Ancient Egypt and Horror
Mummies, curses, rituals, and the gods. The mysteries and mythology of Ancient Egypt were practically made for a horror story. Archaeologists have spent decades of their lives digging around to find hidden tombs (Basically so they could rob them, if you ask me). While not everyone is a history buff, most people seem to have a low-key interest in some part of Ancient Egypt. With so much still undiscovered and unexplained, it’s no wonder that it has made its way into the horror world.
Mummies are the main theme in horror movies about Ancient Egypt. The process itself is truly fascinating. Since Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation, they tried to preserve the bodies as much as possible. Everything moist inside a body was removed. All the organs were put into boxes or jars (called canopic jars) so they would have them when they were reincarnated. The rest of the body was completely dried out so that it didn’t decay and stayed as close to its normal shape as possible. They were obviously smart and studied anatomy well, because to this day, mummies are found in amazing condition. https://www.si.edu/spotlight/ancient-egypt/mummies#:~:text=The%20methods%20of%20embalming%2C%20or,that%20would%20not%20easily%20decay.
The only organ left inside the body was the heart, and for good reason. The belief was that when you die, you are judged by the gods, and your heart was part of the judgement. A person’s spirit was sent to the Hall of Osiris for judgement. Their heart was placed on a scale by Anubis and weighed against a feather representing the goddess Maat, and the judgement was recorded by Thoth. If they weighed the same, the person was granted immortality in the afterlife. If not, the heart was eaten by Anubis and they did not survive the afterlife. https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/egypt/egcr04e.html
And of course, there are the curses. There have been tombs that had curses over them, promising some kind of harm or misfortune to anyone that disturbed the tomb. The most famous “mummy’s curse” is the one relating to King Tut. There was no real curse placed at the tomb. The archaeologists used it to keep the press out! The rumor got stronger after 26 of the people involved died. And before you know it, the mummy stories started coming.
Here are some books that should keep you busy for a while. But whatever you do….don’t read any incantations out loud!
- Fireside Horror Stories About Mummies and Curses: An Anthology of Eqyptian Tales – This is a compilation of Gothic horror stories that date as far back as 1827. It has stories from authors like Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft.
- The Mummy or Ramses the Dammed – Anne Rice – I haven’t read this. I’m not always a huge fan of her work (sorry Anne), but the reviews are very good. It’s really the standard ancient Egyptian comes back to life looking for a replacement for the woman he loved. But if you’re into stories like that, this sounds like it’s something you should try.
- To Wake the Dead – Richard Lyman – This is not a lovesick mummy story. An Ancient Egyptian princess comes to life. She’s pissed and out for blood and revenge. FYI -The book is told from three different perspectives, which I know some people don’t like.
- The Third Grave – David Case – An archeologist named David is called in to check out some ancient scrolls that supposedly contain the secret to immortality. While he does that, there are some gruesome murders happening. David works faster to decipher the scrolls because the suspects that the murders are being committed by something supernatural.
As far as movies go, I’m a sucker for the classics! I personally haven’t seen a horror movie about mummies in recent years that I would recommend. So if you’d rather kick back and watch a movie, here are some solid choices:
- The Mummy (1932) – It doesn’t get better than this! After discovering a tomb containing the mummy of Im-ho-tep (played by the legendary Boris Karloff) and The Scroll of Thoth, an explorer reads the scroll and accidentally brings Im-ho-tep to life. Fast forward ten years. The explorer has gone insane and Im-ho-tep is living his best life pretending to be a regular man. He meets a woman that he thinks is the reincarnation of the princess he loved, and tries to get her back.
- The Mummy (1959) – A team of British archaeologists discover the tomb of Princess Ananka and one of them accidentally brings the mummified body of her High Priest back to life. After they empty the tomb, it is resealed (with the mummy inside it). Three years later back in England a follower of the same Egyptian religion unleashes the mummy to exact grisly revenge on the despoilers of the sacred past.
- The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) – When European Egyptologists discover the tomb of the Egyptian prince Ra, their American investor has them ship the treasures and sarcophagus back to England for tour and display. When it gets there, someone has an amulet to bring the mummy to life to it can get revenge on the people that disturbed his tomb.
- Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) – Margaret Fuchs receives an ancient Egyptian ring with a red stone as a birthday gift. She starts having nightmares about her father, an expedition in Egypt, finding the tomb of Queen Tera, an evil sorcerer with a severed hand. In her dreams, he takes the mummy, the severed hand with the ring with a red stone, and three other relics out of the tomb. She gets possessed by Tera and goes after everyone involved to retrieve the objects and bring Tera back to life.
- The Awakening (1980) – An American archaeologist finds the tomb of an ancient Egyptian queen. At the same time he breaks the seal to the tomb, his wife gives birth to his daughter. Years later he discovers that the evil spirit of the Egyptian queen left the tomb just as he was entering, and possessed his daughter. He realizes that he has to perform an ancient ritual to kill his daughter in order to stop her from destroying the world.
I hope I found something new for you guys. Let me know if there’s something I didn’t mention that you think I should check out.