The Mystery of the Mummified Minneapolis Monkey
April 11, 2018 10:14 AM   Subscribe

In the course of renovating the old Dayton's department store in downtown Minneapolis, workers have been uncovering many long lost objects in the building's crannies. Last week, however, they found something highly atypical in the building's air ducts...the remains of a monkey.

Amongst the other items found were old Easter eggs and a wallet, which was reunited with its owner 49 years after being stolen.

But how did a monkey end up in the HVAC system of a Midwestern department store? A local mayor's sordid family tale may provide the answer.
posted by Esteemed Offendi (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Staff writer James Lileks contributed to this report.

The James Lileks who started off as a cataloguer of kitschy midcentury commercial art and then, when 9/11 happened, went full neocon?
posted by acb at 10:20 AM on April 11, 2018 [19 favorites]


Pet store escapee seems the most likely explanation, whether it had help or not. There were so many monkeys in pet stores in the early 20th century that it’s kind of a miracle there’s not a huge feral monkey problem in the US.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


The James Lileks who started off as a cataloguer of kitschy midcentury commercial art and then, when 9/11 happened, went full neocon?

Yes.
http://m.startribune.com/index.php/james-lileks/10645306/
posted by missmerrymack at 10:25 AM on April 11, 2018


"what'd this monkey look like anyway?"

"oh, he was a little guy - kinda funny looking"
posted by pyramid termite at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


"“My dad once stole a monkey from a Dayton’s display back in the ’60s,” Robbinsdale Mayor Regan Murphy wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter ... Monica Murphy said that “it’s been hysterical” for her and her family to have the monkey memory rekindled by this exhumation"

For the monkey, however, hysteria of a much more traditional nature.

.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


A demolition worker submitted a photo of the dead monkey to the Facebook group "Old Minneapolis," and longtime customers and employees responded with tales of a pet shop on the store's eighth floor and a monkey that went missing in the 1960's.

This could be the plot of a delightful children's book, except for that part about the monkey dying in the air duct.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2018 [15 favorites]


According to the Department Store Museum, the pet shop was on the 7th floor...along with summer furniture and records. The 8th floor was the home of the Flower Show, and the Holiday Shows (which I remember fondly and will always miss).

I wonder when the pet shop moved out? I have no memory of it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:39 AM on April 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


Annie's Boobs?
posted by elsietheeel at 11:08 AM on April 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


A sad reminder of the unregulated pet of the 1960s, when you could buy live spider monkeys from ads in the back of kids' magazines.
posted by tommasz at 11:42 AM on April 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I'd go to the pet store in my town and be very sad for the old, sick monkey in the cage. I clearly remember my dad telling me "There used to be a bunch of monkeys in the downtown Dayton's" and I only half believed him. He wasn't the kind to make that sort of thing up but I didn't know what monkeys would be doing there. I had no idea there was ever a pet store. But “My dad once stole a monkey from a Dayton’s display back in the ’60s,” is strangely worded. Was this a pet store display or were there at one point live animals in the window or in-store displays?

the Holiday Shows (which I remember fondly and will always miss)

My family would go to the Holiday Show every year (usually followed by dinner at The Nankin) and I too will miss them though the last few years were pretty lame. When dating and comparing notes I learned that my wife's family had the same tradition. There's a non-zero chance that my wife and I had our first fancy dinner out sitting at adjacent tables at The Nankin on a December evening in the early 80s, each of us with a cookie from the Dayton's basement cafe wrapped up in our coat pocket for later.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2018 [8 favorites]


This might explain the Minnesota Vikings' playoff record.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:03 PM on April 11, 2018 [6 favorites]


I remember pet departments in Woolworth's (the US chain, not the UK one) with fish, budgies, hamsters, and turtles in the 1960s and 1970s, but never anything as exotic as monkeys, or even puppies and kittens.
posted by briank at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2018


Here in Minneapolis, Minnesota Public Radio owns a member-financed alternative radio station called the Current. On each weekday, The Current has a "Coffee Break" segment at 9:30, when they spend a half hour playing songs related to a preannounced theme. In honor of the recent find at Dayton's, they kicked off today's Coffee Break with Pixies, "Monkey Gone to Heaven" and then a list of monkey-themed songs. Here's the playlist if anybody is interested.
posted by jonp72 at 12:53 PM on April 11, 2018 [10 favorites]


The James Lileks who started off as a cataloguer of kitschy midcentury commercial art and then, when 9/11 happened, went full neocon?

I work near the Star Tribune's offices, see Lileks in the skyway often, and make sure to give him my fiercest disappointed scowl every time I see him.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 1:04 PM on April 11, 2018 [5 favorites]


Wait, people don’t know about the enormous bands of feral monkeys that lived in Minneapolis until the building of the skyways disrupted their migration routes? Great sleuthing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:08 PM on April 11, 2018 [7 favorites]



A sad reminder of the unregulated pet of the 1960s, when you could buy live spider monkeys from ads in the back of kids' magazines.


