Tag Archives: Mummified

Almanac – June 06

1832 – Jeremy Bentham died. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism.

He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

He had continued to write up to a month before his death, aged 84,  and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

After dissection, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting”.

Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. However, Southwood Smith’s experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulphuric acid and simply drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.

The Auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It is now locked away securely.



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Mummified Cat Found In Knaresborough

Workmen converting a building in Castlegate, Knareborough, North Yorkshire, into a restaurant have uncovered a mummified Cat in “a purpose-built tomb next to the fireplace” [how they knew that it was purpose-built is not stated.]

The building itself is said to date from as early as 1450.

The owner said that they had considered putting the cat back in the wall but because the works weren’t going to be finished for seven to eight weeks they decided to give it a decent burial nearby – a course of action I hope they wont come to regret. These creatures were there for a reason, and removing them without deactivating them first sometimes results in things happening.

If it had been me, I’d have put it back in its hole, along with some kind of offering as an apology for disturbing it.

Actually, its interesting to note how many times building work seems to activate supernatural activity. I’ve always supposed it to work on the same principle as a pond where all the silt has settled – the building work acts in the same way as someone coming along with a big stick and stirring everything up. Bits and pieces that have long lain dormant on the bottom are brought to the surface, activated, and things happen.

In time, the silt will settle again and things will stop happening.

This has always seemed a reasonable working hypothesis, but I wonder if in some cases activity is triggered because renovation work has inadvertently removed some protective talisman – be it a mummified Cat or something less obvious.

The practice of secreting mummified Cats in buildings seems to have been quite widespread at one time. As far as I know [and I’m willing to be corrected on this point] no-one ever wrote down any instructions or rituals regarding the practice, but it’s not difficult to imagine how it may have originated.

In times when houses were far more vermin-ridden than today, a good Cat would have been invaluable. When a noted mouser died, it could have been buried under the hearth or wherever, in the hope that it would continue to exert rodent control measures from the spirit world.

In time they came to represent luck and protection in a more general sense.


Mr. Frankenstein

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