Mummies of Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a small town located four hours north of Mexico City. It’s narrow winding roads lined with multicolored, pastel painted houses and mountainous surroundings are a picturesque scene one would expect to discover in Europe. Though quaint and unsuspecting, Guanajuato has made a name for itself with a bizarrely macabre tourism attraction that is likely the most disturbing and haunting museum in the world.
Guanajuato is home to the Museo De Las Momias, or Museum of the Mummies. This attraction allows visitors to come face to face with death. Featuring over 100 corpses of men, women and even infants propped up behind glass displays. Caught in between death and decomposition with perfectly mummified remains, these bodies display gaunt frames, agonized gaping mouths and dry, withered skin. They are truly terrifying to behold, as is the story of how this museum, now haunted by these disturbed souls, came to be.
How the Museo De Las Momias Came to be
Mexico in 1833 was a dark place, in the grip of a terrible Cholera outbreak that took the lives of many. During this time, Mexican cemeteries filled quickly and the small, colorful Saint Paola Cemetery in Guanajuato was no exception. This large-scale interment was paired with a local tax that families had to pay to keep their loved ones resting peacefully in the ground. Unfortunately, many couldn’t afford to pay this tax, which lead to the disinterment of bodies.
When the first body was dug up in 1865 it was found to be remarkably well preserved. Officials decided to keep the body, rather than bury it outside of town in a common grave, which was the original plan. Over time as more and more bodies were exhumed, many were found to be naturally mummified and also collected and stored in an ossuary beneath the cemetery they were extracted from. This was, at first, in case of the unlikely event that families decided to pay to have the corpse of their loved ones reburied. Yet, overtime became a bizarre attraction that cemetery workers showed off to locals for a small fee.
Since then, the idea had caught on and the mummies were used to create an official museum to show them off to the public. The collection of mummies gained notoriety and became a widespread attraction after featuring in the 1970 Mexican horror flick ‘Santo Vs. The Mummies of Guanajuato’ and again when Werner Herzog used some of the mummies’ faces in an opening for his 1979 horror film ‘Nosferatu The Vampyre.’
Today, the Museum of the Mummies remains and continues to attract large scale tourism to the small town of Guanajuato. Locals celebrate this as a livelihood selling cute, related souvenirs. The museum boasts over 100 mummies within its collection, which includes the body of an unfortunate woman who was buried alive, several infants, a man who was stabbed to death, one who drowned to death and the world’s smallest mummy (the fetus of a 6 month old unborn baby who lost its life after its mother died from cholera).
Is Guanajuato’s Museum of the Mummies Haunted?
You don’t gain and display as many corpses as the Museum of the Mummies without also gaining some ghost stories, and the museum certainly has a few.
It is common knowledge that disturbing and disrespecting the dead is not a good idea. Many believe that the way the Museo De Las Momias gained its collection and continues to display the bodies of the dead has led to it being haunted. Disgruntled and restless souls disturbed from their eternal slumber are rumored to walk the halls of the museum.
Security have reported the sounds of voices, whispers and babies crying throughout the empty museum, long after the last tourists have departed for the day. Unexplainable footsteps and shadow figures are also a common occurrence after hours inside the mummy museum.
The ghost of a lady is also said to roam the museum. Some believe this to be the spirit of Ignacia Aguilar, the woman who was buried alive by mistake and spent her last moments in a tormented struggle. Her body now rests with others who died less than peacefully, on display, curled over with her arms sheltering the horrified look on her face.
Visiting Guanajuato’s Museum of the Mummies
I highly recommend a visit to Guanajuato, especially if staying in Mexico City. A 4-hour bus ride will take you there and it is a refreshing change to the hustle and bustle of the big city.
When in Guanajuato the Museum of the Mummies is a must see. It is inexpensive (less than $5US) and an interesting look at the fate that bestows us all, death. You are able to look through the museum at your own pace or take a guided tour in Spanish.
After visiting the museum, I also recommend taking a look through the Saint Paola Cemetery, which lies literally on top of the museum. This is free to enter, you’ll just need to take a short walk around the back of the museum and up some stairs.
Thanks for reading!