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Ötzi, Say ‘Cheese’

No doubt about it, photographs of mummies are tasteless and terrifying. Then again, isn't that kind of the point of Halloween?

  • Ötzi the Iceman

    Image 1 of 10

    Yo Ötzi the Iceman, you got the time? 5300 BCE?! Sounds like your sundial quit about 3,300 years ago during the Copper Age. Thanks for being frozen in a glacier, though. Your rediscovery in 1991 has taught us much about prehistoric Europe.

  • Pompeii Dog

    Image 2 of 10

    When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 ACE, many of Pompeii's inhabitants -- dogs included -- were preserved in ash. That's a good boy, Canis! Roll over and play plaster of Paris lawn ornament.

  • Tollund Man

    Image 3 of 10

    You're not looking too bad, Tollund Man, especially considering you were buried in a peat bog with a noose around your neck for more than two millennia. Scientists say your last meal consisted of a seed and vegetable gruel. How was that?

  • Mummy of Guanajuato

    Image 4 of 10

    The so-called 'Mummies of Guanajuato' are quite a bit fresher than what we've seen so far. In 1833, a Cholera epidemic broke out around Guanajuato, Mexico, killing more than 100 people. The area's soil and climate preserved the bodies. Towards the end of the 19th century, however, nearly all were dug up and stored in a nearby building. They've been on public display since the early 1900's.

  • Jeremy Bentham

    Image 5 of 10

    If you're ever hanging out at University College London, check out Jeremy Bentham's weird mummy. The British philosopher -- most famous for his panoptical prison design -- was publicly dissected, then put on display after his death in 1832. The head seen here is actually made of wax. Student pranks forced school officials to store Bentham's real dome in a more secure location.

  • Egyptian Fummy

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    Of course, no mummy slideshow's complete without a specimen from Egypt. The gilded face mask keeps horror-levels in check, but you still know that what's bundled up inside had its brain pulled out of its nose with a hook right after dying.

  • Saint Virginia Centurione

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    Saint Virginia Centurione is but one of many defunct devotees deemed 'incorruptible' by the Roman Catholic Church. The belief is that, from time to time, God prevents corporal putrefaction. These mummies are even said to smell like flowers.

  • Buddhist Mummy

    Image 8 of 10

    There are examples of incorruptibles in a variety of Buddhist schools of thought as well. This guy, Luang Por Ruam, is on display in Koh Samui, Thailand. The eyewear's something of an anachronism.

  • Chauchilla

    Image 9 of 10

    If you drive south on Panamerican Highway for a couple of months, you'll pass by the Chauchilla Cemetery. It was founded around 200 ACE by the Nazca Culture. The locals are a quiet people and always greet visitors with the same toothy smile.

  • Mammoth Mummy

    Image 10 of 10

    Dima the Mammoth was pried from the Siberian permafrost after spending close to 40,000 years in deep freeze. Be happy you never met Thomas Edison, Dima!

As a kid, mummies freaked me out more than anything.

There you are flipping through National Geographic minding your contented, preliterate, four-year-old business when suddenly you’re not looking at Victoria Falls, koala bears or aerial views of the Amazon River during dry season anymore.

Instead you’ve locked eyes with some howling, desiccated monstrosity that looks more like a hollowed-out version of Spielberg’s E.T. than the remains of a human being.

These things stick with you when your little head hits the pillow later that night.

To finally face my fear of the partially preserved dead, I’ve mined the public domain and compiled a slide show of just the sorts of images I so used to hate. Educational captions will hopefully provide some objective distance.

Remember, should you opt for a traditional burial, which includes embalming, you’ll be next.

Sweet dreams.

Ben Alford

Ben Alford works in Indiana Public Media's online dimension and holds an M.A. from Indiana University Bloomington's History and Philosophy of Science department. When not vegetating in front of a computer screen or geeking out over a good book, he can be found outside exploring.

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