It’s 1980 and a group of men at the Georgia Kraft Corporation in Jasper, GA, are busy chopping up an old oak chestnut tree. It’s something the team have done thousands of times before, so they’re not expecting anything out of the ordinary. But actually, two workers end up witnessing something so completely extraordinary it stretches the bounds of credibility. What the pair come face to face with inside the log leaves them utterly flabbergasted – and more than a little bit spooked. How in God’s name did it get there?
When tree museum Southern Forest World opened its doors in Waycross, GA, in 1981, it had an amazing relic on display. Local loggers had come across the piece a year earlier when it was loaded on a lumber truck bound for the sawmill. And nearly 40 years after it was first discovered, the unusual object is still fascinating visitors.
In 1980 loggers at the Georgia Kraft Corporation found themselves chopping up a chestnut oak that was quite unlike any other. A pair of workers were shocked to find the remains of a dog stuck fast inside the tree. And unfortunately, it appeared that the animal had died a long time ago.
In fact, the logging crew were 20 years past the point of being able to save the creature. It’s thought that the dog was aged about four when it became stuck in the tree sometime around 1960. Unable to get out, it’s likely the pooch had suffered a drawn-out, hungry death.
It’s believed the hapless hound had been chasing another animal when it crawled into the hollow middle of the tree and ascended nearly 30 feet. But then, tragedy struck. The opening in the tree got narrower and narrower, and the dog became trapped, powerless to exit from either end and with apparently no one around to help it escape.
But what’s so incredible about the story is that the dog left behind more than just its skeleton in the tree stump. In fact, the dog’s whole body was perfectly preserved. It had become mummified and remained wedged inside the tree, hidden from the outside world until the loggers chopped down the oak.
Thanks to its mummification, the dog looked like something out of a nightmare, frozen in time in its secret hidey-hole inside the tree. The beast had its paws outstretched and its teeth bared, as if it was about to pounce.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when they made the macabre discovery, the loggers decided to treat this trunk as a special case. Rather than transport it to the lumber mill, they donated it instead to the Southern Forest World museum. And this is where the trunk and its grisly contents remain today.
A sign on display at the museum reveals how the dog’s mummification is thought to have occurred. It would have been reasonably dry inside the tree trunk, which would have helped to preserve the animal’s body. At the same time, tannic acid present in the oak is believed to have toughened and solidified the dog’s skin.
Tannin is naturally found in the bark of oak trees. As well as being used to tan the hides of animals, it also helps to keep the immediate vicinity free from moisture. This would have helped to prevent the typical process of decay and decomposition that occurs after an organism dies.
At the same time, as the tree was hollow, the air inside traveled upward and outward, much like a chimney. This meant that after the dog died, the smell of its dead corpse left the oak. Therefore, bugs that would normally feed on dead matter were not drawn to the scent, helping to preserve the creature. And the dog remains in the same pose today, some 60 years after first entering his final resting place.
“People always ask me, ‘How did he get in there?’ And I always say, ‘Well, he was a hound dog. Maybe he was after a raccoon,’” Forest World’s manager Brandy Stevenson told Roadside America. “And then they’ll say, ‘Poor old thing. I feel so sorry for him.’”
At Southern Forest World, the petrified animal – which is the museum’s star attraction – is displayed behind glass. The creature was known simply as “Mummified Dog” for over 30 years, until a competition took place to find it a name.
In 2002 the museum decided to host a contest to give the nightmarish beast a moniker. There were a large number of entries, and many people got creative with their submissions. Suggestions that came close to winning included “Chipper” and “Dogwood.”
But it was “Stuckey” that came out on top. The name was proposed by a woman who explained that the frozen-in-time creature inside the tree trunk reminded her of the pecan logs being sold at Stuckey’s convenience stores. Southern Forest World then altered the spelling to “Stuckie” for trademark reasons.
Moreover, photos and videos of Stuckie continue to be shared online, with many prompting a variety of comments. Some people feel sorry for the animal and the gruesome way that it perished. “Poor dog, what a horrible way to die,” Traci B. commented on YouTube. “Very sad, it’s just horrid to think of his suffering,” K. Erica added.
Others were unnerved by the animal’s frightening appearance. “For the rest of my life, I will now be terrified to look inside of hollow logs,” Curoi MacDaire wrote. Fellow commenter Little Jimmy agreed. “Wow, I bet the loggers freaked out,” he offered.
Experts examined Stuckie after his discovery and concluded that the animal had been in the tree for an estimated 20 years. And the surprising way the dog’s body was mummified has made it famous. The pooch actually appears in the new Ripley’s Believe It Not! book, Shatter Your Senses.
Meanwhile, Southern Forest World also boasts some other interesting artifacts in its collection. There are many outdoor pieces including a hollowed-out stump and a butterfly garden. “The managed forest part is really what we’re all about,” Brandy Stevenson told Roadside America. “If we don’t have trees, we don’t have oxygen.”
But Stuckie is without a doubt their most prized possession. And although it’s rare to find such a specimen today, there was once a time where creatures would regularly be mummified. Indeed, in Ancient Egypt, it’s believed that as many as 70 million animals were mummified before being buried.