Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this 19th Century short story about an Egyptian mummy.
MR. GRUBBE’S NIGHT WITH MEMNON (1843) – Written by Albert Smith and republished in 1857, this tale centered around one Mister Withers Grubbe, an elderly inhabitant of the western part of London. Grubbe is an enthusiast when it comes to ancient history among other topics and visits a London Museum to see their new exhibit of Egyptian antiquities.
After spending time marveling at assorted statues of various sizes and a mummy identified as Memnon, Withers finds a quiet corner to sit down for a rest. He falls asleep and when he wakes up, he discovers it is long past closing time and somehow he was overlooked when the museum was locking up.
Our main character tries all the doors and finds himself trapped until the next morning in the Egyptian wing. Grubbe is uneasy at the thought of spending the night among the ancient Egyptian relics and before long he realizes his uneasiness is more than merited.
As midnight arrives, a tortoise-sized stone scarab comes to life and begins crawling toward him as he tries to escape. The pursuing scarab proves capable of turning doorknobs with its feelers, further frightening Withers when he tries hiding from it in a closet.
He soon sees that escape would not have been possible in any event, because his way is now blocked by the shambling mummy of Memnon, accompanied by a now mobile sphinx statue of roughly lion size.
Memnon summons up an assembly of the museum’s other mummies and Egyptian relics, all now parading by in the moonlight streaming through the windows. Falcon and Ibis-headed statues of Horus and Thoth also come to life and join the others in gathering around the mummified Memnon, who stands at their center, obviously in charge.
As a bizarre carnival of the ancient dead plays out around him, Grubbe at one point finds himself surrounded and then seized as a dance partner by a female mummy from Memphis. In a common theme to 1800s horror stories, our main character finds himself being “danced” to the point of exhaustion and then beyond, unable to convince his partner to stop or to release him.
NOTE: In other stories it is ghosts, vampires, etc that literally dance their victims to death.
Mr. Withers Grubbe is luckier than those other mortals who go cavorting among supernatural menaces. He not only manages to extricate himself from the iron grip of his dance partner but survives the attempt of the assembled mummies to kill him through suffocation.
Daylight shines through the windows just in time to send the Egyptian revenants and animated statues fleeing back to their places in the museum. Grubbe slinks out of the museum shortly after the doors open and returns to his humble home.
We readers are told he spends the rest of his days as a recluse, laboring away at what the increasingly mad old man insists will be the definitive scholarly work on Egypt and its eldritch magic & methods of worship.
Mr. Grubbe’s Night with Memnon is very short and certainly does not include anything that goes beyond comfortably mild Halloween chills.
FOR MY REVIEW OF PHAROS THE EGYPTIAN (1899), A MUMMY NOVEL, CLICK HERE.
FOR MY REVIEW OF THE UNSEEN MAN’S STORY (1893), A MUMMY STORY BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE’S SON JULIAN, CLICK HERE.
FOR MY REVIEW OF IRAS, A MYSTERY (1896), A MUMMY NOVEL, CLICK HERE.