Philippi mummies-The Barbour County Historical Society Museum
Backstory and Context
The Philippi mummies have a quite unusual story as to how they came to be and where they came from. It all began with Graham Hamrick, a resident of Philippi, WV. He was a part time undertaker who had a strange hobby. He practiced mummification. The process was with his own special preservatives. He was able to successfully mummify a squirrel and a vegetable. Hamrick lived close by the West Virginia Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV. Luckily for Hamrick he was able to obtain two female patient corpses. The corpses allowed Hamrick the opportunity that he had been waiting for. He was able to try his mummification process on actual humans.
Hamrick had continued success with his preservation process. He was so successful that he applied for and was granted a patent. The news traveled fast that Hamrick had mummified the ladies. The mummies became a sideshow attraction. They were viewed extensively on a worldwide tour with P.T. Barnum in 1891. The mummies were originally known simply as the Hamrick mummies.
Today the mummified ladies are housed in the restored 1911 railroad depot that is now used as the Barbour County Historical Society Museum. The mummies were acquired by the museum and have been on display for a number of years. The mummies have suffered some damage and wear and tear. They were damaged during a flood, but were laid out to dry. The mummies are said to have a sharp odor, which would be odd if they didn't. There are some people that object to the women being on display, but the museum curator prefers to think of their exhibition as a very long wake.