A Titanic Mummy's Curse
She lived in Ancient Egypt, in about 1600 B.C., as a high-priestess in the Temple of Amun-Ra. When she died, she was buried in a coffin with, on the outside, her image in gold and enamel. She was bought by a man named Douglas Murray, who visited Luxor many years ago. A few days later he went hunting up the Nile and the gun in his hand exploded unaccountably.
Murray lay in great agony while the boat hastily returned to Cairo so he could have urgent medical attention, but head-winds of unusual force persistently held the hunting party up. It was ten days before they reached Cairo. Gangrene had set in. His arm had to be amputated above his elbow.
His two companions died during the voyage back to England and were buried at sea. Two Egyptian servants who had handled the mummy-case also died within a year.
As Frank Usher tells it in his article Ghosts of Ancient Egypt (in More Great Ghost Stories, 1966): "When the ship arrived at Tilbury it was found that valuable Egyptian curiosities Murray had bought in Cairo had been stolen. But the mummy-case was there awaiting him. Whatever he had lost, had had not lost that, and he said that when he looked at the carved face of the priestess which was upon it, her eyes seemed to come to life and look at him with a malevolence that turned his blood cold. He promptly gave the fatal mummy-case away to a lady, upon whom disaster immediately befell. Her mother broke her leg and died after months of prolonged suffering. The lady lost her fiancé, who for no apparent reason declined to marry her. Her pets died and she became ill herself with an undiagnosable complaint which wasted her away so much that she feared death and instructed her lawyer to maker her will."
The lawyer agreed to make her will. At the same time insisted on returning the mummy-case to Murray, but he wanted to have nothing more to do with the accursed relic. So, Murray presented the mummy to the British Museum, which was an institution too scientific to be affected by such superstitions as ancient Egyptian curses.
However, a photographer who took pictures of the coffin, died mysteriously after developing the pictures that showed living and malevolent eyes in the carved face of the priestess. An egyptologist who looked after the mummy was found dead in his bed. The Museum finally accepted the mummy-case and spent some time denying stories of strange and unaccountable things taking place in the Egyptian Section. Some members of the staff reported hearing loud banging and crying noises coming from the coffin at night, and things were thrown around the exhibit room without explanation.
Madame Blavatsky, an occult authority, visited the premises and was seized with a shivering fit. She searched the Museum for the source of "an evil influence of incredible intensity" and finally found the mummy case.
"Can you exorcise this evil spirit ?" she was asked.
"There is no such thing as exorcism," Madame Blavatsky answered. "Evil remains evil forever. Nothing can be done about it. I implore you to get rid of this evil as soon as possible."
The case was removed to the cellars, when a hard-headed American archaeologist and chess player showed up. This man, William T. Stead, dismissed the happenings as quirks of circumstance. He paid a handsome price for the mummy and arranged for its removal to New York.
In April of 1912, Stead escorted his treasure aboard the new White Star liner that was about to make its maiden trip to New York. Because of the reputation of the mummy, he choose a ship that was said to be "unsinkable". Still, he was afraid his cargo would not be loaded. So he secretly arranged for the mummy to be hidden under a new Renault automobile.
Stead did not reveal the truth about his cargo until the night of April 14. This was the night of the last disaster caused by the curse of the priestess of Amon-Ra. That night, she accompanied more than 1,500 passengers of the Titanic to their death at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
A Titanic Hoax
You'll find many different versions of the true story related above on the web or in all sort of books, but not one of them is true. The story is an urban legend, a hoax fully debunked on Snopes.com.
- Helena Blavatsky died of influenza in 1891 and the Titanic's one and only trip was in 1912.
- Charles Haas, president of the Titanic Historical Society, in 1985 declared there wasn't a mummy on board of the Titanic: "The cargo manifest throws those myths right out the window." (In some versions of the story it was said the mummy was hidden in an automobile, mmm...)
- William T. Stead was a well-known journalist who created a national scandal when he published an article describing how he was able to purchase the services of a 13 year old prostitute for 5 pound. He was a believer in spiritualism and mysticism, investigated psychic phenomena and published a related periodical. He concocted the story together with his friend, the "egyptologist" Douglas Murray. They have set up the story in the drawing room of an acquaintance of theirs, where everything breakable was destroyed.
- Stead and Murray told their mummy tale to some reporters after visiting the First Egyptian Room of the British Museum and seeing there the coffin lid of the priestess of Amon-Ra.
- William Stead indeed was on the Titanic at President Taft's request to address a peace conference, and he took delight in telling his cursed mummy tale to the passengers. A few days after the sinking of the Titanic, one of the survivors recounted Stead's horror story.
- The coffin lid of the priestess of Amon is still on display at the British Museum, just as it was when Stead and Murray created their hoax. It never left the Museum. Check it out in the Second Egyptian Room!