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Dead Darrius: Birmingham’s Mummified Stuffed Boy–Is It A True Story, True Crime, or An Urban Legends?

Dead Darrius was allegedly a stuffed boy whose mummified remains sat on a porch in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1950s or 1960s. Was it a true story, a true crime, or just an urban myth? Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved a good story—not storybook stories—but people stories, the kind you hear from listening to grown folks talk. When someone tells a good one, I know almost immediately whether or not it’s something I want to sink my teeth into and explore further. The Legend of Dead Darrius was that kind of story.

 

Credit: Traciy Curry-Reyes

The Legend of Dead Darrius by Traciy Curry-Reyes

On January 8, 2019, my daughter, IvyBrook Walker, came into my room one night and showed me a tweet and a blurry picture of a creepy boy. The tweet said to ask Birmingham’s parents about the photo. I’d never heard the story, but the photo intrigued me. I sat straight up, and for hours, I scoured the Internet, trying to find out some information about this boy they called Dead Darrius. One story was someone possibly murdered the boy. The most popular one was that he was struck by a car and died.

But here’s the crazy part. Dead Darrius’ mother was so distraught by her son’s death that she preserved his remains or had his body stuffed instead of giving him a proper burial. Everyone thought the family was strange, and most of the school kids were terrified to pass Dead Darrius on their way to school.

I’m looking at the picture, and to me, mummified remains don’t come to mind. It looks more like a statue of some sort. The idea of preserving someone’s dead body and putting it on display isn’t a completely foreign concept. In places like Puerto Rico, they do it all the time. And my husband said that he’s heard of it in Mexico.

But in Birmingham, Alabama? In the 1950s or 60s? That sounds bizarre….very very bizarre.

As I stare into the eyes of this strange picture, I know that I must get the real story. So I start my journey by reading all the comments under the Twitter post. And voila! There’s a clue.A person named Nicole at the site Glowing.com said she heard Dead Darrius’ real name could have been Timothy Tuckett or Timmy Tackett, so we might have a name. There’s a photo of the house, which sits at the corner of 4th place north and 11th court north. Google Maps shows the location but doesn’t show the house number.

The location is an hour away, so for now, I scour the records at Ancestry.com. To begin, I am looking for the Tackett or Tuckett family. The city directories hold the address of every residence and business in the area. Several of these books are online, and they go back decades. But there’s no one with that name between those streets. I continue searching, and wow! There is a Taggart family. This is not a coincidence. This has to be the family. Jesse and Ethel Taggart lived at 1122 11th ct north.

 

Dead Darrius Found!

According to Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, it doesn’t look like Jesse and Ethel Taggart had any children. I headed to Enon Ridge, Alabama and canvassed the neighborhood. Finally, I met someone who told me I needed to talk to a man who probably knew the family. His name was Mr. Cleophus Riles Jr., a prominent member of the Enon Ridge community. He told me he remembered The Taggarts and even showed me Dr. Ernest Taggart’s house, which was right across the street.

Cleophus Riley referred to Dead Darrius as a statue and that Dr. Ernest Taggart’s home was once a glorious one, where they held swanky parties. He explained Dr. Ernest Taggart was an African American dentist, and his wife, Essie Taggart, was the secretary-treasurer at Miles College. The youngsters used to peek through the gates to see what was going on. There were lots of well-dressed black people. And on a Friday or Saturday night, you could see Ernest and Essie Taggart heading to the cozy Afro Club high atop Enon Ridge.

Dr. Taggart died in 1968, and the statue, which had been inside the house, was moved to his brother Jesse Taggart’s house, a couple of streets over. That must have been the first time anyone glimpsed the statue. Perhaps, the rumors started then.

I went to both Dr. Ernest Taggart’s former home and Jessie Taggart’s former home but could not get an answer. A teacher I spoke with at Wilkerson school said she has heard the kids talk about Dead Darrius for the last 30 years. She said the boy was still on the property well into the 1990s. Then it vanished, and so did the mother.

Jessie and Ethel Taggart lived at 1122 4th pl N in Birmingham, Alabama. Ethel was a cook or a nurse for several doctors. And Jessie L. Taggart (Jesse Taggart) worked at Acipico. The home was built in 1950 and renovated in 1961. Public records show Ethel Taggart died in 1989. And her husband Jesse died in 1996. At the time, I wasn’t sure if there were living relatives, so the search for Dead Darrius was at a Dead End.

After losing interest in the case for a while, I decided to search again. I searched public databases until I got the name of a man named Lee Taggart. He told me he was the great-nephew of both Dr. Ernest Taggart and Jesse Taggart. He agreed to tell me what he knew. Though Mr. Cleophus Riles had told me the Taggart house was the green one, I wanted to confirm it again with Lee Taggart since I kept hearing it was the pink house.

Lee Taggart was very surprised to see the photo circulating online. He’d never heard the name Dead Darrius. But he remembered the scandal surrounding the boy on the porch. Lee Taggart thought the old black and white photo looked nothing like the real statue.

“That don’t even come close() If you look at his eyes, his eyes looked sky blue. And they looked real. Liked they’d be looking at you.”

 

 

The Dead Darrius statue, Birmingham’s stuffed boy, caused traffic jams as people passed in their cars to get a closer look. The traffic was so bad the police had to investigate to see if there were human remains inside. Birmingham investigators found nothing. It was only a statue. But the rumors about this family persisted for decades. It brings up the question. How reliable are passed-down stories?

In the end, I located the statue. It wasn’t swept away in a storm like many thought. The story of Dead Darrius is just a deep south urban myth. To find out where it is today, Check out Traciy Curry-Reyes’ Dead Darrius coverage here.

{photo credit: Traciy Curry-Reyes}

 

 


Traciy Curry-Reyes

Traciy Curry-Reyes is the founder and editor-in-chief of TV Crime Sky. She began her career as a true crime & entertainment freelance writer in the 1990's for her website, The Movies Based on True Stories Database/Archives. She has contributed content to other websites, such as Examiner.com and Inquisitr.com. Traciy also appears as a true-crime expert and commentator on TV One's Fatal Attraction, For My Man, and Justice by Any Means; Investigation Discovery's Murder Calls and Scorned; Oxygen's Snapped; FOX's Crime Watch Daily; and Lifetime Television's Killer Kids.

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