KGOU listener Adam Cotton heard the famous “talking” horse’s final resting place is in the Sooner State. He asked How Curious: Is that true?
“Hello, I’m Mister Ed,” said a horse, after nosing open a wooden barn door.
Thus began 143 episodes of the 1960s black and white television show "Mister Ed," about a talking palomino who only spoke to his owner, Wilbur Post.
The smart-mouthed Mister Ed, played by horse Bamboo Harvester and voiced by western movie star Allan Rocky Lane, had a host of madcap adventures over the series’ six seasons, from trying to become the first equine astronaut to hitting a homerun in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stadium.
“The Kind Of Guy A Horse Would Talk To”
Alan Young played Wilbur Post. He was a well-known radio and TV comedian when “Mister Ed” was in the works at George Burns’ production company.
Burns is said to have told his staff: “Get Alan Young. He looks like the kind of guy a horse would talk to.”
“My dressing room was a couple of doors away from Mister Ed’s very large dressing room,” Young wrote in his 2007 book, Mister Ed and Me and More! Young said he and Ed greeted each other every morning at the studio.
According to Young, show staff threaded soft nylon under the horse’s lip and along his bridle to make it look like he was talking.
“The second year, we could hardly stop him from talking. As soon as he heard my voice stop, his lips would start to go,” he told the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2001.
Just off Highway 82, about five miles north of Tahlequah, there is a gravestone that reads, “According to national media reports, Mr. Ed moved to Oklahoma in the late 1960s after a successful Hollywood career. Mr. Ed continued to entertain and bring joy to many Oklahomans. Finally retiring in this very field, Mr. Ed passed away February 22, 1979.”
About 200 people reportedly came to a 1990 unveiling of the Mister Ed monument, a five foot tall granite marker with an engraving of the horse’s head peering through a barn door. The stone sits in a grassy patch of private property, then owned by Danny and Darlene Snodgrass.
Kin Thompson, who teaches hospitality and tourism management at Northeastern State University, said he was excited when he moved to Tahlequah in 1991 and heard Mister Ed was buried there.
“I had fun with friends saying we could go off the old Deadheads, the Grateful Dead fans, and we could make shirts that said ‘Dead Eds,’” Thompson said.
Gena McPhail, tourism director for the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce, said her office still receives regular calls about the site.
“It’s an old show. I was really surprised how many people were drawn to this,” McPhail said.
A Horse Of A Different Color
Young wrote about Mister Ed’s death in his book. According to him, Bamboo Harvester moved with his trainer, Lester Hilton, to a tiny house with a small backyard, paddock and barn on Sparks Street in Burbank, California after the show ended.
Then Hilton went to visit relatives in Oklahoma around 1970, leaving Ed with a temporary wrangler.
“No one is quite sure what happened exactly, but it would appear Ed had decided to lie down or perhaps take a roll in the grass, which was not his usual routine,” Young wrote.
“He was a heavy-bodied horse with slender legs, not always strong enough to get himself back on all fours without a lot of flailing and struggling.”
The wrangler gave Ed a tranquilizer, thinking the horse was having a seizure. Mister Ed died within hours and was cremated in Los Angeles. Young wrote only Hilton knew where the ashes were scattered.
According to Kin Thompson and Gena McPhail, the Tahlequah headstone actually marks the grave of Pumpkin, a Mister Ed body double who reportedly died in 1979.
One website said Pumpkin looked very much like Ed, except for a gold spot in the middle of his white blaze, which was supposedly covered with white makeup for shoots.
Alan Young appeared to confirm this story, writing that the show’s production company used a different horse for publicity photo shoots in 1960, though he didn’t give the horse’s name.
Thompson said he enjoys seeing the Mister Ed marker on his commute, even if it isn’t the original horse.
“It’s still exciting. It’s still fun. We have a celebrity lookalike buried in Tahlequah,” he said.
How Curious is a production of KGOU Radio. It’s produced by Claire Donnelly and this episode was edited by Caroline Halter. David Graey composed the theme music.
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