Welcome to my new website featuring free history stories! Every month I will post a true story from
my files—covering topics such as historical true crime, politically incorrect history, amusing glimpses
into the past, ghost tales, etc. A few will be samples from my published books, but most will be BRAND
NEW and PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED ANYWHERE! Some are sections omitted from my books due to
space considerations; some were unprinted because they made publishers nervous; some were written
expressly for this website.
If you like the stories, links on this site will show you how to find my published works.
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* All illustrations, unless otherwise noted, by Kyle McQueen.
* Webmaster: Darren McQueen.
All material herein copyright 2012-2015 by Keven McQueen.
* Author photo: Denise Smith.
Story for May 2015: How to Get a Cheap Statue
Mr. Clayback, commonly known as “Old Man Clayback,” lived in Off Davis Hollow, Barry County, Missouri. He had served in the state militia during the Civil War, from which conflict he emerged as “a physical wreck.” In 1885, he came down with a severe case of what he took to be rheumatism. By 1888 he was paralyzed—an “ossified man,” as seen in all the finest traveling freak shows. Clayback’s doctor told him his case was incurable and advised him to make his peace with God.
The prospect of death did not trouble Clayback, but he did not like the idea of his body becoming worm food. Get cremated, a friend advised. The very concept thrilled the old man’s soul and he requested that his relatives dispose of his body in this newfangled manner.
In 1890 Mr. Clayback was coaxed on the Pale Horse, and his family had to figure out a way to cremate him. Someone remembered that a neighbor owned a lime kiln that was wonderfully suited for the purpose. They placed Clayback’s stiff remains in a large molasses mill evaporating pan so they could save the ashes, then placed the pan in the kiln (presumably after getting permission first from the owners of the kiln and the molasses mill). The kiln was built into the side of a hill, with the not necessarily desirable result that the Clayback family could watch the cremation process. First, the winding sheet caught fire; a quantity of steam came from Clayback’s ears, mouth, and nose. Yet the body itself stubbornly refused to burn. The next of kin shoveled more wood into the kiln. No good. Still more kindling; still no effect. Hours passed into three days of constant burning. The only effect the fire seemed to be having on Clayback’s corpus was that his face bore what was described as a peaceful—even satisfied—expression. The matter was becoming awkward. The Claybacks realized that the body must be drawn from the fire or the lime within would be ruined. They used grappling hooks to pull the evaporating pan out of the kiln. The corpse was still intact, but suffused with a lovely glow. When it was cool enough to touch, the family was surprised, and not a little delighted, to find that Clayback’s body had transformed into a marble-like substance, “a little lighter in color than the natural body, but retaining its natural shape, except on the back, which is a little flattened.” It was a perfect likeness, showing even a bullet wound and a foot injury he had received in 1870. The admirably practical family decided to display Clayback’s “statue” on a limestone pedestal.
P.S. This is one of the hundreds of absurd-but-true stories in my latest book! Order it from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Gothic-Strange-True-Tales-South/dp/1455620157/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423651303&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=kevin+mcqueen+gothic