Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Horror of the Mummy's Head

Clodia's Great-Grandfather fought for Napoleon Bonaparte in the Egyptian Campaign of 1798-1801. Like many who served in the emperor's Armee de Orient Clodia's Great-Grandfather vandalized and plundered many of ancient Egypt's monuments and artifacts. Like other warriors throughout time, many soldiers of Napoleon's Armee de Orient took home souvenirs. The most popular being the mummy. Most were the crudely mummified peasants or workers of Egypt's wonderful monuments. So common was the practice that it became a popular rage in 19th century Europe to ingest the ground up corpse of an Egyptian mummy as a remedy for various ailments or as an aphrodisiac. Clodia's Great-Grandfather, being a common foot soldier could not carry much, so the only artifact he was able to smuggle out of the country was a small head of a mummy. For years he proudly displayed his war time trophy, his grand children often gathering around the family hearth to hear his fanciful stories of the orient and cower in fear of the revolting head on the mantle. Sometimes, Clodia's father told her, it seemed as if the head turned or moved as if it was still alive and listening intently to the stories of the old soldier.

Years passed, as did Clodia's Great-Grandfather. The severed mummy's head was packed up in storage and forgotten, remembered only in family stories retold at the occasional get together.

Until 1922 when Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the boy king, Pharaoh Tutankhamen. The public attention to the discovery unleashed an unprecedented interest in Egyptology, and soon Ancient Egyptian decor and collecting 'artifacts' became the popular vogue. It became stylish to adore your house with an Egyptian motif accented with artifacts, real or fake. It was at this time when Clodia remembered all the hand me down stories of her Great-Grandfather and his adventures in the Egyptian Campaign. And she remembered the mummy's head.

Clodia had spent the good part of an afternoon rummaging through her Grandmother's attic, sorting through all the collected remembrances that her family had horded through the decades. The fruits of her labor eventually payed off, for in an old wooden box buried under a bag full of old clothes she found a metal tin marked with Egyptian symbols and pictures.Inside, wrapped in old musty cloth was the mummy's head.

It was smaller than she expected, about the size of a cantaloupe. Although there were some ancient cloth still attached to the skull, most of the face was uncovered. With empty eyes and no nose the cadaver's head was gruesome, but knowing that it had come from the time of the Pharaohs quelled any loathing she instinctively had for the object and instead instilled her with awe and wonder. With her Grandmother's blessing, she took the head home to her flat in Montoire and placed it on her bedroom dresser. She took the remainder of the day lying on her bed and staring at the gruesome artifact. Her mind wandered, imagining who the person was and what his or her world was like all those millenia ago. Her new decoration was the floodgate of inspiration.

But that night the disturbing dreams began.

Clodia dreamed she was in a dark room, which smelled of rotting flesh and waste. A door opened, and three men came into the room. Two of them were enormous muscular men, carrying some kind of staff or large club. the other was between the two adorned in some sort of robe. It was this small one who spoke, and as he did the large men started to beat her. And in the mixture of their laughing and her screaming she violently awoke, covered in sweat.

Over the course of that week she had the same dream every night, however the imagery became more distinct and vivid. And she no longer awoke with the beginning of the beatings, she endured them all. Each nights dream seemed to add more to the drama, and soon she found herself tied to a stone table with the thin man placing jars around her and holding some crude instruments. Then he took out a long jeweled knife and started to cut her abdomen open.

She woke up screaming that night, for she felt every blow and the horror of the cold metal cutting her open. She quickly pulled aside her blankets and night dress to make sure she was in one piece, only to find a long scratch down her belly where she had dreamed the knife opened her. A chill ran down her spine as she felt reality merge with the dream world. But her nervous hysteria only escalated when she noticed the mummy's head was no longer on the dresser where she usually kept it. It was sitting on her night stand, vacant eyes open as if it were piercing her mind. And most terrifying and impossible to Clodia, it seemed the face had changed.

The face seemed to have a grin that was never there before.

So disheveled by the entire incidents, Clodia took her prized Egyptian relic and put it in a small shed behind her building.

But she did not experience relief from the nightmare's that evening. In fact they seemed more intense and real, more than ever before. She endured the beatings and the disembowelment as if it was happening to her. The robed man took out her organs and put them in small jars. It was then that she understood. She was reliving what must have happened to the mummy. She was some sort of servant girl being mummified alive. But her consciousness endured for longer than seemed possible. With vital organs removed, she should have succumbed to the darkness of death. But she remained conscious through the horrible rite. Experiencing everything. The man who she now recognized as an Egyptian priest moved turned her face with a long hooked instrament, with a quick twist of his wrist he shoved the utensil into her nose and started to dig.

