Following the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Norfolk explorer Howard Carter in 1922, tales of mummies' curses had become very popular. Egypt's Valley of the Kings and various museums were central to these tales.
However, some twenty years or so before Carter's find, a mummy caused quite a stink - in Great Yarmouth!
In the early 1900s, St. Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth had a school attached to it. In the school was a science room and in a corner of the science room stood an old mummy casket, donated by the school history teacher. The casket was used for teaching lessons on ancient civilisations and was believed to contain the remains of an Egyptian princess.
What a pong! This wasn't a giggling schoolboy-type smell. This was a stench from beyond the grave. It was first noticed in the science room and soon spread throughout the school. Lessons couldn't continue. The staff searched high and low but the stink remained. Nobody suspected the casket as it was completely sealed, wasn't it?
When no other cause of the nasty niff was discovered, it was decided that the seal of the casket might have been damaged. The contents would have to be removed and buried, but the school would keep the resealed casket.
The remains of the Egyptian princess were buried in St. Nicholas' churchyard during the dead of night, to avoid causing distress to the local folk. Disturbing ancient remains was bound to cause stories of ghosts and mummies' curses.
Some nervous volunteers helped the vicar dig a grave, break the casket seal and quickly tip the contents into a coffin. The casket was then resealed and returned to the school science room. The next day the smell had disappeared.
Some days later, the vicar was awoken by a steady tap, tap, tap at the vicarage door. He opened the door, expecting to find someone in distress, but found no one there.
"Boys!" he growled and returned to his bed.
Less than an hour later - "tap, tap, tap." This time his wife went with him to the front door. Once again, no-one was there. The vicar checked outside but he didn't find anything or anyone.
Over the next few nights the tapping continued. What could it be? The vicar spoke to his neighbours and discovered they were also hearing the tapping at night, and they were frightened.
A few nights later, a group of local people, taking a late night shortcut through the graveyard, heard a loud tapping coming from inside the church. Thinking somebody must be shut inside the building, they woke up the verger and asked him to unlock the door.
A lengthy search took place but no-one was found inside. However, as they were leaving the church, the tapping began again.
The next day a local policeman was called in. "Boys!" he growled. However, even with the policeman keeping a watchful eye on the local children, the tapping continued. It continued inside the church, it continued on the vicar's front door and it continued on the doors belonging to all those who had assisted in removing the contents of the casket.
It did not take long before gossip spread of the 'secret' burial of the Egyptian Princess. People began to believe that the spirit of the mummy had been disturbed. The phrase 'the tapping of the Egyptian mummy' became popular and ghost hunters and sightseers began to visit the church. The churchyard became so busy that the area had to be closed off.
Then, that pong returned to the science room. This time there was no doubt - it was coming from the casket. It would have to be opened again.
Rather than open the casket in secret during the night, this time it was opened in daylight. They broke the seal and peered nervously in.
To their surprise, the casket was not empty. Inside, still wrapped in bandages, was one of the mummy's arms! It seemed that in their hurry to bury the mummy, they had failed to notice that not all of her was tipped into the coffin.
Everyone agreed with the tired and exhausted vicar that the arm must be reunited with its owner. So the mummy was dug up and the arm carefully placed in the coffin with the rest of the body.
With the mummy finally at peace, the tapping stopped and the science room once again became a place fit for learning.