NC Oddities and Curiosities: The Curious Case of the Laurinburg Mummy
Laurinburg, North Carolina is no stranger to the weird, bizarre and paranormal. Located in Scotland County, Laurinburg is well known for Gravity Hill, where cars in neutral roll up hill; Stewartsville Cemetery, a Revolutionary-era burial ground rumored to be haunted; and “Spaghetti,” the modern day mummy.
Cancetto Farmica was an Italian trumpet player that made his way by carnival into the Tar Heel State in the spring of 1911. His “real” name seems a little shady since he has also been identified as Frinnizzee Concippio, Forenzio Concippio, or Formico Cansetto–but most folks ’round Laurinburg know him by his nickname: Spaghetti.
Farmica was a strapping young lad around the age of 23, 5″6′, dark olive tone skin, black hair, handsome smile, and well known to be hot-tempered. Not much is known about his history–only that he lived a carny life, died a carny life, and continued into a carny afterlife.
Just across the state line in South Carolina, the carnival had come to the small town of McColl, and Farmica performed in the carnival sideshow. Farmica and another carny worker got into a heated argument that ended in Farmica running away and, in his urgency, stumbling to the ground. The angry carnival worker picked up a tent stake and struck a tragic, bloody blow to Farmica’s head.
But this is where the story gets really interesting.
Becoming the Laurinburg Mummy
The closest hospital was over the North Carolina state line in Laurinburg. Farmica was brought to the nearby hospital where he passed away 10 to 12 hours later.
At the request of the carnival, Farmica’s lifeless body was then transferred to McDougald Funeral Home, where he was immediately embalmed in preparation to be claimed by relatives. Unfortunately, the Carnival left town without a word. Approximately two weeks later, an old Italian man claiming to be Farmica’s father arrived to identify the body.
Farmica’s father believed the young deceased man to be his son who ran away from home to join the carnival. His father instructed John McDougald, the owner, that his son be given a Christian funeral and made a small down payment for the arrangements. Farmica’s father advised Mr. McDougald that he would send the balance once he notified the family in Italy.
The funeral home waited several weeks for his father to contact them by mail, but the letter never arrived. So Mr. McDougald tied a rope around the corpse and hung it on the wall in the embalming room where it gradually mummified.
The Residents Named Him “Spaghetti”
Eventually, Farmica was placed in an air-tight, glass-front pine box coffin and adorned with a loin cloth. In 1939 he was moved to new headquarters of the funeral home where he was placed in the garage complete with an overhead light for special viewing. The local residents had a hard time pronouncing his Italian name and affectionately called the corpse “Spaghetti.”
Over the years, folks came to Laurinburg from far and wide to see “Spaghetti, The Mummy.” Twenty-eight years later, witnesses described the mummified corpse still having jet-black hair, pinkish tint to his leathered skin, bushy eyebrows, and beautifully manicured nails.
Located beside the coffin was the actual tent stake that Farmica was murdered with. Spaghetti’s popularity grew in the 1950’s and slowly became a legend as Laurinburg’s oldest citizen. Farmica eventually became a national and international celebrity. He was featured on CBS News with Steve Hartman, BBC’s “Curious World,” and on WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
By the fall of 1972, negative publicity and peer pressure forced the funeral home to remove the mummified corpse from display and public viewing. An Italian congressman, Rep. Mario Biaggi of New York, expressed outrage to learn of a fellow Italian had remained unburied for all those years, calling it unprofessional and indecent to expose or exhibit a dead human body. Rep. Biaggi expressed his concerns to the North Carolina congressional delegation and The North Carolina Association of Funeral Directors. It was concluded that continued display of Spaghetti would embarrass the embalming profession at both the state and national levels. So the residents of Scotland County came together and helped pay for the funeral expenses to lay Farmica to rest.
Local residents requested to remain anonymous with their donations. On Saturday, September 30, 1972, Farmica was laid to rest along with the tent stake used to take his life at Hillside Cemetery. The ceremony was conducted graveside where approximately 200 people attended the service. Farmica’s solid bronze casket was adorned with a casket wreath of red and white flowers. Because Farmica was of Italian descent, the funeral home assumed he was raised Catholic.
The funeral was conducted by Rev. Frederick Gilbert of the Hamlet Roman Catholic Church. Farmica’s casket was lowered six feet under into a porcelain vault and then topped off with two tons of cement. The cement was added to prevent vandalism and theft of the body. Attendees sprinkled coins on top of his grave, and a stone and bronze grave marker was placed on the site detailing the dates of Farmica’s death, his age, and the day of the burial.
The residents of Laurinburg did not consider Spaghetti as a spectacle, and the funeral home never charged an admission fee to view him. The local residents had developed a great fondness for him as if he were a part of the family.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not should have at least given McDougald Funeral Home the recognition of having the longest wake in history. Sadly, Farmica’s bizarre afterlife was more interesting than is his actual time here on earth. Ironically, Cancetto Farmica will always be remembered as the poor forgotten immigrant that got left behind.