According to this National Geographic article, it looks like what put a stop to monkeys as pets was a ban on importing non-human primates imposed by the Centers for Disease Control.
posted by jonp72 at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


On one hand, I'm delighted that one cannot walk into a pet store in America and buy a monkey. On the other hand, a small but insistent part of me regrets not being able to walk into a pet store and buy a monkey.

There is no question which side should win. Keeping domestic monkeys in Minneapolis is a terrible and ethically bankrupt plan. I'm not really jealous of people who lived in a world where that was possible. But, on this one specific point - at least with regard to the first twenty minutes following the purchase - I can't help but resent our monkey-buying grandparents just a bit.
posted by eotvos at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2018 [10 favorites]


The James Lileks who started off as a cataloguer of kitschy midcentury commercial art and then, when 9/11 happened, went full neocon?

Yeah, he writes a column that's supposed to be humorous. It mostly isn't, especially when his right-wing peevishness peeks through his genteel façade.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


Think about it this way, perhaps: you are wistful for an imagined universe in which walking into a store and buying a monkey (or perhaps just: being able to easily coexist with a monkey) is both possible and not harmful. I am often wistful for imagined universes where, for instance, I could shapeshift into anything and still maintain the same consciousness; or where I could sleep in a treehouse and not wake up with bug bites and a sore back; or where I could be comfortably immortal and somehow get along without any complications whatsoever, whether social, financial, bureaucratic, or psychological, etc.

Anyway, article... it's a rather horrifying story really. The trafficking bit aside, just the idea of being thrown into an alien world and left to wither away in some forgotten corner thereof, starved, dehydrated, and alone. Then your death is recounted as an amusing anecdote, of course, what else?
posted by inconstant at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2018 [10 favorites]


Now I'm earworming the Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000", which somewhere in a later verse goes "I'd buy you a monkey/Haven't you always wanted a monkey?" A few lines before that "I'd buy you an exotic pet/Like a llama or an emu" right after "I'd buy you a fur coat/But not a real fur coat that's cruel". So monkey ownership was still too easily accepted in the 1990, although probably just ironically.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:35 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wait, people don’t know about the enormous bands of feral monkeys that lived in Minneapolis until the building of the skyways disrupted their migration routes? Great sleuthing.

As immortalized by Paul Westerberg
Monkeys don't take the skyway
Monkeys don't like it at all, no way
It's got humans all the time like any other place
It's safe up inside
Sittin' down and waitin' for a banana
Beneath the skyway
posted by nathan_teske at 1:38 PM on April 11, 2018 [7 favorites]


The James Lileks who started off as a cataloguer of kitschy midcentury commercial art and then, when 9/11 happened, went full neocon?

Yeah, he writes a column that's supposed to be humorous. It mostly isn't, especially when his right-wing peevishness peeks through his genteel façade.
posted by Mental Wimp


Hey, let's not sell the guy short; he also likes to write a column every now and then where he's ridiculously wrong about architecture.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 1:50 PM on April 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


I remember pet departments in Woolworth's...with fish, budgies, hamsters, and turtles in the 1960s and 1970s...

And, of course, ants.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2018


Lileks used to be "Metafilter's Own" but I think it's been a long time since he felt up to dealing with a bunch of Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communists like us. I actually liked his kitschy stuff, even though it was Dad Joke levels of humor most of the time. I was pretty sad when he went off the right-wing cliff after 9/11, because I couldn't feel good about browsing around in his manically-sorted (and constantly re-sorted) online collections of old matchbooks, postcards and radio shows.

In retrospect, it was a sort of preview of what would happen to my relationships with lots of apparently nice conservative people in the ensuing years.

Back to the article, I too feel sad for the poor monkey, and all the others like it that probably didn't have great lives as pets here in the US.
posted by emjaybee at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


So monkey ownership was still too easily accepted in the 1990, although probably just ironically.

Ross from "Friends" had a monkey! His name was Marcel. Eventually he went to go live at a very nice zoo. So, in 1995 attitudes were still changing, I guess.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:35 PM on April 11, 2018


The trafficking bit aside, just the idea of being thrown into an alien world and left to wither away in some forgotten corner thereof, starved, dehydrated, and alone. Then your death is recounted as an amusing anecdote, of course, what else?

This is so sad. Ugh that poor little guy, and all the other monkeys & animals who died similar miserable deaths cause of us.
posted by bleep at 3:04 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


I remember pet departments in Woolworth's (the US chain, not the UK one) with fish, budgies, hamsters, and turtles in the 1960s and 1970s, but never anything as exotic as monkeys, or even puppies and kittens.

You could still get fish at Woolworth's into the late 80s/early 90s. I don't remember if they had other animals, but I had several goldfish from Woolworth's. They got rid of the fish sometime before they closed. (I don't know if that location closed with Woolworth's went bust or earlier.)
posted by hoyland at 3:28 PM on April 11, 2018


I can't wait to eat that monkey!
posted by misterpatrick at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


Space Communists like us. I actually liked his kitschy stuff, even though it was Dad Joke levels of humor most of the time. I was pretty sad when he went off the right-wing cliff after 9/11, because I couldn't feel good about browsing around in his manically-sorted (and constantly re-sorted) online collections of old matchbooks, postcards and radio shows.

