Last week’s episode of Drunk History focused on the theme “Death,” which is never really supposed to be a humorous subject. But leave it to Derek Waters to unearth some forgotten pieces of history and find some comedic geniuses to (drunkenly) discuss them.
Steve Berg Discusses General Meigs
Also known as “Drunk Steve Berg Gave Me a Better History Lesson Than U.S. Public School Curriculum Would Ever Allow.” You know how much embarrassment I felt having visited Arlington National Cemetary without ever hearing about this story?? Steve Berg: 1. My $30,000 education: 0.
Montgomery Meigs was a United States Army officer and served as Quartermaster General during the Civil War. He got pretty chummy with Lee for a while, but Lee turned out to be a traitor to the Union and Meigs was pissed.
Meigs worked his way up the ranks and became angrier with every soldier he had to bury…especially his son. Naturally, he ordered his men to bury the dead soldiers on Lee’s property, turning the land into a graveyard just to fuck with Lee. And that’s the story of how the Arlington National Cemetary came to be. BONUS: Mary Lee’s rose garden also became the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Jimmy O. Yang Talks About the Kidnapping of Lincoln’s Body
Okay, Jimmy is officially my favorite. He’s not only a phenomenally funny and bilingual guy, but also has the best shoes on the planet for hosting an evening of Drunk History and talking about death. I’m entirely convinced he bought those shoes just for this taping and I support him 300 percent.
Big Jim Kennally was known for running a money counterfeiting business with his partner, Boyd. After Boyd is arrested for counterfeiting money, Kennally goes to recruit two men named Mullens and Hughes to help him steal Lincoln’s dead body. Lewis Swegeles lends his services as well, but Kennally doesn’t know that Swegeles is actually a federal informant. Swegeles tried to take the graverobbers down, but due to one Secret Service member misfiring a gun Mullens and Hughes were able to make an escape — without Lincoln’s body, of course, because they were all too weak to lift the sarcophagus lid.
I honestly cannot, in good conscience, let this article continue before leaving this here. I’m not judging you, Jimmy, but I have some questions.
JD Ryznar Tells the Story of Elmer McCurdy
JD’s story was the definition of chaos. Sure, it had a beginning, middle and end like any story should, but this was a wild ride from start to finish. And JD being absolutely gone during his narration just added to the greatness.
Elmer wanted to be a famous outlaw like all the guys he read about in the papers, so he decided to rob a train. He’s caught, shot in the chest and dies, but not before vowing that he will be an “outlaw that will never quit.” The funeral home director took advantage of this quote and put McCurdy’s body on display in the back of his business as an attention grabber — people could look at the body of an outlaw so long as they put a nickel in its mouth. JD and Derek were kind enough to demonstrate this for us:
McCurdy’s “brother” came to claim the body, but it turned out that he was actually one of the Patterson brothers coming to get another attraction for their oddities shows. Eventually, the body was sold off again, covered in wax and stored in a museum for 20 years. Then, it was handed off to a funhouse in California where it was discovered that the body was not, in fact, a prop after the arm fell off. The body was quickly identified as Elmer McCurdy and shipped back to Oklahoma to be put to rest for good.
So, the takeaway here is that you should always go after your dreams, even if they might kill you. Because you never know how many people will try to exploit the dead body of a legend before they realize you’re an actual, real, very dead human.
Drunk History airs a new episode tonight titled “Halloween” at 10/9c. As someone who is obsessed with Halloween, I am STOKED for this one! You can follow me on Twitter to keep up with commentary about the episode!