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Tom Bates Short Story - The Curse of the Mummy Case

Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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The Curse of the Mummy Case

From `Old Tom's Tall Tales'

`could have averted one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century'

A bizarre connection between Derbyshire’s 19th century pioneering archaeologist Thomas Bateman and a cursed Egyptian mummy case, could have averted one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century – if you believe in that sort of thing!

Bateman lived at Middleton Hall, Middleton by Youlgreave and was responsible for excavating hundreds of bronze age and neolithic burial mounds (or barrows) throughout the county and was also an avid collector of antiquities. His collection had grown to such an extent that prior to his death in 1861 aged only 39, he had built Lombardale Hall as a personal museum to house and display his huge collection of archaic artefacts.

His son, another Thomas Bateman, inherited his father’s estate but showed little interest in his predecessor’s passion for the collecting of antiquities, and after frivolously squandering his wealth, sought respite from his debtors by offering the collection for sale.

He contacted an old associate of his father’s in America in the early 1890’s, a millionaire collector of antiquities named James Carnegie, and offered to sell him the entire contents of the museum at Lomberdale Hall.

Carnegie was a well known buyer and employed agents in all parts of the world. He had worked with the famous German archeologist Heinrich Schleimann in the early excavations at Thebes and had discovered ancient treasures from the Temple of Ammon-Ra dating from 1600 BC.

One of the artefacts was the mummy case of the high Princess of Ammon-Ra who had held high office in the Egyptian Cult of The Dead.

On the walls of her burial chamber were written threats of a curse stating that misfortune would befall anyone who disturbed her final resting place. Within months of the discovery Schleimann died (in 1890) and Carnegie developed cancer.

Upon hearing of Bateman’s offer to sell the Lomberdale collection, Carnegie replied offering Bateman `the most fabulous prize’ of his career – the mummy case of the Princess Ammon-Ra, in part-exchange.

Bateman was only interested in a cash sale and turned the offer down, eventually selling the collection at Sotheby’s in London, except for the archeological section which was purchased by the Museum of Sheffield where it is still on display.

Bateman thus avoided `the curse of the mummy case’ - but died shortly afterwards in 1895 at the early age of 45.

Carnegie died of cancer in Cairo in 1910 but shortly before he died he sold the mummy case to British Egyptologist Douglas Murray.

Murray paid by cheque and arranged to have the case shipped to England, but Carnegie died before he had chance to cash the cheque.

Murray, consciously aware of the curse if disbelieving of it, put the case in storage and went off up the Nile on a shooting expedition. Three days later his gun exploded in his hand and his arm had to be amputated above the elbow. On his return journey to England two of his friends and travelling companions died from unknown causes, and two Egyptian servants who had handled the mummy case died within months of each other.

Murray, now back in England and still sceptical about the mummy case and it’s supposed curse gave the case to a woman friend who had scoffed at the curse too. Within a week the woman’s mother had died, her husband had left her and she was diagnosed with consumption! No longer scoffing, the woman insisted that Murray take back the case, which he did - and promptly offered it to the British Museum.

There the photographer assigned to take photographs of it for the archive records dropped dead immediately after taking the pictures, and later the Egyptologist in charge of the exhibition was found dead.

Murray wanted nothing more to do with what he now believed to be `the curse of the mummy case’; true to the written warning on the walls of her burial chamber, the curse of Princess Ammon-Ra had indeed brought misfortune to all who had come into contact with her mummy case – and some who could have but didn’t - like Thomas Bateman!

In 1912 The British Museum Board decided to ship the mummy-case to New York and in April it was taken to Liverpool where it was stowed away in the cargo hold. The ship sailed on time but never arrived in New York.

The mummy case of the high Princess Ammon-Ra was in the hold of the S.S.Titanic and disappeared along with 1500 people on April 15th 1912.

Some say it was an iceberg that sank the Titanic, others say it was the curse of the mummy case…..what do you think?

If only Thomas Bateman had accepted James Carnegie’s offer – and the mummy case had come instead to Lomberdale Hall in Derbyshire…….

perhaps by a sheer quirk of fate the Titanic disaster could have been avoided…….if you believe in that sort of thing!

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