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Home arrow BFR Matters I arrow Fletcher Robinson & the 'Mummy' (Part II)
Fletcher Robinson & the 'Mummy' (Part II) PDF Print E-mail

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Fig. 1 (left) Front cover of Pearson's Magazine
for August 1909.

Sladen, Conan Doyle and Marshall each linked Bertram Fletcher Robinson's death (hereafter BFR) to research that he had undertaken into a 'mummy' at the British Museum [refer to Fletcher Robinson and the Mummy (Part I)].  This research began whilst BFR was working as a journalist for the Daily Express (1900-1904) and continued during his editorship at Vanity Fair (1904-1906).  The identity of the 'mummy' is not specified by Sladen, Conan Doyle or Marshall.  However on 30th July 1909, The Times featured an article entitled The August Reviews, which includes the following statement (p. 10):

In Pearson's the true story of the mysterious British Museum mummy, a picture of which adorns the cover, is the most piquant of the contents.  Misfortune has pursued everyone who has in recent years been connected with this famous mummy cover, and B. Fletcher Robinson, who two or three years ago investigated the story, himself died shortly afterwards at an early age [BFR died on 21st January 1907 aged 36 years]

The relevant cover illustration is shown above (Fig. 1).  It features a mummy-board (coffin-lid) that is believed to have been made for a Priestess of Amen-Ra from Thebes around 950BC.  This artifact was donated to the British Museum during July 1889 by a Mrs. Warwick Hunt of Holland Park in London on behalf of one Arthur F. Wheeler.  It is associated with many tragic stories and has consequently acquired the popular name of the 'Unlucky Mummy' (see links below).   This mummy-board is still exhibited at the British Museum (Serial No. EA 22542).

It is perhaps worth noting that both Pearson's Magazine and the Daily Express were each owned by Sir Cyril Arthur Pearson.  Furthermore, BFR wrote some 130 items for these two publications between 1900 and 1905 (see 'BFR Bibliography').  The August 1909 edition of Pearson's Magazine also features an article that was written by one G. St. Russell and entitled The Mysterious Mummy (pp.162-172).   This item provides some background information on the 'Unlucky Mummy' and it also includes several references to BFR as follows (pp. 163-165):

About the middle of the 'sixties [1860's] a party of five friends went in a dahabia for a trip up the Nile.  They went to Luxor, on their way to the Second Cataract, and there explored Thebes, with its temple to Amen-Ra, unequalled on earth in its ruined magnificence.

A well-known English lady of title entertained the party, and the Consul, Mus'aph Aga, gave a fête in their honour.  One night the consul sent to his friends an Arab, who reported he had just found a mummy case of unusual worth.  Next morning he brought the case for inspection.  It was seen to picture a woman's face, of strange beauty, but of a cold malignity of expression.  The case was bought by one of the party, Mr. D., who, however, agreed to draw lots with the others for possession of the treasure; and the case passed to a friend, whom we may call Mr. W. [Mr. Wheeler?].

From that time its history  has been clearly traced -  a history marked by an uncanny series of fatalities, which appear not to have ceased, even after the case found its abode among a thousand similar relics. 

On the return journey of the party, one of the members was shot accidentally in the arm by his servant, through a gun exploding without visible cause.  The arm had to be amputated.  Another died in poverty within a year.  A third was shot.  The owner of the mummy case found, on reaching Cairo, that he had lost a large part of his fortune, and died soon afterwards.

The priestess of Amen-Ra was showing her displeasure in a convincing manner.

When the case arrived in England, it was given by its owner, Mr. W., to a married sister living near London [Mrs. Warwick Hunt?].  At once misfortune fell upon her household; large financial losses were suffered, bringing other troubles with them.

But before this, one day the Theosophist, Mme. Blavatsky, entered the room in which the case had been placed.  She soon declared there was a most malignant influence in the room.  On finding the cover, she begged her hostess to send it away, declaring it to be a thing of utmost danger.  The lady, however, laughed at this idea as a foolish superstition. 

Presently she sent the case to a well-known photographer in Baker Street.  Within a week he called upon her in great excitement, to say that while he photographed the face with the greatest care, and could guarantee that no one had touched either his negative or the photograph, the photograph showed the face of a living Egyptian woman staring straight before her with an expression of singular malevolence.  Shortly afterwards the photographer died suddenly and mysteriously.

About this time Mr. D. happened to meet the owner of the coffin lid, and, hearing her story, begged her to part with it; and she sent it to the British Museum.  The carrier who took it died within a week, and the man who assisted him met with a serious accident.

This is the history as it was verified - with the exception of the last statement - by one who for three months was at pains to gather the tangled threads of the evidence, and gained proofs of the identity of all those who suffered from the anger of the priestess - the late Mr. B. Fletcher Robinson.  We have told the story very much as he told it; and he declared that every one of the facts was absolutely authentic.  He himself seems to have thought that when the mummy case arrived at the Museum, and was installed in a place of honour [First Egyptian Room], the series of fatalities had ended, for he wrote:

"Perhaps it is that the priestess only used her powers against those who brought her into the light of day, and who kept her as an ornament in a private room, but that now, standing amongst queens and princesses of equal rank, she no longer makes use of the malign powers which she possesses."

But a lady, Mrs. St. Hill, who recently delivered a lecture in London, in which she told the story, remarked that not long after Mr. Fletcher Robinson had recorded the facts, he himself died at an early age, after a brief illness. 

This newly discovered quote resolves the questions that have surrounded the later comments made by Sladen (1913), Conan Doyle (1923) and Marshall (1933).  BFR researched the 'Unlucky Mummy' over a 12 week period that spanned his move from the Daily Express to Vanity Fair in around late May 1904.  He evidently felt that he had determined the facts surrounding its acquisition, transit and exhibition (BFR held both a BA degree in History and an MA degree from Jesus College, Cambridge).  Furthermore, he wrote about this artifact and discussed it with others but he never actually had a related story published as was intended.  Finally, the speculation that linked BFR's death to the 'Unlucky Mummy' was prompted by comments that were made by one Mrs. St. Hill at a lecture in London during 1909.

It appears that much of the modern mythology that surrounds the 'Unlucky Mummy' was started and/or perpetuated by the research that was undertaken by BFR during 1904.  To learn more about the popular stories that relate to this artifact, please follow the links below:

http://www.npm.gov.tw/exh96/britishmuseum250/en/exh03.html

http://www.anusha.com/cursed.htm

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By Paul Spiring ©2007.

 
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