Maybe Curious George was a little too curious.
Dayton’s flagship department store was a Minneapolis landmark for nearly a century, opened in 1902 and turned into a Marshall Field’s and then a Macy’s before closing in March 2017. Now the grande dame of a downtown building is being transformed into a $200 million retail and office property called The Dayton’s Project.
But recently, it was discovered one of the shoppers never left. A mummified monkey was found in one of the air ducts, and Adam Peterson, who works on the project, sent the photo to the Old Minneapolis Facebook page, where this Minnesota mystery went viral.
There are multiple theories as to how the poor monkey ended up trapped in the store. On Tuesday, Regan Murphy, mayor of Minneapolis suburb Robbinsdale, tweeted that his late father Larry may have started all the monkey business.
Bonnie Sheridan then shared on the Old Minneapolis page that her late father may have been the friend in Murphy’s tale.
“They were teenagers, rode the bus downtown, took the monkey out of the cage and put it in their coat and my dad kept it in his bedroom for a couple days … until his mom found out!” Sheridan wrote. “They rode the bus back downtown with the monkey hidden and just opened the doors to one of the entrances to the downtown Dayton’s store and let it loose and ran! … Yes, it’s funny … because it’s so crazy and my dad loved to tell the story … but he did also feel bad about it.”
But there’s another story out there, too. Steven Laboe posted to Old Minneapolis that he used to work in the Dayton’s building, and a longtime employee told him a monkey had escaped from the eighth-floor pet store in the 1960s.
“They finally determined that the monkey had escaped in the air conditioning duct work,” Laboe wrote. “Someone complained about a horrible odor a few hours later and (as he explained it to me) the monkey tried to make a jump for it but managed to get caught up in one of the exhaust fan blades. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty picture.”
Alan Freed, co-adminstrator of the Old Minneapolis Facebook page, thinks both Laboe and Murphy/Sheridan’s stories are likely correct.
“While there could be more than one general Dayton’s monkey incident, I think both guys are talking about the same animal and story,” Freed said. “And so far, to our knowledge, only one monkey has been discovered during the renovation work.”
It’s been fun for Freed to see the mystery develop right on the page he moderates.
“Reading Bonnie’s comments was really awesome,” he said. He notes that the stories from Sheridan and Mayor Murphy are “pretty much as close to a firsthand account available, considering both her father and Murphy’s father have passed,” he said.
The find has also been a weird reminder of a time when fancy department stores had their own pet sections, selling monkeys right alongside mutts. (Although it appears that Dayton’s pet department did not sell monkeys, vintage newspaper clippings show the store brought some in for a special event.)
“Pet stores in department stores do seem odd in today’s world,” Freed said. “It’s fun to read some of the comments and replies to the story from relatively younger people who aren’t familiar with that old but not-so-distant past.”
The monkey now has a parody Twitter account, @daytonsmonkey. Jokes about White Castle sliders, winter weather and the Minnesota Vikings reveal that the monkey knows his Minnesotaisms.
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