Video: Have You Saw The Mummies? (1994)

Mummies of the Insane

Philippi, West Virginia

In July 1994, the Roadside America Team drove from Los Angeles to New York, stopping at 50 roadside attractions in 7 days. It was the first time we'd uploaded daily text reports and tiny GIF photos to the World Wide Web (and AOL), via the feeble modems and balky connections of the era. The Mummies of Philippi was one of many highlights on our pioneering "virtual vacation."

We recorded the Mummies video footage on the last morning of the tour, then edited the postage-stamp sized upload that hinted at the future promise of road trip video sharing. This 2019 edit expands with more footage from the original 8mm camcorder tapes, featuring the mummies and the late James Ramsey, gracious curator at the Barbour County Historical Museum. He allowed us to carry the mummies outside (for better lighting).

Video Transcript


0:00:05.160,0:00:07.160 - [Music: heavy synth ascending wave]

0:00:09.929,0:00:15.030 - Museum Curator James Ramsey told us: In 1985 of course the town was inundated under 35 feet of the flood water

0:00:15.030,0:00:22.860 - these mummies were up under citizen's bed when the water covered them up after

0:00:22.860,0:00:26.990 - the flood dropped, they were brought out, they were covered with green fungus

0:00:26.990,0:00:34.199 and all kinds of corruption and everything, and they took him up to Randy Schoonover's over at

0:00:34.199,0:00:37.600 - the upper end of town here he secured some kind of a mixture

0:00:37.620,0:00:43.000 - that could get the green mold off of them and also the hairs that were growing on them

0:00:44.000,0:00:48.000 - You asked the question most people ask - "Who are these people?"

0:00:48.000,0:00:54.000 - What are their names... they're nameless.

0:00:54.500,0:00:57.000 - Music: rising synth tone

0:01:01.180,0:01:05.440 - The mummies! Have you SAW the mummies?

0:01:06.940,0:01:10.000 - Music: bongo drums

0:01:17.820,0:01:24.160 - In five months we had the greatest flood in a hundred years and the museum had

0:01:24.160,0:01:30.550 - nine feet of water in it and we were out of business in 1986 and '87 but we were

0:01:30.550,0:01:34.900 - back and opened up in 1988 and we've been open ever since then seven days a

0:01:34.900,0:01:40.119 week. He was a farmer and he was a member of the Hardshell Baptist Church,

0:01:40.119,0:01:45.630 - a very primitive church, and he claimed he got the idea from reading Genesis.

0:01:45.630,0:01:50.950 - The mummies were offered to the Smithsonian Institution about 1890. They

0:01:50.950,0:01:56.050 - wanted the mummies, but they also wanted the formula. and Mr. Hamrick said you can

0:01:56.050,0:02:02.619 have the mummies but the formula will remain up here in my head. So with that

0:02:02.619,0:02:07.330 - the Smithsonian said well then Mr. Hamrick you keep the mummies. Initially he

0:02:07.330,0:02:13.030 - embalmed two females, but those aren't those aren't these mummies, because my

0:02:13.030,0:02:16.930 - neighbor who is ninety years old called me and he said "Jim, I grew up right next to

0:02:16.930,0:02:21.580 - these people" and he said "I knew Mr. Hamrick's oldest son." Mr. Hamrick's oldest

0:02:21.580,0:02:28.299 son said that my father got a male and a female and a child and brought them here

0:02:28.299,0:02:35.350 - to mummify them. These people are people that were sent to the insane asylum back

0:02:35.350,0:02:40.750 - in the 1888. It's hard for people to understand how you can just go

0:02:40.750,0:02:44.950 - and get bodies without any-, without anything but a court order. But as I

0:02:44.950,0:02:49.180 - explain to so many people there's a there's a bias and prejudice against

0:02:49.180,0:02:55.030 - having people in the family group back at that time who were mentally unfit so

0:02:55.030,0:02:59.350 - the result was you would call somebody and say come and get grandma or whoever

0:02:59.350,0:03:03.430 - and take them over here to Weston and you didn't really want to see them again.

0:03:03.430,0:03:08.000 - And perhaps the superintendent'd call you and say your relative died.

0:03:08.000,0:03:11.000 - And you'd say, but we don't want them, we just...

0:03:11.000,0:03:12.500 - [Off-screen] Just mummify them.

0:03:12.500,0:03:14.129 There more or less like Potter's Field, I mean

0:03:14.129,0:03:18.360 - they're just people that nobody wanted particularly, and people that wanted to

0:03:18.360,0:03:21.959 perform a scientific experiment could just simply go out

0:03:21.959,0:03:26.000 - there go over there and secure bodies.

0:03:26.000,0:03:28.480 - [Sound: Squeaky lid closing]


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