NC Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

Carnival Worker Murdered, Preserved in Laurinburg

On April 28, 1911, Cancetto Farmica, a musician with a traveling carnival, was murdered by a fellow carnival worker. During an argument while setting up the carnival tent, the other man hit Farmica in the head with a tent stake. The carnival and the attack took place in McColl, just over the border in South Carolina, but the injured man was taken to the hospital in nearby Laurinburg. Farmica received treatment but died about 12 hours later. The body was removed to McDougald Funeral Home in that town.

The story becomes somewhat murky after that. Some say that a decision was made not to try the case due to the expense and the fact that both men were foreigners. Others say that the assailant was actually acquitted. Regardless, Farmica’s body was left at the funeral home where it had been embalmed.

A couple of weeks after his death, Farmica’s father traveled to the funeral home. The father, an Italian immigrant who did not speak English, communicated with the assistance of an interpreter that he could pay only $20 towards the cost of the embalming and burial, but that he would contact family in Italy to send the rest. He asked that the body be held by McDougald in the meantime. But no one ever sent the remaining balance.

McDougald, upholding his promise, kept the body. For a time it hung in the funeral home’s embalming room and later it was stored in a box in the garage. The funeral home was visited regularly by curiosity-seekers who wished to view the mummified corpse. Eventually it became something of a tourist attraction. However people could not remember how to pronounce the dead man’s name, so he was called Spaghetti.

In 1972, an election year, New York Congressman Mario Biaggi, heard of the abandoned corpse of a fellow Italian. Biaggi was vocal about the less than dignified treatment of the corpse, and the funeral home decided the time was right to give Farmica a proper burial.

After 61 years, Farmica was buried in 1972 in Hillside Cemetery in Laurinburg with a Catholic graveside service.

– NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources