Today mummies come to life in horror stories and haunt us at Halloween, but in Victorian England, they could be found in many upper-class parlors. The Victorians even had mummy unrolling parties to peek inside those ancient bandages.

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Image by CuriousRambler.com

A Mummy Unrolling Party

Just imagine…

You get an invitation to Lord Smith’s manor. It says, “You’re invited to a mummy unrolling. Please arrive by 6:00 pm.”

You get dressed up in your finest garb and wear some Egyptian inspired jewels — or even real pieces that have been acquired in Egypt.

When you arrive, you’re ushered into the dimly lit parlor which has been made to look like the inside of an Egyptian tomb. The walls are draped with dark fabric painted with hieroglyphs, and there’s Egyptian-style music playing. Candles, Egyptian statues, and scarabs cover every surface.

Your eyes are drawn to the center of the room where a full-size mummy casket is lying on a table. As many chairs as will fit in the room are arranged all around the table, but instead of sitting, you go up to the table, where others have congregated, to get a close-up view of the casket. You marvel at the decoration and how the colors have remained so bright. …


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In eighteenth-century London, illegal gin was sold from a strange precursor of the vending machine which bore the image of a cat.

The Gin Craze

Londoners have always liked a drink, but in the eighteenth century, gin-drinking had become a real problem among the poor. According to one commentator, “The whole town of London swarmed with drunken people from morning till night.” Gin was cheap and strong and helped people forget their misery for a while. But it also made them forget other things: like obeying laws and taking care of their children. …


Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Harry Potter: Two bears + two boys = four beloved characters from children’s literature who are commemorated in London. Read on to find out where you can find them…

Paddington Bear at Paddington Station

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Paddington at the station — Image by CuriousRambler.com

“Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.” — From A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, published in 1958.

On platform 1 under the clock you’ll find a bronze statue of the little Peruvian bear called Paddington. He’s wearing a note around his neck, placed there by his aunt, which reads, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” And, even though we can’t see it, we can be pretty sure he has a marmalade sandwich tucked up under his hat. The little bear is sitting right where he might have been when the Brown family met him and decided to take him home. …


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Dickens Dream — painting by Robert William Buss painted 1875 — Image in public domain

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol wasn’t meant to be just an entertaining holiday story. It was also a serious attempt to change the Victorian attitude toward the poor and insert a few family values.

A Christmas Carol

Dickens’ ghostly tale might just be the best known Christmas story out there. Most of us know about the miserly Mr. Scrooge whose reply to all things Christmassy or charitable is “Bah! Humbug!” He hasn’t an ounce of kindness in his cold heart for those less fortunate than himself. …


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Image in public domain

It just wouldn’t be Halloween without those carved pumpkins. Some grin and others scowl, but the flickering candles within give their expressions a ghostly glow. We call them jack-o’-lanterns, and if you’ve ever wondered where this strange name comes from, here is an Irish legend that will explain it all…

Ungenerous Jack

It all started with an Irish man named Jack. He was a stingy sort, and felt no need to share what he had with anyone. One night when he was going home, past the bogs, he heard a groaning in the darkness. He was shaking in his boots because he thought it was a wandering spirit. Then the voice reassured him that it was just a lost traveler — sick, cold and nearly dead. …


It seems that taking in too much art in Florence, Italy can be bad for your health. Stendhal Syndrome, also known as the Florence Syndrome, is a psychosomatic condition which can affect sensitive souls when they overdose on art — and it usually happens in Florence.

Since I’m going to Florence soon, I’ll have to be very careful…

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Image by CuriousRambler.com

Who Was Stendhal?

The syndrome takes its name from French author, Marie-Henri Beyle, better known as Stendhal. Stendhal visited Florence in the early 1800s and wrote about it in his book, Rome, Naples et Florence (1817). …


Everywhere I go, I like to find little legends and oddities. Today I want to tell you about two that can be found in Florence. Palazzo Vecchio (which means Old Palace) in Piazza della Signoria is where the Medici used to rule from before they moved to the more modern palace on the other side of the river. The Old Palace is filled with amazing art, sculpture, and decorations, but I want to talk about two little curiosities you can find on the outside of the building that are easy to miss.

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Michelangelo’s graffiti — Image by CuriousRambler.com

Michelangelo’s Graffiti or L’importuno di Michelangelo

On the front of Palazzo Vecchio at the corner nearest to the Uffizi Gallery, you can find a small image of a man’s head in profile etched into the stone. Legend has it that this tiny portrait was done by the great Michelangelo himself. It’s known as Michelangelo’s Graffiti or L’importuno di Michelangelo in Italian. …


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Image by CuriousRambler.com

I was walking through Piazza del Duomo in Florence admiring the beautiful cathedral and trying not to be trampled by tourists. It was lunch time, so I was also keeping my eye out for somewhere to eat.

I saw Kaleo Art Caffè, which looked very inviting, so I went inside. It was a beautiful little place with art deco styling and a nice menu. But along with the tasty edible offerings listed on their menu, they had also printed a little legend pertaining to their location — Piazza del Duomo and Via dello Studio.

Well, I can’t pass up a good legend, so I read it first — before even looking at the food. …


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Bladud was the first king to spread his wings and fly (as far as we know) Image: man with wings — Library of Congress

King Bladud, the 9th King of the Britons, is known for two very different things: First, he (and his pigs) discovered the healing powers of the warm mineral spring in Bath, England, and second, he made himself a pair of wings and took flight.

Before the Romans

The city of Bath, England is named after the Roman Baths which were built there around 60 AD. But the Romans weren’t the first ones to bathe in that warm mineral spring water. According to legend, Prince Bladud had discovered that bubbling spring 900 years earlier — around 863 BC. …


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Image Source: Pixabay

It was 1925 and Victor Lustig was sitting in his Paris hotel room reading a newspaper article about the Eiffel Tower. That gigantic structure had been built for the 1889 Paris World’s Fair and was meant to be dismantled in 1909. But because of its height, it was used as a radio tower and came in very handy for listening in on the Germans during the First World War. Now, however, it was rusting and in need of expensive repairs and maintenance. …

About

Margo Lestz

A writer who loves to research and find quirky, little-known bits of history. CuriousRambler.com

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