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The Trials and Tribulations of BM 22542 (1889,0731)

The Trials and Tribulations of BM 22542 (1889,0731)


Spies have code names, so who was the mysterious BM 22542 (1889,0731), of Egyptian origin, that caused the deaths of many, sabotaged ships including the Titanic and Lusitania and disrupted the London Underground? This is a curious story that first emerged in the early 20th century, continued through the decades – becoming increasingly melodramatic with each retelling – until the late 1930s when the real horrors of World War II pushed it out of the newspapers.

The Legend of the Cursed Egyptian Princess

The story starts in the 1880s when a tomb in Luxor, dating back to about 950 BC, was being excavated. It apparently contained the mummy of an Egyptian princess called Amen-Ra. Four young rich Englishmen, visiting the dig site, were so fascinated by the discovery that one of them purchased the mummy and its ornate wooden sarcophagus for several thousand pounds and had it delivered to his hotel.

A few hours later the man who bought the mummy walked out into the desert and was never seen again. The following day one of his companions was accidentally shot and had to have his arm amputated. The two remaining men returned to England unharmed however one of them found his bank had failed and that he was financially ruined, while the other fell ill, lost his job, ending his days as a beggar selling matches on the streets of London. Clearly Princess Amen-Ra was unhappy that her tomb had been desecrated.

An Egyptian Princess by Hans Makart (1875) (Public Domain)

Woe at the British Museum

One way or another, as the legend is a little vague here, the mummy of Amen-Ra reached England, where it was bought by a London business man who, convinced it was unlucky, after his house nearly burned down and three of his family members were injured in a road accident, promptly donated it to the British Museum. Worse was to follow. One of the workers helping to unload the mummy at the museum broke his leg, a second one soon afterwards died in mysterious circumstances, and the even the wagon delivering the mummy was involved in a road accident that resulted in a pedestrian being injured.

When the mummy was finally exhibited, museum night watchmen began reporting ghostly phenomena, including the sounds of crying and hammering from within the sarcophagus. There were also tales of objects being thrown around the exhibit room and the mysterious deaths continued, including those of a night watchman and a cheeky child visitor who had thrown a handkerchief at the sarcophagus.


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Charles Christian is a UK-based writer, journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, blogger, storyteller, and sometime werewolf hunter. He writes the monthly Ritual Year column for Ancient Origins Magazine. His blog and his Weird Tales Radio Show podcasts can be found at

 and he is on Twitter at @UrbanFantasist

Top Image: Queen Egypt Nefertiti Woman Isis Cleopatra Anubis (CC0)

By Charles Christian



Charles Christian is an English barrister and Reuters correspondent turned writer, editor, podcaster, award-winning tech journalist and sometime werewolf hunter now a chronicler of weird tales in weird times. As well as being a regular contributor to Ancient Origins Premium,... Read More

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