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Tom Terriss: The Mysterious Mummy Case

The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour

Tom Terriss: The Mysterious Mummy Case

Feb 07 1935


HOST, Rudy Vallee

ANNOUNCER, Jimmy Wallington

TOM TERRISS, the Vagabond Adventurer; British


HOST: Presenting now Tom Terriss, explorer and soldier of fortune; producer of the screen series titled, "The Vagabond Adventurer." "Death shall come upon swift wings to all who touch the tomb of the king." Thus ran the inscription supposed to have been found on an alabaster vase at the foot of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt. Tom Terriss was one of the twenty men present at the opening of King Tut's burial place. Seventeen of those twenty men have perished, many of them violently. Mr. Terriss tells us tonight of an earlier experience in his adventure-crowded life, a true story which leads him to give some credence to the curse from the tomb of the pharaoh. Mr. Tom Terriss.



TERRISS: It was about twenty years ago. Bazaars of Cairo, at night. An old antique store. A swinging oil lamp reflecting a dim light on bits of copper and brass and stone images and rugs and tapestries and so forth. I stood in the corner with a swarthy Arab proprietor, examining an empty mummy case. It was a beautiful specimen -- it dated back to at least four thousand years -- and extremely valuable. Yet, strangely enough, the man only wanted a hundred pounds for it. 

I was about to buy, when there came to my mind an interview I had with a certain palmist in London a few days prior to my departure who, on reading the lines of my hand, among other things had told me that when in the East I would be tempted to purchase a mummy case. I could almost hear him saying, (HEAVY GYPSY ACCENT) "Refrain from so doing my friend, for it will bring you disaster -- possibly death."

(NORMAL VOICE) I felt the Arab plucking at my coat. (HARSH ARAB ACCENT) "Effendi will buy?" (NORMAL VOICE) "No, no, no, no" I said, "I've changed my mind." It was all I could do to tear myself away, so eager, so almost frantic was he in his efforts to make a sale. 


TERRISS: Next morning, I was breakfasting on the famous terrace of Shepheard's Hotel, enjoying the delightful music and the cosmopolitan crowd that thronged the colorful streets below, when I heard a husky voice - and, looking down, saw peering at me through the railings my friend, the Arab shopkeeper of the night before -- still frantic to make a sale. He was offering me the case for half the price. Well, you know, that was too tempting a bargain to lose because of a fortune teller's silly prediction, so I closed with him. I gave him a couple of pounds extra, told him to crate the case and send it to the Port of Alexandria to await my return. You see, I - I was in Cairo for just a few days, being there on my way to Sudan on a big game hunting expedition.


TERRISS: Arrived eventually at our destination. The very first day's sport brought an inexplicable and terrible accident. The barrel of my gun burst. The next thing I knew I was in the cabin of a dahabeah -- that's a sort of houseboat, you know -- being taken back to Cairo with a shattered arm, severe burns, and the total loss of my right eye. I lay in a hospital for weeks. Of the two friends who had accompanied me, one, Colonel Murray, was himself ill of fever; the other, Captain Saunders, awaited our convalescence. Finally well enough to leave, I took the train to Alexandria. Was about to board the vessel when I - I suddenly remembered the mummy case. While giving no more thought to it than I would any other piece of baggage, had it shipped on board, and, with my friends, sailed away.

Two days later, Colonel Murray suffered a severe and strange relapse, and died. Was buried at sea. The very next day, Saunders, crazed apparently by the loss of his friend, leaped overboard to his death. It was only then I began to wonder if there could be anything to the palmist's words -- if there could be the bare possibility of some kind of evil influence working. So I determined to rid myself of the accursèd thing the moment I arrived in London.

There, I phoned to a certain Edward Lawson, an ardent archeologist, telling him exactly of all that had happened, asking him if he still cared, after all that, to accept the mummy case as a present. Laughing at my fears, he jumped at the offer. So then and there I packed it off, and that night - (EXHALES WITH RELIEF) - I sat down to my dinner; I - I really felt a different person. As though something evil had gone out of my life. And then--


TERRISS: I knew before I picked up the receiver of that phone that it was bad news. Sure enough, the voice of Mrs. Lawson. A terrible tragedy had occurred. Her husband had been found lying in front of the mummy case, dead. He had shot himself -- whether by accident or design no one has ever been able to discover. 

So the mummy case was returned to me, and my one thought then was how and where I could dispose of it. And then suddenly came the idea -- to give it to the British Museum. Here, the authorities -- knowing nothing of its history and caring less -- only too gladly accepted it. So it was placed in the Egyptian section where it quickly became a sensation -- not on account of its age and beauty, mind you, but because people, when looking at it, claimed that they experienced a peculiar feeling of horror, even revulsion. Others who touched it said that afterwards they had been taken unaccountably ill -- until soon all of London was talking about the mysterious mummy case.

Finally, the directors, disliking such publicity, decided to remove it to the cellars. But before doing this, they were obliged to have a picture of it to be placed in the records. So a photographer was sent for, who snapped his pictures and that night was developing one of them in the hypo when he saw appearing in the empty case, a vague, nebulous, intangible form. It shocked him so much that he knocked over the ruby lamp at his elbow. The flame ignited the room and in a few seconds the place became a blazing inferno with the photographer barely escaping with his life.

Well, with such grim publicity, it was - it was difficult to find another man who cared to take on the job -- until a well-known artist volunteered to paint a picture. A hardboiled skeptic, he worked morning, afternoon, sometimes well into the night, all alone, with nothing happening -- until the day finally arrived when, the completed painting under his arm, he left the museum for his home. Outside the gate, started to cross the road. Seemingly from nowhere, a heavy, horse-driven wagon tore 'round the corner. The artist lost his nerve and he became confused; he dodged here and there-- Well, you know how those things happen. There was a cry. He was under the wheels. All that was left of the painting were some shreds of torn canvas.


TERRISS: That was the final blow. The result of it all was that the directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York received a letter from the British Museum offering them as a present a very valuable mummy case dating back to the days of Ptolemy. Gladly it was accepted. And once again crated. Placed on a magnificent liner crossing the ocean on its maiden voyage. The accursèd relic had been shipped on the steamer Titanic, which sank with the loss of sixteen hundred and seventy-two lives.

That was the end of the mysterious mummy case.



ANNOUNCER: This is "The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour," broadcast from the Variety Theatre in Radio City under the direction of Rudy Vallee. Rudy presents Miss Ethel Barrymore, Kitty Carlisle, Tom Howard, and Tom Terriss. ...