In honor of the Day of the Dead, here’s a short list of mummies in New York City. We’ve got a nice selection, so put on some scary but tasteful music, make some Mexican Hot Chocolate (real or fake) , and settle in.
AMNH – Mummies
The American Museum of Natural History has a wonderful, comprehensive exhibit on mummies that you should go see, because it’s ending on January 18th 2018.
Both great mummy-making cultures are well represented. Those, of course, are Peru and Egypt. They each had their own reasons and their own methods, and the museum gives
you a thorough sampling of each. Interactive digital scans let you see what’s really in there, and the recreated faces show what the person actually looked like. Remember — before you’re a mummy, you’re a person.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is the biggest and most amazing museum on the planet. Sure, the Louvre has the Mona Lisa, Napoleon on a horse, and more floor space, but what else you got there, mon ami? 380,000 more paintings? The Met has over 2 million objects, so we’ve got one of
everything. There’s a whole Egyptian temple in there, not to mention a ceremonial canoe from New Guinea, a 20 foot statue of Buddha, a palace room complete with a fountain, the living room and fireplace of a house built by Frank Lloyd Wright, the front part of a 3-story marble bank, and a flock of knights on horses. Did I mention the whole entire Egyptian temple?
Find the Egyptian temple and trace your way back to the one mummy on display at the Met. She’s still in her coffin, and her name was The Lady Nephthys. You can get a tantalizing peak of her in Gallery 112
Animal Mummies – Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Museum has a whimsical exhibit of animal mummies running through January 21st. In ancient Egypt, there was a vibrant industry creating animal mummies as offerings for the gods. You had to have the right animal mummy to offer to the right god, and the priests of the temple made a tidy profit selling it to you. You wanted to give an offering to Thoth, god of the Moon, Magic, and Writing? You needed to get your mitts on an ibis mummy. Try sending a pigeon instead, and Thoth will not be happy. For Thoth you’ll need an ibis or a baboon: either one will go to the underworld to deliver your message in person, but I’m guessing an ibis was cheaper. The message itself could have been anything, but usually it was the same as the messages people relay to modern deities: send more money.
Of course, ibis didn’t grow on trees (though cats, apparently, were a dime a dozen — so many cats were made into mummies that they were later sold as fertilizer). This did not deter the resourceful temple priests, who had no inkling that future generations would invent the MRI, and then start putting mummies through it. The MRI revealed that many a mummified baboon or ibis was, in fact, a bundle of sticks wrapped in linen.
That does it for the official mummies. Now, let’s get to the unofficial mummies.
The Drag Queen and the Mummy
Dorian Corey was born as Frederick Legg in the late 1930’s and died of AIDS during the plague years of the early ‘90s. She was a drag queen back when that was often dangerous and illegal, and she can be seen in the documentary film “Paris is Burning”. Known for her amazing costumes, she appeared on stage and at Wigstock. When she passed away in 1994, she willed her fabulous costume collection to her lover and other friends. But when they started to clean out the apartment, they found something extra: a body wrapped in naugahyde and gold lamé stowed in a trunk in the back of the closet. The body turned out to be that of a small-time crook named Robert Worley who had a record for robbery and rape. He had been shot in the head and wrapped up about 20 years prior to Dorian’s own death.
No one really knows what the connection was between the mummified criminal and the
drag queen, but she had definitely done the wrapping, and had even moved apartments with the trunk. In fact, the home-made mummy wrappings had been done so well that her many visitors never suspected a thing. Speculation has run the gamut from Dorian shooting in self defense during a home invasion, to having been the deceased’s lover and killing him when he turned abusive. Read more here and here.
Alas, that’s not the only home-made mummy found in New York City. For a particularly sad, creepy story that may or may not have a ghost in it, read this.