See the Silent Screams of 100 Mexican Mummies

Locations of extreme cold, very dry regions, and bogs are all places in which bodies will naturally mummify, often only to be found thousands of years later. In the case of the Guanajuato mummies, the subjects only had to wait a few hundred years, and were not so much discovered as evicted.

Atlas Obscura
August 31, 2013


From 1865 to 1958, the town of Guanajuato, Mexico, required that relatives pay a grave tax. When the relatives failed to do so for three years in a row, their deceased loved ones were promptly dug up and evicted. Weirdly, due to the extremely dry conditions of the soil, the corpses often came up as well-preserved mummies. (The first to be dug up and found mummified was one Dr. Remigio Leroy on June 9, 1865.) The cemetery kept these strange mummified corpses in an underground –actually under the cemetery grounds itself — ossuary in case the relatives came around with the money wanting a re-burial. By 1894, the ossuary had racked up enough mummified bodies to re-brand itself as a museum.

Though the practice ended in 1958 (three years before the first man flew in space) the mummies continued to be kept in the local ossuary/museum. In 1970 a Mexican B-Horror movie was produced: “Santo Versus the Mummies of Guanajuato,” starring masked wrestler Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta. As the mummies gained notoriety, they drew interested visitors. For many years the unfortunate specimins were displayed propped against the walls of the ossuary, but these days they are housed in a more official museum.

Because they were formed naturally, the mummies are more gruesome-looking then your standard Egyptian mummy. With gaunt and twisted faces like extras from a horror movie, and often covered in the tattered rags they were buried in, the mummies stand, lean and recline in glass cases throughout the museum. Perhaps the most shocking to visitors are the pregnant mummy and the shrunken child mummies, including “the world’s smallest mummy,” which is no bigger then a loaf of bread. It is still unknown what quality of the soil or the environment of this particular cemetery produces so many natural mummies, and the mystery has given way to many superstitions about the mummies. A common local belief is that the mummification is divine punishment for acts committed while alive.

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