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Halloween should really be the worst time of the year for archaeologists. After all, we’ve disturbed more dead souls than most. How can we relax and enjoy the bat’s blood punch when we’re constantly worrying that the Iron Age fella we found last season might show up for the party? Here are five haunted artefacts whose past owners are getting their own back.

1. The Woman from Lemb

woman of lemb

The Woman from Lemb, also known as the rather more dramatic Goddess of Death, is a limestone statue dating from 3,500 BC Lemb, Cyprus. It was probably a fertility goddess statue of an unknown goddess although it doesn’t seem to be too good at its job. Its first owner was Lord Elphont and within 6 years of his ownership all seven members of his family were dead. There was a similar story when the families of the object’s next 3 owners also ended up dead. Understandably the next owner got spooked and donated it to the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh where a curator who handled it also died within the year. With an alleged killing of four families and a museum curator this fertility statue seems to bring more death than life.

2. The Basano Vase

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The Basano vase is a carved silver vessel dating from 15th century Italy. Legend tells that it was the wedding gift of a young bride living in a northern village near Napoli who, for reasons unknown was murdered on the very night of her wedding. She clasped the vase in her dying moments and with her last breath swore to seek vengeance. The vase was passed from family member to family member (quite silly really considering the dying words of the bride) resulting in, you guessed it, the death of each one.  It disappears from record until 1988 when it was unearthed yet again. In an attempt to warn future generations it contained the creepiest message in a bottle “Beware….This vase brings death.” But did they listen… No! Next to die were a pharmacist, a surgeon and an archaeologist. Finally someone got the idea and tossed it out of a window where it nearly hit a policeman on the head. Fined for disorderly behaviour the thrower refused to take it back, as did any museums refuse to add it to their collections. Where it lies now is a mystery, perhaps waiting to be unearthed again and start its killing spree again.

3. Dancing Wedding Dress

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Weddings really seem to get the ghosts going. In this story wealthy Anna Baker fell in love with a working class boy in 1849 but was banned from marrying him by her father, despite already being as far in the planning phase that she had a wedding dress waiting. Her father banished the boy from town and the dress was used instead by another local woman, gloating all the while of course. Years later the Baker house was turned into a museum and the dress, now owned by a historical society, was placed in glass cabinet in the room which used to belong to Anna. The dress has been reported to move on its own, without any drafts or reasonable explanations, as if a bride is swaying from side to side admiring her reflection in a mirror or perhaps taking the first dance she never had.

4. Anything that was ever owned by Tutankhamun

Lord Carnarvon's team eat lunch in the tomb of Ramesses XI in 1923

Tutankhamun is everybody’s favourite boy pharaoh, many have flocked to see his burial chamber and his cause of death has led to never ending discussions and debates. Most of all people have enjoyed gazing upon the riches of his tomb, but has he enjoyed the attention in return?… perhaps not. The excavation of his tomb began in 1923 and from that point on people (and pets) began dropping like flies. First of all, funder of the exploration Lord Carnavon’s pet bird was eaten by a snake (a cobra the symbol of Egypytian monarchy no less!) at almost the exact same time his dog back in the UK also died. In addition to this a radiologist who x-rayed the mummy died of a mysterious illness, an American died of pneumonia after visiting the tomb, and a member of Carter’s excavation team was said to have died of arsenic poisoning. Is it the curse of the angry pharaohs disturbed from their heavenly afterlife? (or are we reading too far into this…?)

5. The Moving Mummy of Manchester

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When an Egyptian statue was reported to be moving completely on its own in the Manchester  Museum people were, as can be expected, reluctant to believe the story. However the one difference between this story and just about every other reported haunted object, house or person was that the act was actually caught on camera. There’s no denying it! Neb-Senu’s 3,800 year old ghost had come back to haunt the museum, slowly turning round to fully take in his new surroundings, watching the unknowing visitors come in and out. Or not… a sensor revealed that vibrations caused by heavy footfall caused the statue to rotate. Ah well, we believed it was true for a bit anyway.

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Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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