Minneapolis mummified monkey mysteries multiply

It turns out the old Dayton’s store might not have held the only mummified monkey in Minneapolis.

Evidence of the animal in the one-time retail landmark recently turned up on Facebook, and the son of a former Dayton’s executive said the store’s staff had long ago searched earnestly for the missing animal, to no avail.

But it wasn’t the first primate to disappear into the city’s early 20th century architecture.

Twin Cities author Dave Kenney relates the tale of another intersection of monkey and business in his book, “Twin Cities Picture Show: A Century of Moviegoing.”

Kenney reported the rival theaters in Minneapolis tried any number of “stunts” to get butts in the seats, from ovenware giveaways to free entry with any four leaf clover.

The “Gone With the Wind”-era manager of the Minneapolis Orpheum offered a giveaway of a live monkey in conjunction with a Laurel and Hardy movie.

The entertainment newspaper Variety apparently had a stringer in town in 1940 and Kenney quotes from the tale in his book:

The animal was purchased and brought to the theatre, where it ran amuck. It attacked and scratched up [the manager] and escaped into the recesses of the empty space among the rafters over the theatre balcony.

After three days, the monkey is still at large somewhere in the theatre and without food or drink. The opening in the rafter space is being constantly guarded so that the animal cannot dash into the auditorium proper.

In an interview, Kenney, who’s married to an MPR News editor, says it wasn’t clear if Variety followed up on the disappearance, or if the pre-World War II primate was ever found, or even left the Orpheum alive.

The theater was, like the Dayton’s store, renovated for reuse. It reopened in 1993 on Hennepin Avenue. There’s no indication workers found that movie monkey at any point.

Could it still be there?

“I guess it’s possible,” Kenney said.