After three years in the U.S. Army, McCurdy traveled to Oklahoma and joined a gang of bank and train robbers. It appears that McCurdy was confused about the train, and believed it contained a safe which held thousands of dollars in government tribal payments. The money train was delayed for a few hours, and McCurdy's gang actually robbed a passenger train, getting away with $46 and a few bottles of liquor. Soon afterward he was killed in a gunfight in the Osage Hills in north-central Oklahoma, shot in the chest by a .32-20 caliber bullet. A contemporary newspaper account gave McCurdy's last words as "You'll never take me alive!"
In December 1976, during filming at Queens Park (A.K.A. The Pike), of the television show The Six Million Dollar Man episode "Carnival of Spies" (#4.17) (1977), a crew member was moving what was thought to be a wax mannequin that was hanging from a gallows. When the mannequin's arm (some accounts say finger) broke off, it was discovered that it was in fact embalmed and mummified human remains. Later, when medical examiner Thomas Noguchi opened the mummy's mouth for other clues, he was surprised to find a 1924 penny and a ticket from Sonney Amusement's Museum of Crime in Los Angeles. That ticket and archived newspaper accounts helped police and researchers identify the body as that of Elmer McCurdy.
His remains were examined in 1976 by forensic anthropologists. McCurdy's remains revealed incisions from his original autopsy and embalming, as well as a gunshot wound in the right anterior chest. Additionally, a copper bullet jacket or gas check from a .32-20 caliber projectile was found embedded in his pelvis (analysis of the projectile showed that the jacket was manufactured between 1905 and the 1930s). Also, video superimposition of the remains with photographs of McCurdy's corpse in the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collection confirmed McCurdy's identity.