Wyoming Mountain Scape

What is the Pedro Mountain Mummy?

In 1934, a pair of prospectors ventured into the Pedro Mountains in central Wyoming and discovered a treasure far outside of their expectations. The history of this object is shrouded in mystery and scandal and has inspired theories which range from superstitious to paranormal. The object in question is a mummy. Discovered within a sealed cave, this mummy is unlike the famously embalmed Egyptian pharaohs. This mummy, which is quite often referred to as “Pedro,” after the location of its discovery, is miniscule. (1)

Pedro cuts a pretty striking figure. He, or she as the sex of Pedro seems to be unknown at this time, is permanently seated with arms crossed in front of thighs which are folded beneath the body. In this position Pedro’s height is less than seven inches tall. (2)

From the moment that Pedro was found, his discoverers seem to have understood that this bizarre discovery had the potential to stimulate people’s imaginations and to generate a profit. Thus, Pedro began a career as a sideshow attraction. He toured and was ogled by curious onlookers from within the confines of a small glass bottle. From this point, custody of Pedro is hard to keep track of, however it is known that he was at one point sold for several thousand dollars, a fairly impressive sum during this time, and that he eventually became a display attraction at a local drugstore in Meeteetse, Wyoming. The owner of Jones Drugstore profited off of the attraction by selling postcards of the store’s macabre mascot. (3)

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Legends of Little People

As more people came into contact with Pedro, myths and conspiracies began to form around the unusual size of the mummy. The shortest adult humans alive have all been at least three times the height of the seated figure of the Pedro Mountain Mummy. (4) To some, the discovery of this relic seemed otherworldly. The history of mummification in North America is sparse and controversial and it is very likely that many individuals encountering Pedro during the mid-twentieth century would not have ever heard of anything similar.

There are, however, many people who had heard of something resembling Pedro. A quick google search will reveal dozens upon dozens of Native American cultural myths featuring races of “little people.” (5) These myths vary in content and range from malicious tribes of miniature cannibals, as in Arapaho stories, to benevolent nature spirits which are reminiscent in character to the household spirits of European fairytales, such as the Mohegan legends of the Makiawisug. (6) Many more of these “little people” myths fall somewhere in between and most present as some kind of pint-sized human associated with the wilderness. It was not long after Pedro’s discovery that whispers began to build suggesting that this object might be the preserved remains of a primordial forgotten race of small humanoids. In 1941, the Milwaukee Journal ran an article entitled: “Did a Race of Pygmies Once Live in America?” (7) To this day, believers in cryptids and conspiracies point to the diminutive size of Pedro as proof that this widespread Native American storytelling motif is founded in truth; that homo sapiens sapiens once shared the Americas with smaller humanoids which have disappeared from this earth. (8)

How Morning Star Lost her Fish - from Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children by Mabel Powers 1917
How Morning Star Lost her Fish – from Stories the Iroquois Tell Their Children by Mabel Powers 1917. Supplied via Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, “pygmy” humans do exist to this day and occur in a number of ethnic groups in Africa and Southeast Asia. These groups, however, are not all that dramatically small. From a Western perspective, legends of pygmies often involve extreme dwarfism, however most pygmy populations hover around or just below an average height of five feet for adult males. This is a far far cry from the “little people” legends and an even farther cry from the Pedro Mountain mummy. (9)

Many theorists have gone a few steps beyond considering Pedro to belong to a lost race, and instead consider him to be evidence of supernatural or extraterrestrial intervention upon the earth. These theorists are doing what I have done up until this point in this article: ignoring the obvious in favor of the fantastical. So what is the Pedro Mountain mummy?

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The Immortal Impact of a Short Life

“Pedro” is almost certainly the mummified remains of a human being. Although “he” is much smaller than any human adult, his size is far less mysterious than it seems. It is widely accepted that Pedro is an infant who died before, during, or very shortly after birth. (10)

Why, then, is there still so much mystery shrouding this mummy when its age should be an easily verifiable fact? Well, the mummy known as Pedro is the subject of yet another mystery entirely. In 1950, custody of Pedro passed from a man named Ivan Goodman to a mystery man often referred to as Leonard Wadler. While in his custody, Goodman had had Pedro X-rayed. Those X-rays indicate that Pedro is indeed the remains of a human infant, and one which may have suffered from the congenital birth defect anencephaly. Anencephaly is usually fatal and has been found in one other infant mummy from Wyoming. This mummy, known as “Chiquita,” was later presented to a University of Wyoming professor who had previously analyzed Pedro’s X-rays. (11)

Pedro Mountain Mummy
Pedro Mountain Mummy. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Further analysis would certainly have been performed upon Pedro if not for the fact that he has not been conclusively tracked after 1950 and his whereabouts are still unknown. In 2005, a man from Syracuse, New York offered a 10,000 dollar reward for anyone who could locate the Pedro Mountain mummy. (12) Nobody has claimed this reward and it has since been rescinded. (13)

Predictably, through all of the theorizing which has arisen around this mummy, something essential has been lost. Each image of “Pedro” which circulates as evidence of the paranormal is, in reality, the image of an infant; a child who has been snatched from their resting place, placed in a specimen jar, gawked at, and eventually lost entirely. While scientific inquiry into Pedro can help us understand our species and our history, our role as historians and as scientists must involve some measure of respect for the human lives into which we are digging. The life of the Pedro Mountain mummy was, for whatever reason, very short. It is, however, no less deserving of or entitled to the basic dignity which each human soul is owed.

More Fascinating History: The Pied Piper Story: What Really Happened to the Children of Hamelin?

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