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Did Facebook Sleuths Get to the Bottom of Minnesota's Mummified Monkey Mystery?

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After a Minneapolis Facebook group posted a photo of a mummified monkey discovered inside a historic building, Minnesota sleuths scrambled to figure out how it ended up there. So far, the leading theories involve an exotic pet store and a mayor’s father who stole a monkey, but let it loose after it defecated all over a friend’s bedroom.

The preserved primate was discovered by demolition worker Adam Peterson while he was working on renovations of the century-old Dayton’s building. He shared a photo of the find with the Old Minneapolis Facebook page.


Dayton’s was a flagship department store in downtown Minnesota, built in 1902. It was taken over by Macy’s in 2006, and is currently being redeveloped by The Dayton’s Project.

“We continue to find pieces of history in The Dayton’s Project as we redevelop the building,” spokeswoman Cailin Rogers told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, in an email. “Unfortunately this was one of the recent discoveries. We don’t know the story or origin behind this, but we have been working with local museums to learn more and find homes for artifacts like this.”


The Old Minneapolis Facebook page encouraged its followers to dig into the case. “Does anyone know how a monkey would have ended up in the rafters of an urban department store and remain there undisturbed for probably decades?” a page administrator posted. “Perhaps some of you Dayton’s veterans know something about this? We’d love to solve.”

Some followers shared theories, wrote about monkeys lost decades ago, and posted old advertisements showing that Dayton’s had a pet store on the eight floor during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.


But Minnetonka, Minnesota resident Steven Laboe may have gotten to the bottom of the mystery, posting a story he says he heard while working in a Target store inside the building in the early 2000s:

There was a guy who worked for Daytons for over 50 years. He told me about the monkey that had escaped from the 8th floor pet store.... The guy told me that this took place sometime back in the 60's, over the weekend, because when they found the cage empty on Monday they knew something was up. They finally determined that the monkey had escaped in the air conditioning duct work. Someone complained about a horrible odor a few hours later and (as he explained it to me) the monkey tried to make a jump for it but managed to get caught up in one of the exhaust fan blades. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture.


While Laboe’s tale is perhaps the most plausible explanation, another compelling (and possibly related) theory came from Regan Murphy, mayor of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, who tweeted about his dad’s stolen monkey shitting all over a bedroom.


Murphy told Gizmodo that he found out about the incident from his dad’s friend on a fishing trip 17 years ago, after his dad had died. “The story itself has been the source of a lot of laughs and bewilderment,” he told Gizmodo, saying it has become family folklore. “Now that it has resurfaced as an answer to a mystery, it has only added to its notoriety.”

Murphy told Minneapolis news outlet City Pages the full story his dad told him: When his dad was a teenager, he, along with his friend named Tom, stole a monkey from a display at Dayton’s and hid it in a backpack. They stashed it in the friend’s house, where it promptly defiled his bedroom. “It pretty much just destroyed Tom’s room,” the mayor told City Pages. “It shat everywhere.”


According to Murphy, they put the monkey back in the bag and bussed to Dayton’s where they put it on an escalator and split.

“We’ve always wondered what the hell happened to that monkey,” Mayor Murphy added.


[Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal/City Pages]