Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday the Thirteen (woooooo...)

                       The Curse of Tutankhamun, you may be surprised to hear, is not the only curse of an Egyptian mummy. One other such is the Curse of the Unlucky Mummy. The tale, cut to its bare bones, relates how four rich Englishmen bought the mummy of the priestess Amen-Ra, in the late 1890s. In the next few days, one of the men walked into the desert and never returned, another was wounded in a firearms accident and lost an arm, the third lost his fortune when his bank failed, and the last contracted a serious illness, lost his livelihood, and was reduced to penury. The mummy found its way to England, causing disasters along its route, and was eventually bought by a wealthy businessman. Three members of his family were soon injured in a road accident and his house caught fire, prompting him to donate the mummy to the British Museum. Disaster again followed in the wake of its journey there, and after a number of night watchmen died, a photographer committed suicide after photographing the mummy, and the organiser of the move was found dead at his desk, the museum sold the mummy on to an American Egyptologist. He arranged to ship the mummy to New York, and to accompany it on its subsequent transfer. During the crossing, the liner carrying Amen-Ra sank, and 1500 passengers lost their lives. The mummy had been booked aboard RMS Titanic.

Dolly back. Fade to black.

Scary, eh?

But not true. Not even a little bit. The original story of the Unlucky Mummy was dreamt up by two journalists, William Thomas Stead and Douglas Murray, and it told of a mummy that destroyed every room in which it was stored. After a visit to the Egyptian Rooms in the British Museum, Stead and Murray embroidered their tale, adding the element of a vengeful princess wreaking rancorous havoc on the modern world. In April 1912, Stead was indeed a passenger on the Titanic, and had regaled his fellow passengers with his story at a dinner party on the night of the April 12th / 13th. The spiritualist Stead also told them how a medium had warned him against sailing, as the ship was destined for disaster. Stead was lost during the sinking, and reports of his story-telling have probably been enhanced and altered by the survivors who heard them, going on to be conflated more and more with the horror story itself with each retelling. Stead had used a mummy-board he had seen in the British Museum (BM 22542) as the basis of his story. But this is a decorated board that would have been placed inside a coffin, on top of the body; it is not an actual mummy. It was described in early museum publications as a ‘priestess of Amen-Ra’ but there are no identifying marks or scripts on the board that verify this description. Furthermore, after its donation in 1889, the mummy-board did not leave the museum again until 1990.
 I've had a request for views of the study as it currently stands, so I thought I'd do a before and after update. It isn't finished yet, but here are how things look presently, with how they looked when I started : -

Now ...
... and then.

So, it's coming along.


  1. The befores and afters are amazing...well done...and it's even better in 'real life'!

  2. Wow, my bedroom looks awesome - ha ha ;) xcx