nizie the elephant
The museum's collection includes several items that belonged to or celebrate The Great Nicola (Will Nicol), a magician who made Monmouth his home for many years. In 2018, the museum began to host an annual Magic Festival in his honor.
While we do not have an elephant (yet!) in our collection, we do have a great story about one.
In August 2017, the museum coordinated a search for Nizie, a dwarf elephant who belonged to The Great Nicola and was rumored to be buried in Monmouth.
According to Monmouth historian (and WCHM board member) Jeff Rankin, "By summer 1934, Nizie had become too weak to be cared for at the zoo and was shipped to Monmouth, where he was put under the care of veterinarian Vird O. Cudd at his home at 525 North 11th St. Nizie failed rapidly and died in late September. He was buried nearby—reportedly in a pasture just north of the Cudd home."
Kellen Hinrichsen, who was the museum director at the time, was able to entice one of his former professors from the University of Denver to help with the hunt. Dr. Lawrence Conyers shared his expertise and provided ground penetrating radar equipment (GPR). Shayleen Ottoman, a U of D archaeology student, did the field work and analysis of the data. Monmouth College professors Michelle Damian, Christine Myers, and Jennifer Martinez-Morales were on hand, too, with their students to help research the location.
According to the report, there is an area of high interest that shows great possibility for Nizie's burial spot. We would need to do an actual excavation to be 100% sure, however.
The area, which is highlighted in the photographs below, is located roughly 15 meters to the east of North 11th street. The highlighted area featured two separate points of high reflectivity detected by the GPR, which means a strong difference in what is beneath the soil at these points. Along with these readings, the GPR also showed that the area immediately surrounding the points of interest was not composed of the same soil matrix as the rest of the yard. The reflective points are located at approximately 1.5 feet below the surface, which would be well within the range of sedimentary deposition in this area over 80 years.
The reflective points are similar to data that comes from burial sites and are reminiscent of the air cavities found in buried skulls and rib cages.
From the report: "Taken together, the presence of the high amplitude point-source hyperbola reflections of an appropriate size and spacing, a depth that seems to be consistent with historical accounts of the elephant’s burial, and the disturbance of the surrounding sedimentary strata visible in the profiles, it is my belief that if the elephant was buried on this property, these are the reflections most likely to indicate Nizie’s final resting place.”