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A mummy's curse

Statue of Herbert Ingram, Sr. in Boston

It's a rainy summer Sunday here in Pennsylvania, which makes it a great day for pouring yourself another cup of coffee and reading about the strange and bizarre. It's been a while since we talked about mummies on Journal of the Bizarre, or, more specifically, a mummy curse. And since it seems like a good day for a story about a mummy curse, here's a real humdinger. This is the strange but true tale of Herbert Ingram, Jr.

Herbert Ingram, brother of Sir William Ingram and son of the famous British journalist Herbert Ingram (founder of the Illustrated London News), was a dashing young volunteer under Lord Charles Beresfort, the famed British admiral. As a member of the Gordon Relief Expedition, Ingram took part in the bloody mission to help liberate Egyptians from the Sudan between 1884 and 1885. Ingram was in the thick of the fighting, taking part in battles at Abu, Klea, Metemneh and anywhere else where there was any fighting to be done.

Like many British soldiers and sailors of the era, Ingram wanted to bring back a souvenir from his time spent in Egypt, so he saved his money and bought himself a real authentic mummy from the English Consul at Luxor, for the price of fifty pounds. The mummy was that of a priest of Thetis, and came complete with a mysterious description in hieroglyphics. After obtaining the proper permits, Ingram shipped the mummy to England in a large case, which was later opened by his brother at his office at the Illustrated London News.
The mummy's face was concealed by a papier-mache mask, which was sent to the British Museum. The mask bore strange inscriptions, and the Ingram brothers hoped that an Egyptologist at the museum would be able to decipher the ancient message. Experts were brought it and the message was soon revealed. In essence, it was the typical mummy warning-- whosoever disturbs the body of this mummy will be deprived of a decent burial; he will meet with a violent end and his mangled remains will be carried down by a rush of waters to the sea.

Typical except for the last part, of course; it was unusual for a mummy's curse to be so specific.

Shortly after sending the mummy to England, Herbert Ingram and Sir Henry Meux were hunting elephant on the plains of Somalia. It was an uneventful hunt, until one of the natives brought to the village a massive chunk of what appeared to be dried earth. The native explained that it was elephant dung, and by its enormous size it might belong to the largest elephant in the world. This news reignited the excitement of Meux and Ingram, who immediately returned to the hunt. In their excitement, Meux left his elephant rifle behind at the village, and so he borrowed one from his companion. This left Ingram armed with only a moderately powerful small bore rifle.

When the two men sighted an elephant herd, Sir Henry went after a bull while Ingram turned his attention to an enormous cow. His technique was to turn in his saddle, fire a shot, and then gallop his horse full speed ahead, losing the infuriated elephant among the trees. When he thought he was out of harm's way, he turned around in his saddle and prepared to take another shot. However, he was knocked off his horse by a low branch of a tree and was unable to get up in time before the wounded, angry elephant trampled him to death.

The elephant, as an extremely territorial creature, would not let anyone or anything near Ingram's trampled remains for days, but eventually his body was salvaged by a native villager and temporarily placed in a ravine until it could be claimed by Ingram's relatives or countrymen. But never again was the body seen; when the expedition arrived all that remained was one sock and a piece of bone. These remnants were gathered up and interred at the port city of Aden in Yemen (at British colony at the time), buried with full military honors.
It was ascertained that a flash flood had washed away Ingram's remains, sweeping them into a river and then out to sea, thus fulfilling the ancient prophecy inscribed upon the mask of the priest of Thetis.

Oddly, Ingram's own father, Herbert Ingram, Sr., also perished under remarkable circumstances. In 1860, the elder Ingram went to the United States with one of his sons to obtain material for a news story for the Illustrated London News. On September 8, the two men were aboard the Lady Elgin on Lake Michigan when the ship collided with another vessel. Out of 393 persons on board, only 114 survived. The dead body of Herbert Ingram, Sr., washed ashore, fastened to a spar. The body of his son was never recovered.

Ultimately, three members of the Ingram family had their lives cut tragically short. Two died from drowning, while two were deprived of a proper burial. 

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