One night a security guard was passing through the African galleries in the basement and paused for a moment before the figure of a two-headed dog. The guard believed that this 19th-century wooden Congolese fetish, bristling with rough iron nails, possessed some mysterious power. On this particular night he felt an irresistible compulsion to point his finger at it. As he did so, the fire alarms in the gallery went off. A few days later the guard returned to the gallery with his brother, who also pointed at the two-headed dog. Again the alarms sounded.
What I wasn’t expected (and perhaps I should have, given that this was the British Museum after all) was a few choice bits of commentary from curator Irving Finkel! He’s someone I chanced across after learning about The Royal Game of Ur, and he’s just awesome:
To his great annoyance, Finkel has never actually seen a ghost himself. He puts that down to a lack of sensitivity on his part. But he reckons the museum offers plenty of opportunities. “One, there are lots of dead bodies here,” he says. “Then there’s lots of curators who’ve spent their entire lives here and some of them died on the premises.”
On reading this article, I immediately thought about what it might have been like had I actually won the Month at the Museum contest, some ten years ago now. Granted, I got pretty close and made it to the finals… but sadly never got to roam the museum’s halls at all hours of the night.
I doubt, though, that the newer Museum of Science and Industry has as many older artifacts as the British Museum.