Clodia awoke covered in blood. It was a horrible nose bleed that turned her white cotton sheets a dark crimson. She dashed to the bathroom to stop the bleeding and clean herself up. Crying and shaking she entered her bedroom to change her bed clothes, and through tear blurred eyes she saw something that shattered her world of rational thought.

The mummy's head was on her night stand again. And the head seemed to be turning on its own toward her.

Still covered in blood, she ran from the apartment, blindly making her way to her parents home some miles away. After telling her parents of her horrible ordeal, Clodia's father took the head and burned it in a field far away from any of the family. He also made his daughter move back in with the family, so she would make a clean break with any association with the nightmares of that flat.

Clodia never mentioned the mummy's head or the nightmares to anyone, for fear they would think her mad. Until the 1970s, when the tout of King Tut brought Egyptology to the forefront once more. The nightmares returned, though not as vivid. It was if she was reliving the horror she experienced in the 20s once again. Clodia sought out help from a friend and she was referred to a Christian Counselor who helped her deal with her memories through therapy and hypnotism. The nightmares ceased, and the horror of the mummy's head faded into history as peace through grace quelled Clodia's fears.

Now as when I first heard the story in a small group with the counselor who ministered to Clodia, I cannot help but wonder if Clodia was imagining the paranormal activity surrounding the mummy's head. But after years of witnessing strange unexplained experiences myself, the story seems all the more chilling. What was the purpose of the dreams? Was the disembodied spirit of that long dead servant trying to reach out in sympathy to what it understood as a kindred soul, or was something more sinister happening? Were Clodia's wounds psychosomatic or a paranormal phenomena pointing to some diabolical plan at work?

Until Next time,
Pastor Swope


Kent McManigal said...

Wow. Creepy. I used to have a mummified monkey, but the only "haunting" that came with it was just the unease of knowing it was in the closet. I finally got rid of it because I couldn't stand to see it, or even know it was there. A mummified human head would have probably gotten to me much worse.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to think that any injuries she may have suffered were psychosomatic. Although the Canaanites practiced human sacrifice, my understanding is that the Egyptians did not, at least not beyond the very earliest Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom. Later Egyptians were not buried with real servants, but with statues of servants, which were expected to serve just as well. As for those earliest Egyptians, they had not yet perfected the practice of mummification. The combination of human sacrifice and fully-developed mummification as described here seems to belong more to the world of Hollywood than of history.

As for the shameful way in which mummies were treated, it is worth pointing out that in a more Christian era it would have been remembered that the last of the 7 corporal works of mercy is burying the dead.

Sly said...

Curse of the mummy? This reminds me of many of the stories relating to the desecration of tombs in Egypt and the aftermath. Interesting and definitely creepy creepy creepy...

p4fan said...

Fine story as always,Pastor. I wonder if her great-grandfather and his family suffered nightmares. Odd. Seems Clodia was the one severely affected. The next thought was her nightmare scenario with the Egyptian "priest". Now I know why Moses wanted out. Thirdly,it does reinforce my beliefs about messing around with the realm of the dead,whether it's wandering in a cemetery or keeping a mummy around.

Erin said...

That is a chilling story!

That is a good question on if the spirit was looking for sympathy or had sinister motives in mind.

I've heard similar stories where people have experienced terrible dreams after taking mummified bodies or parts.

Dr Jasmine Day said...

I am one of a number of world experts on "mummymania" and the "mummy's curse", author of "The Mummy's Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World" (Routledge 2006). I have heard many curse legends like this one before and can trace elements of it (like guilt at robbing tombs or owning mummy parts) back to 19th century fiction stories and legends. The woman's nightmares were clearly based on portrayals of mummies in the media and Hollywood movies and could not be "channelled" from ancient Egypt because 1) nobody was mummified alive, 2) wrongdoers were not granted a sacred mummification, 3) flint blades, not "jewelled" metal knives, were used for evisceration as proven in Bob Brier's experiments and suggested by Herodotus, 4) the Egyptians did not practice human sacrifice during the era of mummification (this is a stereotype established by the Boris Karloff 1932 film "The Mummy"). Were the ancient Egyptians alive today, they might condemn tall tales like the one on your website in the way that Australian Aborigines exposed as fake the book "Mutant Message Downunder". I would not censor your story, but for its historical inaccuracy and hackneyed portrayal of the Egyptians as "evil" (just try telling any other ethnic group they're evil) it should be presented as the fiction it is, even if it was a fiction in the mind of a real person who suffered some nightmares. Dr Jasmine Day