Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Myth of the Titanic Mummy

Version 1

Among the stories surrounding the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic in 1912 was a tale about an unlucky mummy whose curse was as responsible for that accident as that floating island of ice the tore open the ship's hull. Though the story had been around for years, it spread rapidly in the wake of the popularity of the film Titanic. The tale goes something like this:

In the late 1890's a rich, young Englishman visiting the archaeological digs near Luxor purchased the coffin and mummy of The Princess of Amen-Ra. He arranged for it to be shipped back to his home, but was not there to receive it. He disappeared, never to be found. One of his companions on the trip later died, another lost an arm in an accident and a third lost his fortune in a bank failure.

The coffin reached England and was purchased by a businessman. Three members of the businessman's household were injured in an auto accident and his house caught on fire. Convinced that the mummy was unlucky, the man donated it to the British Museum.

The staff at the museum reported hearing loud banging and crying noises coming from the coffin at night. Things were thrown around the exhibit room without explanation. Finally a watchman died. Then a photographer took a photo of the coffin. When he developed it, the image that appeared was so horrifying that the photographer killed himself.

The museum wanted to get rid of the unlucky mummy, but with it's reputation they could not even give it away. Finally, an American archaeologist, who didn't believe in the stories, purchased the mummy and coffin and had it sent back to the states on board the Titanic. The rest was, well, history...

Other version of this story has the archaeologist bribing the Titanic crew to have the mummy put into a life boat and later it winds up in New York City. The mummy is sold and shipped again and involved in one or two more shipwrecks before winding up on the bottom of the sea.

Is this a true story? Or just a weird tale?

Shipping records show no mummy was on board the Titanic (this may be why some versions of the tale say that the archaeologist smuggled it aboard). In no account by any Titanic survivor do they mention sharing a lifeboat with a mummy (which wouldn't have been easy to forget). Nor did any rescuer report taking a mummy on board.

The tale probably has its origins with two Englishmen named Douglas Murray and T.W. Stead. Murray and Stead claimed that an acquaintance of theirs bought a mummy in Egypt and had it placed in a drawing room in his home. The next morning every breakable item in the room had been smashed. The next night the mummy was left in another room with the same results..

Great loss of life, but no mummy

The pair also visited the British Museum and saw the coffin lid of Priestess Amun (there wasn't ever a mummy, only the lid). They decided that the face depicted on it was a tormented horror. Combining the two stories, that of the breakable items and the scary lid, the two sold the tale to the newspapers. The tale later grew to include the Titanic.

The Titanic portion of the story may have been inspired by the loss of the Menkaure sarcophagus in 1838. The sarcophagus, which was being shipped from Egypt to England, was considered to be one of the finest examples of art from the Old Kingdom period. It went to the bottom of the sea when the ship carrying it, The Beatrice, sunk in deep water somewhere near Cartagena.

The truth is that the Priestess Amun coffin lid (British Museum item No. 22542) is still sitting quietly in the British Museum's second Egyptian room, where it can be seen today.

Version 2

Of all tales of the supernatural, this one is perhaps the best documented, the most disturbing and the most difficult to explain.

The Princess of Amen-Ra lived some 1,500 years before Christ. When she died, she was laid in an ornate wooden coffin and buried deep in a vault at Luxor, on the banks of the Nile. In the late 1890s, four rich, young, Englishmen visiting the excavations at Luxor were invited to buy an exquisitely fashioned mummy case containing the remains of Princess of Amen-Ra.

They drew lots. The man who won paid several thousand pounds and had the coffin taken to his hotel. A few hours later, he was seen walking out towards the desert. He never returned. The next day, one of the remaining three men was shot by an Egyptian servant accidentally. His arm was so severely wounded it had to be amputated. The third man in the foursome found on his return home that the bank holding his entire savings had failed. The fourth man suffered a severe illness, lost his job and was reduced to selling matches in the street.

Nevertheless, the coffin reached England (causing other misfortunes along the way), where it was bought by a London businessman . After three of his family members had been injured in a road accident and his house damaged by fire, the businessman donated it to the British Museum . As the coffin was being unloaded from a truck in the museum courtyard, the truck suddenly went into reverse and trapped a passer-by . Then as the casket was being lifted up the stairs by two workmen, one fell and broke his leg . The other, apparently in perfect health, died unaccountably two days later . Once the Princess was installed in the Egyptian Room, trouble really started . Museum's night watchmen frequently heard frantic hammering and sobbing from the coffin . Other exhibits in the room were also often hurled about at night . One watchman died on duty; causing the other watchmen wanting to quit. Cleaners refused to go near the Princess too . When a visitor derisively flicked a dust cloth at the face painted on the coffin, his child died of measles soon afterwards. Finally, the authorities had the mummy carried down to the basement . Figuring it could not do any harm down there. Within a week, one of the helpers was seriously ill, and the supervisor of the move was found dead on his desk.

