire department arrived, they realizezd that it wasn't a mannequin, that it was actually a human being who was deceased. They extinguished the fire and when police arrived, the initiated an investigation itno what may have occurred," Captain Al XIques with Pembroke Pines Police told CBS-Miami

  • Dead Man on a Balcony Mistaken for a Halloween Prop

    In October 2009, the body of 75-year-old Mostafa Mahmoud Zayed was left to decompose on his Marina del Rey, CA, balcony because everyone thought he was just another Halloween display. He sat slumped over in a chair on the third floor of his apartment building with a gunshot wound through one of his eyes. He was in plain view from four days until someone realized it wasn't a fake. 

    A cameraman at the scene of the crime said he wasn't surprised no one called police to report Zayed's death. "It did look unreal, to be honest," he said. 

  • A Desk Clerk At A Senior Center Thought A Dead Body Was An April Fool's Prank

    On April 2, 2014, Ronald Benjamin went outside for a cigarette outside of Peterborough Apartments where he worked as a desk clerk. He saw something on the patio that looked like a mannequin. Figuring it was a leftover prank from April Fool's Day, he went back to work. Two hours later, a resident of the senior home reported the weird object to Benjamin; he reassured her it was just a joke. When a 16-year-old paper boy came on his route, Benjamin recruited the boy to help him throw the mannequin in the dumpster. There was a substance that looked like blood on it, but again, he dismissed it as fake and part of the prank. 

    A few hours later, fellow employees of the apartment building discovered the object in question was not a mannequin, but the body of a 96-year-old resident who had jumped to her death from 16 stories above the night before. 

    "I'm telling you, I swear to God, the face looked like a rubber mask," Benjamin told The Tampa Bay Times. He genuinely had no idea he had chucked a body in a dumpster. "If I had thought for one instant it was a real person I would have called the police, my manager, everyone I could think of."

  • Two Men Take Their Deceased Friend On A Car Ride

    Two Denver men were arrested after they took their dead friend's body on one last joyride. In August 2011, Robert Young and Mark Rubinson found their friend Jeffrey Jarrett dead, and instead of calling the police, they took Jarrett's body - and his credit card - on a shopping spree.

    They bought food, drinks, and spent $400 at a strip club before tucking Jarrett in bed. After returning his body, they reported him to the police. They were both charged with identity theft, criminal impersonation, and abuse of a corpse.

  • A Postman Stepped Over a Corpse to Deliver Mail

    The night of November 2, 2012, 46-year-old Dale Porch collapsed in front of his house - right next to his mailbox - after returning from a late shift at work. The next day, the postman came to deliver the mail, saw Porch's lifeless body, and thought it was just another leftover Halloween display. He stepped over the body, delivered the mail, and went about his day.  

    Porch's son discovered his body and called the police later that day. The postman felt terrible once he found out about all this, but Porch's family was angry the postman did nothing.