November 28, 2022

The Creepy Real-Life Inspiration For He-Man’s Skeletor

Based on a popular toy line from Mattel, the animated series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” was on the air for two seasons in the early- to mid-1980s, but the story has been revived for a number of film and TV reboots since then (via IMDb). As any He-Man fan will tell you, the arch-nemesis of the beloved muscle-bound hero is the dastardly Skeletor. With only a creepy bony skull for a face, Skeletor has scared generations of children as he plots, among other objectives, to steal He-Man’s “Sword of Power” and rule Planet Eternia.

As it turns out, the inspiration for the notorious cartoon villain developed by He-Man creator Mark Taylor — and voiced by “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill in a recent Netflix cartoon reboot (via CNET) —  came from a scary encounter that Taylor in the 1970s  at a funhouse exhibit when he was 9 years old — the same age that many lifelong He-Man fans were when they discovered Taylor’s show (via the Daily Star).

Taylor was convinced the funhouse exhibit he saw was real

On “The Toys That Made Us,” a Netflix documentary series about the popularity of such toy franchises such as He-Man (via IMDb), He-Man creator Mark Taylor said that he clearly remembers visiting the Laff in the Dark funhouse at an amusement park in Long Beach, California called The Pike (via Slate). On view at the funhouse was a mummified-looking corpse dressed up like an Old West outlaw in an exhibit that Taylor said smelled like death.

Despite the reassurance of the adults who were with Taylor that day, he felt certain that what he saw in the funhouse exhibit was a dead body, as Taylor himself told “The Toys that Made Us” producers (via the Daily Star). Taylor said (per the Daily Star) “All of a sudden I knew this was a real person, no question … This absolutely was a real person … and that’s where Skeletor came from,” he added. At that time, he couldn’t have known how right he was.

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Skeletor is based on Old West outlaw Elmer McCurdy

In one of the strangest stories from classic Hollywood, the exhibit that Taylor saw, with its mummified, near skeletal appearance, inspired the popular toy and TV character Skeletor, was in fact a real body. The remains belonged to a real Old West outlaw named Elmer McCurdy (above) who in the early 20th century was shot and killed by the police. From there, McCurdy’s dead body endured a truly bizarre post-mortem experience. Among other pit stops along the way, it appeared in a few Hollywood movies and ended up in a funhouse attraction, as Slate explains.

Meanwhile, a long list of McCurdy owners forgot that what they had on display was a dead body, and the truth was only discovered when, in 1976, producers from the hit TV Show “The Six Million Dollar Man” tried to borrow the supposed prop, the same year that Taylor encountered the “Laff in the Dark” exhibit.  When McCurdy’s arm fell off, further examination revealed that it wasn’t a prop corpse at all, but instead, the real thing. Today, McCurdy’s body is interred in his home state of Oklahoma, and the villain Skeletor lives on in the imagination of He-Man fans today.