Despite being born from a single incidental movie sequence, mummies are now so
ingrained in our culture as monsters that it's easy to forget they're just dried-up dead
people in funny clothes. Why do the preserved bodies of Egyptians seem to be lurking in
haunted houses all over the world? What in the world makes a mummy distinct from any
other reanimated carcass? What powers and attributes are they supposed to have
besides moaning, shuffling and getting dust everywhere?
In 1932, Universal Studios released THE MUMMY, a horror classic starring Boris Karloff
as Imhotep, an Egyptian priest whose body is accidentally brought back to life by an
ancient spell. Then he goes shuffling around and moaning at people right? Well, actually,
he spends only a small portion of the film looking like a corpse, but the image of a
desiccated carcass shambling around in bandages has vastly overshadowed the rest of
the film in the public subconscious.
Ever since the film's success, mummies have been one of America's basic fundamental
monsters, appearing in fantasy games, cartoons, many more movies and accompanying
vampires, wolf-men, Frankenstein's monster, witches, ghosts and skeletons as one of the
quintessential mascots of Halloween.
This is why I'm so entertained by mummies. Our concept of them is nonsense. There is
no direct, logical reason for a dead body covered in gauze to be treated as a species of
monster, but like ninjas, cowboys and pirates, we all just sort of roll with it and have fun
The answer is oddly enough a little clearer for real mummies, as they can harbor
extremely toxic molds one could easily mistake for a mystical "curse." Why don't horror
mummies ever have killer fungus powers?