The Mystery of Dorian Corey, the Drag Queen Who Had a Mummy in Her Closet

Inside the true crime story that inspired this week's episode of "Pose."

"Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think you've made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you've left a mark."

This quote, attributed to Dorian Corey, appears at the end of the latest episode of Pose, "Butterfly/Cocoon." Fans of Jennie Livingston's classic documentary Paris Is Burning may remember Corey as a grande dame of the New York ball scene—one who delivered legendary one-liners and lessons on “shade” now immortalized in queer culture.

However, after she died from AIDS-related complications in 1993, Corey made headlines when a mummified body was discovered in her former home. When she passed away, her friend Lois Taylor, a fellow drag queen, began selling Corey's costumes. While going through a closet in her apartment on 140th Street in Manhattan, Taylor unearthed a suitcase so heavy she couldn't lift it.

She cut the suitcase open, and a "horrible stink came out of the dusty fabric bag," Taylor told New York magazine in 1994.

"That's when we called the police, 'cause honey, I wasn't chancing it," she explained.

New York Magazine

As NewNowNext previously reported, a "partially mummified" body was found in the bag. Investigators determined the badly decomposed corpse was that of Robert Worley, who was last seen in 1968:

Clues found with the body (vintage beer can lids) suggested that he had been dead for at least 15 years, but no one who had socialized or lived with Corey during that time ever recalled her mentioning Worley, let alone confessing to killing him.

Some of Corey’s fellow drag queens speculated that she had shot Worley during a failed robbery. However, a reporter for New York magazine was able to dig up some clues as to their relationship: Worley’s brother Fred claimed that Bobby had called him while drunk and rambled extensively to someone named “Dorian,” having apparently fought with her.

Lois Taylor also told the reporter that Corey had written a short story about a transgender woman who killed her lover in revenge after he pressured her to have a sex change. However, without any kind of firsthand testimony from either Corey or Worley, it seems the mystery of how he died—and how he ended up in her closet—will never be solved.

Richard Mailman, who wrote the play Dorian’s Closet, told Atlas Obscura he thinks that disposing of the body would have been "too conspicuous in congested Manhattan," so Corey "covered it in baking soda and wrapped it tightly to neutralize the inevitable odor."

“I don’t think she had a criminal mind. She didn’t plan the murder, and when it happened, she had to think fast,” he said. “In the mind of someone who commits a crime of passion, that kind of makes sense.”

Michael Parmelee/FX

POSE -- "Butterfly/Cocoon" -- Season 2, Episode 3 (Airs Tues, June 25, 10:00 p.m. e/p) Pictured (l-r): Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, Dominique Jackson as Elektra. CR: Michael Parmelee/FX

At the end of the Pose episode inspired by the tale of Corey's mummy, Elektra (Dominique Jackson) confesses to Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) that even though she hid the body of the man she accidentally killed, she knows "he will be with me for the rest of my life."

Just like how the Pose Season 2 premiere revealed the untold history of Hart Island, this week's installment—written by Our Lady J and directed by Janet Mock—continues to teach viewers about forgotten chapters of LGBTQ history.

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