The Mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico

The Mummies of Guanajuato, Mexico have a sad, but interesting history that dates back to a cholera outbreak 1833. About 30 years after the outbreak, the city cemetery was filling up so quickly that room was starting to become a serious issue, and in an attempt to fix the problem, Guanajuato enacted a tax that demanded families pay up in order to keep their deceased relative buried. The tax cost a one time fee of 170 pesos, or 50 pesos a year for three years. Unfortunately, most people either couldn’t afford it or didn’t care, resulting in 90 percent of the graves being disinterred.

So, what do you do with a bunch of dug up, dead bodies? Guanajuato just shoved them into a local building for storage. As word spread that the building had a whole stack of naturally mummified corpses hiding inside, tourists began to slowly filter into the city hoping to catch a glimpse of the morbid storage room. The cemetery workers, looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of their stiffs, started charging a few pesos for people to enter their creepy corpse warehouse. The idea caught on in such a big way that it was eventually turned into an official museum named The Museo De Las Momias, or The Mummies’ Museum.

In 1958, a law was passed that banned the disinterment of dead bodies, but by that point the museum was so popular that it was grandfathered in, and got to keep its display of death. The Mummies’ Museum only solidified its place in Mexican tourism after the 1970’s film Santo Versus the Mummies of Guanajuato was released, a movie that centered around Santo, a famous luchador, as he battled the museum’s mummies, which had magically returned to life.

Today, the Mummies’ Museum remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire country, and contains 108 corpses of various sizes and age, including the smallest mummy in the world, a fetus from a woman who fell victim to the cholera outbreak. The creepiest mummy, however, is that of Ignacia Alguilar, a woman who was later discovered to have been buried alive.

In the midst of cholera outbreaks, the dead were buried as quickly as possible in order to help prevent the spread of the awful disease. It wasn’t uncommon for the dead to be buried within a day of their passing. As you might imagine, lack of medical knowledge and a short window of time led to a few…oopsies. Ignacia was one of them.

Ignacia Aguilar had a peculiar, but nonthreatening condition that caused her heart to occasionally stop, or beat so softly it couldn’t be easily detected. She’d had the condition her whole life with no ill effects, but after she became sick with cholera, her family mistook her for dead, quickly burying her. Years later, when she was disinterred due to nonpayment of the burial tax, she was discovered face down in her coffin, her forehead covered with scratch marks, and her mouth full of blood from biting down on her own arm. Her corpse is still on display at the Mummies’ Museum, her mouth still wide from screaming in her coffin.

Admission to the Museo De Las Momias is 55 pesos, or roughly $4.25 in U.S. dollars, and for just a couple dollars more, they’ll allow you to take all the spooky photographs you want.

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