By now, the papers had heard of it. A journalist photographer took a picture of the mummy case and when he developed it, the painting on the coffin was of a horrifying, human face. The photographer went home then, locked his bedroom door and shot himself.

Soon afterwards, the museum sold the mummy to a private collector. After continual misfortune (and deaths), the owner banished it to the attic. A well known authority on the occult, Madame Helena Blavatsky, visited the premises. Upon entry, she was seized with a shivering fit and searched the house for the source of "an evil influence of incredible intensity". She finally came to the attic and found the mummy case. "Can you exorcise this evil spirit ?" asked the owner . "There is no such thing as exorcism. Evil remains evil forever . Nothing can be done about it. I implore you to get rid of this evil as soon as possible". But no British museum would take the mummy; the fact that almost 20 people had met with misfortune, disaster or death from handling the casket, in barely 10 yrs, was now well known.

Eventually, a hard-headed American archaeologist (who dismissed the happenings as quirks of circumstance), paid a handsome price for the mummy and arranged for its removal to New York . In April of 1912, the new owner escorted its treasure aboard a sparkling, new White Star liner about to make its maiden voyage to New York.

On the night of April 14, amid scenes of unprecedented horror, the Princess of Amen-Ra accompanied 1,500 passengers to their deaths at the bottom of the Atlantic. The name of the ship was Titanic.


Newspaper  Article
Would you believe this appeared in a 1993 newspaper??

  • There was a story going round that the number on the hull of the Titanic was 390904 which, if you turned round (and maybe stood on your head?), spelled out the message "NO POPE". This of course is untrue - The real hull no. of the Titanic was 131,428.

  • Two seamen said that they'd seen six men shot down like dogs.

  • A second-class survivor "Emilio Portualuppi" told a story upon his return to New York of spending hours riding a large block of ice.

  • A seaman on the Carpathia told of how a Newfoundland dog called "Rigel" had jumped from the sinking ship and somehow miraculously escorted a lifeboat to the Carpathia. The dog barked as it approached the Carpathia letting everyone know it was coming.

  • Another weird story that appeared in the newspapers was about six Chinese survivors who had apparently hidden beneath the seats of one of the Titanic's lifeboats. No one knew they were there until the lifeboats had been take on board the Carpathia. It was also reported that two others who were hidden got crushed by some fat ladies who were sitting above them. The other 6 Chinese survived due to the fact that lighter ladies were sitting on top of them.

  • Marie Young told of how she'd seen the iceberg and hour before the collision.

  • A banker from Philadelphia was under the impression that he'd managed to take over the Carpathia's wireless during the trip back.

  • One first class passenger "George Brayton" told a newspaper of his impression:

    "The moon was shining and a number of us who were enjoying the crisp air were promenading about the deck. Captain Smith was on the bridge when the first cry from the lookout came that there was an iceberg ahead. It may have been 300 feet high when I saw it. The accident happened at about 10:30 p.m. About midnight I think came the first boiler explosion. Then for the first time, I think, Captain Smith began to get worried..."

    Talk about Tall tales - this one is a BEAUTY! I keep getting this story submitted to me as a true ghost story. It's pretty obvious that it's a tall tale of the Titanic and never really happened - a dead giveaway is the fact that the Titanic hit a bloody big Iceberg which sank it, which had nothing to do with a Mummy in the cargo. There was no Princess of Amen-ra - and she definitely wasn't buried at Luxor. I have seen this story on the net everywhere - you can't really miss it.

From what I can tell this story was started by some newspaper in New York - they ran a story about the Titanic being sunk by the curse of a mummy (an Egyptian King) in the cargo hold. They stated that the mummy was being smuggled to America by an unscrupulous art dealer who wanted to sell the mummy to a museum in New York for $500,000.00. The money was to be split amongst himself and the thieves who ransacked the tomb of this Egyptian King.

Now it seems that Anubis (the Egyptian God of the dead) was apparently totally unhappy about having one of his Egyptian Kings sold off and smuggled to New York so he took it upon himself to sink the Titanic and see that the mummy went to the bottom of the sea along with the ship and most of it's passengers. Hence the Curse of the Mummy was born.

Other versions of this story tell of the mummy being placed in a lifeboat as the Titanic was sinking. It eventually reaches New York and causes all the usual havoc so it is sent back to Egypt on the "Empress of Ireland" which also sank with a great loss of life. The mummy also managed to survive this sinking by once again being placed in a life boat. It was then attempted to resend the mummy back to Egypt on the "Lusitania", but this time the ship sank and took the mummy along with it. The mummy supposedly now resides at the bottom of the ocean in the "Lusitania's" cargo hold.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard about the mummy story. That baby on the newspaper is REALLY random!