Skeletor: A Biography

Long before he donned the infamous purple hood to torment He-Man, Skeletor was a real flesh-and-blood human being.

Allow me to explain.

Masters of the Universe artist and toy designer Mark Taylor created Skeletor based on a childhood memory of a California haunted attraction called “Laff in the Dark.” There, young Mark saw a mannequin, hanging by a noose, that had a horrific mummified face covered in wax. The traumatic visual haunted him until his adulthood.

When an amusement park employee later attempted to move the prop, its arm broke off, revealing bone. That’s when it was discovered that this “mannequin” was actually a human corpse!

The LA coroner’s office verified that the body had been dead for over 60 years. It was covered in wax, painted, and had naturally mummified over time.

“I have the pow–ARGH!”

The deceased, Elmer McCurdy, was a bank robber who had died in 1911 from a gunshot wound. Because he was an outlaw, his embalmed corpse was unclaimed and stored in a funeral home for years. The undertaker started displaying it and charging an entry fee.

Soon, the body was sold and somehow Weekend-at-Bernied its way into the glitzy production halls of Golden Age-era Hollywood. It was used as an onscreen prop in films, at carnivals, and even in movie theaters. The more decades passed, the more blurred its true origins became. Everyone simply assumed it was a wax figure. In the 70s, it ended up at Laff in the Dark, where it made its indelible impression on future artist-designer Mark Taylor.

Elmer McCurdy was finally buried in 1977 in Oklahoma under several feet of cement to ensure his body would no longer be desecrated.

R.I.P., Elmer. You live on in animation and plastic toy form!

Listen to Mark Taylor retell Skeletor’s origin story on Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us (season 1, episode 3), or read more information here.

6 responses to “Skeletor: A Biography”

  1. This post simply has it all!

    It’s dark and grim, seasonally appropriate, educational-adjacent, nostalgic, and it is that perfect type of absurd trivia that I will retain long after other far more “useful” information has been long since lost….to top it off, it even has awesome top-tier Skeletor gifs.

    **Skeletal Chef’s Kiss**.

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