Mummies of the Insane, Philippi, West Virginia.
Back in the 1880s, an enterprising farmer named Graham Hamrick experimented with embalming fluid in an attempt to recreate the secrets of The Pharaohs. Using two cadavers from the local insane asylum, he succeeded. Although the secret formula died with Hamrick (the Smithsonian wanted to buy his mummies, but demurred when he refused to give them the formula), the well-dried fruits of his labor are still here. Two mummies, in glass-topped wooden coffins, are displayed in the Philippi Museum bathroom. You can see them for a dollar a peek.
When Hamrick died, the mummies toured Europe with P.T. Barnum. After they became passe on the circus circuit, they returned to Philippi, got lost for a few decades, were found in a barn, then were stored under the bed of a local citizen. In 1985, the town was inundated by 35 feet of flood water; the severely water-logged mummies were laid on the on the front lawn of the post office to dry. As 82-year-old museum curator James Ramsey explains: "After the flood dropped, they were covered with green fungus and all kind of corruption. A man secured some kind of a mixture that would get green mold off them and also the hairs that was growing out of them." Today, air wick disks in the coffins help stave off the aromas of time.
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