Atlas Obscura Day Brings Sideshow Fun to A New Level

atlas-obscura-badge-2012Dr. Eugenia Mooney and Bob the mummy recently made an appearance at Atlas Obscura Day in Toronto (a midnight showing, no less). The production was hosted by world renowned mind reader Mysterion and included everything from Great Canadian Burlesque acts to strong man The Mighty Leviticus, Cabinet Curiosities, to “neo-Victorian feats of wanton stupidity” (aka Mental Floss)…and of course, to top the evening off, an authentic Victorian Mummy Unwrapping!

Thanks to Ross Thompson for these photos…

As part of the presentation, Dr. Mooney calls upon an audience member to assist her in the unwrapping. The story that  follows is one man’s journey to the Dark Side…Jason describes his experience:

Alright, so you’re gonna be hearing some crazy rumors about me licking a mummy. And by, “crazy rumors,” I mean, “okay, yeah, that happened.”

I was at a function tonight called “Atlas Obscura Day,” which was part burlesque, and part freaky sideshow performances. The burlesque was all sort of horror-oriented, mixed with people eating glass, having darts thrown at their bare flesh, and putting their hands in coyote traps. It was pretty great. But the last act of the night was introduced as a Victorian-style mummy unwrapping, and that’s where it got really interesting.

It was difficult to tell going into the act if it was a trick or not. Like, I didn’t know if it was a prelude to a burlesque number, or if the mummy was gonna be a dude wrapped in bandages waiting to spring to life and scare some hapless audience member, or what. I remember leaning over to Charlotte, and being like, “I have no idea what’s going on. Like, if this is a real mummy, or an act, or what.” The fact that the unwrapper / owner of the mummy was kind of in character (I’m fairly certain she’s not really named Eugenia Mooney) made it even more confusing. But I was pretty pumped at the idea that it might actually be a real mummy, as unlikely as that seemed. I mean, how often do you get to see a mummy unwrapping? So when the stage was set, the crate opened, and the call was given for a volunteer to help lift the mummy onto the the unwrapping table, I waved my arms like a madman to be selected.

 Which I was.

Now you gotta understand, at this point I couldn’t tell if I’d just won the mummy lottery, or if I was about to get pranked super-hard by some dude lying in a box. But I was reeeeeally hoping this was an authentic thing that I’d get to be table-side for. I’m fairly certain my reaction was that of a contestant that just got their name called for a fucked up version of Price is Right, where you win a dead body instead of a refrigerator.

So I get up to the stage and peer into the crate, and there’s certainly what APPEARS to be a mummy lying in it. And as I helped Eugenia’s Egyptian-garbed assistant lift it out of the box, it sure FELT like a mummy; fragile, bits of it kind of shifting in a way that said, “Don’t drop me, Jason. Because I will break, and you will be cursed forever.” Over the span of several minutes, the shroud and then the actual bandages were cut away, revealing what sure looked like a real god damn mummy. I narrated the process at points, and was instructed to smell our subject: the mummy smelled of cardamom and cassia, which was luckily more pleasant than I’d anticipated.

Eugenia continued cutting away the bandages, exposing the abdominal cavity of the mummy first, stuffed with some sort of long-dead grass. A couple minutes later the arms, chest, hands, and then finally the skull were revealed. I was then instructed to touch the skull; to smell it; and finally to lick it, which Eugenia described as part of many an anthropologist’s hazing rite. I wasn’t sure that was true, but I licked it anyways. I’d like to imagine the audience gave some sort of reaction, but all I can remember was the taste. Asked to describe that, I said it was like “salt and death.” Eugenia helpfully explained that the saltiness was owed to the preservatives used in the mummification.

So that’s how I ended up licking a mummy. It was pretty awesome. It admittedly took some gum and some mints to get the taste of salty corpse out of my mouth, but yeah. Thank you Charlotte for having gum.


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