The British Museum's "cursed" mummy
The recent piece about Learmouth Garden brought back to me all those ideas about the occult powers of the ancient Egyptians and particulary how dangerous it is to disturb their dead. The so called "Tutankhamen's Curse" is the most famous but there's another less known stories related by none other that Sir Ernest Wallis Budge, world-famous Egyptologist and British Museum Keeper which gave London perhaps the best collection of Middle Eastern antiquities in the world.
The story goes like this. Three English gentlemen were visiting Egypt sometime after General Wolseley crushed Arabi Pasha's uprising. While near Thebes they were approached by a shady individual who, well knowing the Western appetite for antiquities, offered them a truly unique piece: a sarcophagus containing a perfectly preserved mummy, a woman judging by the portrait. After the customary haggling they agreed on the deal and the mummy was added to their luggage. Happy with their purchase they boarded a boat to return to Alexandria and catch a steamer home. Near the Cairo they stopped to hunt for waterfowl and here their troubles began: one of them lost an arm when his shotgun backfired and another drowned. The survivor, scared to death by these accidents, sold the mummy to an antiquarian at the Cairo and boarded the first steamer home.
The mummy was purchased by a collector named Streetham (or Streatham) and arrived at his London home in 1888. He was perfectly happy with his purchase until he invited over the famous Madame Blavatsky to have a look at his latest collectible. The Russian seer immediately turned to him and told him to get rid of the mummy or die by the end of the year. Scared by these gloomy warnings, the man immediately sold it at a loss to a London antiquarian. The antiquarian decided to have the mummy photographed to add the picture to his catalogue and hired the well known W.A. Mansell for the job. While returning home Mansell had an accident and broke a leg. Not only that but all the slides were damaged and could not be developed properly.
A buyer was found but she kept the mummy for less than a week claiming that it was the cause of poltergeist activity in her house.
Finally a philantropist named A.F. Wheeler bought the mummy but immediately presented it to the British Museum, refusing to keep it in his house for a single night.
The two delivery man carrying the mummy to its final resting place also paid the price: one had a accident on his way home and the other died the next.
Not only that but the mummy was linked to the sinking of two ships in WWI: both were said to carry bits of the mummy on board.
The vengeful mummy appeared to be satisfied with her new home and no more accidents followed. Sir Ernest joked that the occult powers of ancient Egypt had no power of such an institution as the British Museum!
The mummy is still exhibited at the British Museum: Egyptian Antiquities Department, show case 35, invtary number 22542.
"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"
-Kalevala, Rune XIII-