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Meet Middlebury's Mummy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Meet Middlebury's Mummy

Middlebury, Vermont - October 24, 2007

One of the most popular attractions at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History isn't actually at the museum, but in a cemetery down the road. Museum director Jan Albers says, "It's not a scary story."

The story that ends in that small cemetery on Route 30 begins nearly 4,000 years ago in Egypt, where a two year old boy died and was mummified. Albers adds, "A lot of people have heard there's a mummy here."

That mummy came to Vermont in the late 1800s, when Henry Sheldon, collector of almost anything under the sun, bought the corpse for fifteen dollars from a New York dealer. Owning mummies was apparently in vogue then. It was most likely looted, stolen from its tomb.

Albers chuckles, "That person probably got the curse of the mummy. We didn't get it, it didn't come with it!"

The baby came in a crate affixed to a plank. But when the buyer looked at his purchase, he found its head crushed: too damaged for Sheldon to display in his growing museum. So he stashed it in a crawlspace, where it lay undiscovered for decades.

The museum's Mary Towle-Hilt says, "It almost sounds too marvelous to be true. It almost sounds like a bad short story, but it's very true."

The mummy was exposed to heat and cold, dry conditions and wet. Its wrappings were decaying and the thought of a person left to rot in a Vermont attic was galling to George Mead. He was a Sheldon Museum trustee. Mead wanted to give the boy, believed to be linked to Egyptian royalty, a proper burial.

Albers says, "I think [Mead] was a man who genuinely thought, 'This is a real human being who only lived to two.' He thought he was doing the right thing. And he was."

So Mead had little Amun-Her Khepesh-Ef cremated and buried with his own tombstone. His 1900 BC birth date is far older than any other resident of the graveyard.

He's so far from home, but Middlebury's mummy has found a unique place in the hearts and imaginations of locals and visitors alike. Albers beams, "It's such a great story."

The Henry Sheldon Museum is hosting a special presentation Saturday called "Mummy Mania." A mummy expert is talking to kids from one to three, and to grown-ups at seven. The talk is at the museum in downtown Middlebury, and focuses on mummies now found in New England.

Jack Thurston - WCAX News

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