The Great Yarmouth Mummy in Norfolk
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Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

According to reports a singularly strange occurrence took place in the early 1900s linked with the church of St. Nicholas in Great Yarmouth. The church had a school attached to it and it was here that the problem first arose. The building began to be troubled by an awful smell that started to permeate the school classrooms. Floorboards were prized up and a thorough search was made, but nothing could be found that would account for this noxious odour.

Now in the schools science room there stood an old mummy casket. This had been donated by the schools history teacher, who believed that the casket contained the remains of an Egyptian princess. The casket, which was completely sealed was used to illustrate lessons on ancient civilisations and was considered to be quite a prize by the school.

When nothing else could be found to account for the dreadful odor, the finger was eventually pointed at the casket as being the possible cause of the smell. Rather than loose the whole thing it was decided that the contents of the casket should be removed and the casket resealed and retained. Although we had yet to enter the era of Howard Carter and the curse of the tomb of Tutankhamun, none the less there was considerable superstition attached to the contents of mummy caskets. Probably caused by various books and stories based on the curse of the mummies that had circulated during the 1880s and early 1900s.

So it was decided that the contents should be buried in the churchyard of St. Nicholas. It was decided that the deed should take place in the dead of night rather than daylight hours. Volunteers were found or press ganged into assisting and with the agreement of the local vicar, a grave was dug and the contents of the mummy casket were tipped in. The casket itself was then returned to the science room. This appeared to solve the problem of the pong, which disappeared, so this you would think would be the end of the matter. But no.

A few days later the vicar of St. Nicholas was awoken from a deep sleep by a steady rapping at the vicarage door. Assuming it was one of his parishioners, he hurriedly descended his staircase in his nightshirt and opened the door to the vicarage. Standing on his door stop was ... nothing ...absolutely nothing. Assuming it was a mistake or the local village boys up to no good, the vicar returned to his bed and his good lady wife.
It must only have been an hour later, when again the same regular knocking on the door waked him. This time his wife accompanied him down the stairs, but again there was no one to be seen on the doorstep, nor could anyone be seen in the close vicinity of the vicarage door. Over the next few nights this incident was repeated much to the annoyance of the vicar and his wife. Investigation amongst his close neighbours brought to light that he was not the only person being troubled by the sound of regular rhythmic tapping in the dead of night. 

Then some revelers who had decided to take a short cut across the graveyard, heard the sound of banging coming from inside the church. Fearing that somebody had been locked in the building, the party group roused a reluctant verger who opened up the church. A thorough investigation by the verger and the group of the inside brought to light no trapped parishioner. However, as they were leaving the church the tapping began again.

The next day the local bobby was called in, he decided that it had to be village boys up to no good and he began an investigation. But the tapping continued inside the church, on the vicar's front door and some of the neighbouring properties as well.

Word eventually got out of the nighttime burial of the mummy and people began to put two and two together and the word 'Egyptian ghost' began to be used in conjunction with the tapping. The church began to attract the unwelcome attention of sightseers looking for spooks and ghouls and the area became so busy that in the end, a decision was taken to cordon of the area around the church. Then to make matters worse the smell came back in the school beginning in the science room. This time there could be no mistake, it was coming from the mummy casket.

The casket would have to be opened again. Inside they found part of an arm, still wrapped in bandages. It seemed that in their haste to bury the mummy, they had failed to notice that not all of her had slipped into the grave. The now over tired vicar decreed that the arm must be buried with its owner. So the mummy was again dug up and the arm popped in.

This seemed to solve the problem, as the smell ceased and so did the tapping. Unfortunately I was unable to find the exact location of the Princess Mummies final resting place, if anyone knows anything?

In 1821 in a place near London's Piccadilly Circus a macabre theatrical "striptease'' used to take place. This involved ancient Egyptian mummies being unwrapped in front of spellbound spectators. By coincidence, in the audience was a 25-year-old novelist, Jane Loudon Webb, who was inspired by this spectacle to put pen to paper and write an early science fiction novel entitled The Mummy. This story featured a vengeful mummy from the 22nd century B.C., who returned from the dead to kill the book's hero.