The Mysterious Case of the Mummified Monkey


From flower shows to holiday window displays, Dayton’s department store created enjoyable memories and moments for generations of Minnesotans. And, even though the department store’s Minneapolis building (which was most recently home to Macy’s), closed its doors for good last year, it seems Dayton’s is giving us a few last-minute memories with the recent “mystery of the mummified monkey.”

This certainly feels like a good whodunit mystery – something for the Hardy Boys to solve, perhaps?

Currently, the old Dayton’s department store on Nicollet Mall is under construction for remodeling and rebirth as a food hall. During the renovation, one of the workers, Adam Peterson, discovered a long-deceased mummified monkey in one of the air ducts. The monkey’s body had yellowed with age, and its skeleton is showing through, but otherwise completely undisturbed. The crew was flummoxed as to how a monkey could have gotten into the ceiling in the first place, let alone stay there for years without discovery.

Peterson snapped a picture and sent the photo to Old Minneapolis, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing and recording Minneapolis history. Old Minneapolis posted the photo and asked the public for help in solving the “Mystery of the Mummified Minneapolis Monkey”. And well, as it usually goes, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

The first theory that surfaced about the monkey’s origins came from Governor Mark Dayton himself. During a press conference, Governor Dayton was asked his thoughts about this mystery monkey discovered in his family’s department store. The Governor recalled that during a summer he worked at his family’s store back in 1968, to attract more customers Dayton’s department store created a rainforest exhibit up on the eighth floor that had both monkeys and chirping birds on display.

Dayton added, “Someone didn’t figure out that the monkeys were carnivores. And I won’t get into graphic detail in front of the cameras here… But the next day they had netting up to separate the birds from the monkeys and they said one monkey got out and went into the air duct.”

While there’s no hard evidence, it seems quite plausible that the mummified monkey is the very one that escaped from the exhibit during the summer of Governor Dayton’s stint working at the store.

But wait, the mystery gets even stranger.

Another compelling theory materialized from a tweet by Robbinsdale Mayor Regan Murphy who told a tale claiming his father had once stolen a monkey from Dayton’s.

The story unfolded that back when the Mayor’s father, Larry Murphy, was just 15 years old, he went with his friend Tom Netka to the pet store in Dayton’s and smuggled out a monkey under his jacket. The monkey took up residence at Netka’s house for just a few days before his mother discovered the new roommate and told him to get rid of the monkey. (Who had incidentally pooped absolutely everywhere.) Not knowing exactly how to get rid of the monkey properly, Netka brought the monkey back to Dayton’s, opened the front door, tossed the monkey back into the store, and booked it out of there. I really wish I could have seen that scenario play out.

And so for now, the mystery of the mummified monkey remains unsolved.

The Dayton’s building has been around for 116 years. It’s bound to have a few hidden secrets from over the decades. Along with the mysterious mummified monkey, the construction crew also dug up a stolen wallet that has now finally been returned to its rightful owner. Who knows what else the workers might discover? 

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