Primary Genre(s): Short Story, Fiction, Horror
Published: September 1892 in Harper’s Magazine
Page count: 62
My Format: free online
Would I recommend it: Yes
My rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis from Goodreads
The story tells of an Oxford college student who, through the use of Egyptian magic, manages to reanimate an ancient Egyptian mummy.
This is another mummy story from Doyle. Earlier this week I reviewed The Ring of Thoth by Doyle. It is also a story involving a mummy, but was much more a tragic romance than anything scary. In Lot No. 249 we definitely have a scary mummy! This story is gothic horror for sure! As a lover of all things gothic, I am personally surprised I haven’t come across this short story before. I am even more surprised that this story has slipped past me all these years when I realized how influential it was for future mummy books and movies. I will discuss its influence below.
As I say with all of my short stories, if you don’t want to take the chance of discovering plot details from my review, please read the short story first. You can click here to read the story online. Here are my pros and cons for Lot No. 249:
- I learned a lot about mummy stories since I’ve read this book. If you’d like to read some facts about this book, I encourage you to at least review the information on Wikipedia. I was actually very impressed about two things I learned about this story. First, this is the earliest mummy reanimation story that depicts a mummy as dangerous and scary. Second, this is the first work of fiction that depicts a person reanimating a mummy by a method other than electricity.
- This story is also presumed to be the inspiration for several early mummy movies, and Anne Rice has stated that this story and The Ring of Thoth were the inspirations for her book The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. She also dedicated that book to Doyle.
- Great writing! As with The Ring of Thoth, the writing is quite formal but wholly readable. The sentences Doyle crafts are phenomenal.
- There are some images available from the original publication that are dark, foreboding, and disturbing. The image below (by William Thomas Smedley for the original publication of Lot No. 249 in Harper’s Magazine) is particularly frightening. It is dark and ominous… you can barely even see the mummy in the background chasing the man!! It is pure gothic and pure terror.
It moved in the shadow of the hedge, silently and furtively, a dark, crouching figure, dimly visible against the black background. Even as he gazed back at it, it had lessened its distance by twenty paces, and was fast closing upon him. Out of the darkness he had a glimpse of a scraggy neck, and of two eyes that will ever haunt him in his dreams. He turned, and with a cry of terror he ran for his life up the avenue.
- I liked the ambiguity of the mummy’s actions. We are never really told if the mummy is acting upon direction from the man who owns him, or if the mummy is acting on his own to rid his owner of his apparent enemies. Presumably it is the former, since the mummy has to be reanimated first and he can’t very well do that himself.
- The scenes were set up perfectly in the story! Descriptions of the rooms in particular were well done… even down to the smells in the room (particularly pipe tobacco).
- Awesome last line! It is almost like a warning. LOVED IT!
But the wisdom of men is small, and the ways of nature are strange, and who shall put a bound to the dark things which may be found by those who seek for them?
- It started off a little slowly and, if I am honest, I thought the resolution/ending was a little too easy. As with The Ring of Thoth, I wanted a little bit more than I got in this short story and wish it had been longer.
Victorian England was obsessed with Egyptology and this story obviously did very well upon its publication. The story, combined with the incredible illustrations, must have given any number of people nightmares for sure! I’m not sure this is as scary today as it likely was in 1892, but as a lover of Gothic fiction, I think it is a gem. And even though I wanted a little more from the ending, I still think it was a 5-star read!
Click here for a description of my rating scale.
(image from Goodreads)