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)


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