Spotlight on (Haunted) Statues: Walk Like an Egyptian

I thought I would do a little crossover piece which ties my Haunted Manchester and Spotlight on Statues series' into a great big mysterious knot.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 3 December 2018

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When I came across the story of the supposedly haunted statue at The Manchester Museum, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to marry these two series together, and you are in for a treat for the first in the history of ghost stories, something actually gets solved.

Just as a little context, Ancient Egypt has close links with the supernatural in many people’s imaginations. We grow up on tales of haunted pyramids, mummies and curses which stick with us and create a specific superstition around these artefacts.

The Curse of the Pharaoh is very much a real thing to some people. It is said that anyone who disturbs the tomb of an Egyptian person, especially a king, will be cursed with a myriad of unpleasant phenomenon including bad luck, illness, scarab beetles out of your face or even death.

The team led by Howard Carter who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun resulted in 20 deaths shortly after in various unpleasant ways ranging from violent accidents to illness.

A Polish traveller in 1699 reported throwing two mummies overboard a ship after having visions of all the passengers drowning, and there is even a rumour the Titanic had ancient Egyptian artefacts in its cargo which could be held responsible for its sinking in 1912.

The Great Pyramids at Giza have hieroglyphics which warn trespassers: “All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it may the crocodile be against them in water, and snakes against them on land.” Scary stuff, especially if you are in close proximity to the River Nile. Over here in the croc-free zone… not so much.

It is most likely that these curses are an attempt to deter robbers from entering tombs and stealing the priceless artefacts that the deceased need in his or her afterlife. Be that as it may, Egyptian objects are tainted with supernatural connotations that they cannot escape from.

When it comes to museums, not only have the objects been stolen from a tomb, they have been taken from their country which creates terrible karma as far as the mummies are concerned. So, when I heard about the supposedly haunted statue at the Manchester Museum, I have to say – I wasn’t surprised.

The 10-inch statue is an offering to the God Osiris who is the God of Death. The icon is 3,800 years old and has been known to turn 180 degrees in his case… all by itself.

Immediately there were whispers that it could be an ancient curse…which would have to be the world’s most unimpressive curse, although I do feel sorry for the poor museum employee who has to keep turning him around- what a pain in the arse.

However, here’s the part when I can put your fears at rest with a little bit of science. The museum called an engineer to check it out- who I believe also doubled as a mummy-ghost-exorcist on the night shift handily enough- who came up with a pretty logical explanation.

Turns out, the statue has a convex base which is ever so slightly domed. This makes the figure more susceptible to moving with vibrations and combined with its weight and the offset centre of gravity, the team at the museum theorised there must be lots of vibrations from the busy Oxford road adjacent to the Egyptian room.

If you watch the video of the statue turning, you can see that it seems to stop (or at least slow) at night time when the road outside is less busy.

This theory makes complete sense- and I like to think that if the statue was haunted by a malevolent Pharaoh with a vendetta against the visitors to the Manchester Museum, he could come up with a way of frightening people which is a little more impressive than turning itself 180 degrees over several days.

Or maybe that’s precisely what he wants you to think…