resident Hilary Lester will unwrap the origins of her
mummy, a gift from her collector father, Doyle Lane,
when scientists from the former National Geographic TV
show "Mummy Road Show" visit in mid-April.
The mummy, which Lester named "Gretchen" after a high
school rival when her father acquired it in 1978, is
thought to be made of sheep and dog bones.
According to Lester's family records, this mummy was an
original "gaffe" or "faux" mummy that traveled with P.T.
Barnum's circus as a sideshow hoax. It was one of six to
eight mummies on display at the Cliff House and Sutro
Baths Museum in San Francisco for 70 years, along with
the Barnum collection of Tom Thumb and other Barnum
When the museum closed in the late 1960s, the faux
mummies were purchased by a collector and dealer house,
Hathaway & Bowers. hey were then individually
sold, and Lester's father acquired "Gretchen."
Though he intended to display the mummy at his Antique
Music & Wheels Museum in North Carolina, it remained in
storage for years because he was concerned about
putting out a "dead body," even though it had been
largely confirmed the mummy was not human.
Upon Lane's death in 2010, Lester acquired the mummy and
continued researching its origins. That led her to S.J.
Wolfe, author of "Mummies in 19th Century America:
Ancient Egyptians as Artifacts." Wolfe contacted the
"Mummy Road Show" scientists, Ronald Beckett and Gerald
Conlogue, on Lester's behalf.
The scientists, who featured a gaffe mummy owned by
Magician David Copperfield on one of their episodes,
plan to scan and
X-ray the artifact.
"It has been really exciting
to delve into 'Gretchen's' history," Lester said. "Some
people think it's creepy, but I find it fascinating."
Article from the 4-3-2012