This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to join a board game party at the house of a friend. It’s always a delight to be in a group with other nerds: conversation flows fast, but you never know just what you’re going to end up discussing. Except when I’m in the party, of course, at which point the conversation always somehow ends up touching on Egypt.
(I know, I know. I have a problem.)
During the party, someone asked me just when mummies became monsters. I wasn’t able to give a full answer (though I did manage to issue my usual pre-monologue warning, which is something along the lines of “Do you have about thirty minutes for the answer?”), but it’s definitely a topic I love, and when I got home I spent some time reading through some bits of this and that from my research. And one piece I’ve decided to share.
The classic answer to “when did mummies become monsters?” is usually “Around 1699.” That’s when Louis Penicher published his Treatise on Embalming, including a story of a supposedly cursed or malevolent pair of mummies that bedeviled a ship. The tale is taken from the letters of one “Radzevil,” who appears to be one of the Mikolaj Radziwills; which one, I’m not sure. Penicher sets the scene and then turns it over to Radziwill, who has purchased two mummies to bring back to Europe.