I used to check in to see what was up with Jasper. I miss Jasper.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:17 PM on April 11, 2018 [4 favorites]


I sent this article to my dad. He really wants a monkey. My mom says he'll have to remarry before that happens. There's enough varmints in the house as it is. Nobody wants to see monkey vs. sun conure.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:32 PM on April 11, 2018


I sent this article to my dad. He really wants a monkey.

Send him this one too.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


I remember Lileks best for discovering prints of that mid-century artist that would draw women in bizarre panty-dropping circumstances. Is that what we mean when we say kitsch?
posted by Ber at 7:12 PM on April 11, 2018


Lileks was a good shit in the 80s/90s.

I worked the phones at his favorite pizza place in St. Paul and took his order every Friday night. (He included it when autographing a book for me once. I still know it by heart. That was a fun job.) One night I worked up my courage and asked him if he would talk to my high school english class, and he immediately agreed. He showed up at CDH and talked for an hour about writing and journalism and stuff, and couldn’t have been nicer.

Another Green Mill story: after his cheap beer taste test column ran in like 1989, he tipped Dennis the delivery driver with the remaining five cans of the Harley Davidson Heavy Beer six-pack upon hearing how much we all enjoyed the piece.

He was a funny, cheeeful dude, and his pre-9/11 columns still make me laugh. I have his books but don’t need them because some columns are still so funny. (For example: a pine tree is brought home to be the Christmas tree, looks at all the wood furniture and flooring, and thinks to itself, “I am among savages.”)

I miss that guy.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:32 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, my dad grew up in a Summit Ave. carriage house where his dad was employed. In one of the old horse stalls he bred hamsters that he took downtown on the bus and sold to Woolworth’s to resell in their pet department.

He also claims to have had a pet raccoon named Joe who he walked down Summit on a leash. Still loolong for a photo of that...
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 PM on April 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


Monica Murphy said that “it’s been hysterical” for her and her family to have the monkey memory rekindled by this exhumation.

I found it heartbreakingly sad.
posted by twilightlost at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also on reading the article about the mayor's story, I thought, dang, that is some good old fashioned reporting. As I'm getting older and learning more about the world and realizing that things happen because people have jobs and actually do them, things like this stick out to me. (I mean, I have always known this on some level, but now when I actually think about it I'm like, Wow. I find it amazing for some reason.) The reporters saw that twitter thread but didn't just reprint it (as some articles do), they actually went and found that old pet store ad and talked to the deceased subject's wife.
posted by bleep at 9:58 PM on April 11, 2018 [3 favorites]


I remember pet departments in Woolworth's (the US chain, not the UK one) with fish, budgies, hamsters, and turtles in the 1960s and 1970s, but never anything as exotic as monkeys, or even puppies and kittens.

In the '70s the local Montgomery Wards had a pet department that was at least markedly better than the miserable ones at Woolworth's, Woolco and K-mart. It was mostly fish, and maybe some small stuff like gerbils and hamsters. The most miserable thing at the Woolworth's/Woolco were the birds packed into (empty) aquariums that did double duty as "bird cages". There were always escaped birds flying around inside the local Woolco.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:38 AM on April 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


People are saying that disturbing the monkey mummy caused the recent blizzard in the Twin Cities, so someone looked into a possible cause for the 1983 April blizzard.
posted by ckape at 12:25 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The most miserable thing at the Woolworth's/Woolco were the birds packed into (empty) aquariums that did double duty as "bird cages". There were always escaped birds flying around inside the local Woolco.
I try to rein in my urge to anthropomorphize, but being a bird in a cage who can *see* other birds flying seems like such a perfect vision of hell, I can't imagine working in that store and not spending every moment planning a great bird escape. If I were a bird, I'm pretty sure I'd rather die in a Minnesota winter than live in a cage, even if it wasn't actually a fish tank.
posted by eotvos at 10:10 AM on April 19, 2018


Birds (usually starlings and those little finchy things) even in non-pet stores are an extremely common thing. I guess they get in either through the automatic doors, or, more likely, the big rear delivery doors while the truck is backing up. Next time you’re in a Walmart or Costco or a large grocery store, look up. But not for too long, because then you’ll miss out on all the floor mice.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:13 PM on April 19, 2018


Another Green Mill story:

You worked there? Awesome. One of my favorite places and the best traditional pizza around. It's 3 blocks from our house.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:49 PM on April 20, 2018


You worked there? Awesome. One of my favorite places and the best traditional pizza around. It's 3 blocks from our house.

And, until Giordano's came in, the only deep dish around. (I'm honestly not sure I actually liked Green Mill. But... only deep dish around.)
posted by hoyland at 5:16 AM on April 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


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