From the Archives: “Joe Smith and the Mummy”

During my research I came across the following in the Illinois State Journal (dated May 30, 1857). I was so utterly charmed by this spoof that I had to share it. The original can be accessed here. Below is my transcription. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! (And if anybody has the phone number for Brendan Fraser’s agent, let me know!)

For the Illinois State Journal.



“What in the thunder is to pay now?” was the exclamation, or rather execration of the man, as he sprang again to his feet. The Dearborn in which was riding, he solitary and alone, had struck a huge stone post that I had placed in a slanting position at the corner of the yard, to prevent the fence from careless teamsters,—struck one of the forward wheels so violently against it that the carriage was brought up standing, and the man pitched out, head foremost.

For more than a quarter of an hour I had been leaning idly against the gate in front of my cottage, gazing without object or aim, down the road. I saw the Dearborn approaching when half a mile distant, and observed that one of the two passengers descended and walked leisurely at a good distance behind the carriage.

The man who drove, paid no attention to the horses, but kept gazing upon the long, line of perpendicular, wild and majestic bluffs that almost overhang the public road. It was near 10 o’clock, and one of the hottest mornings of July. The horse, dripping with perspiration, heard the sound of the water as it fell from a spring high up the bluff, into my watering trough, and rushed onward to slake his thirst with the cool beverage. Not being guided, or even having his speed checked by the driver, the thirsty animal brought the Dearborn to a stand still against the aforesaid stone post.

The man who had descended from the carriage, came running up. Casting a glance or two upon the scene of disaster, he inquired of me if Mr. Peter. Parker lived here? I told him that I had the honor of being Mr. Peter Parker himself, and that this was my place of residence. Whereupon, the stranger introduced to me his fellow traveler as JOSEPH SMITH, JUNIOR, the Prophet of the Latter Day Saints, who are called by the Gentile world, “Mormons.” He further informed me, that his own name was Martin Harris, and that he was an elder in the same church.

I was overjoyed at this opportunity of having an interview with Joe Smith, that prince of impostors, of whose doings I had heard and read so much. Giving the hand of each, in turn, a real pump-handle shake, I welcomed the two Mormons to the kindest hospitalities in the power of Mr. Peter Parker to bestow.

On examining the Dearborn, the forward axle-tree was found broken. It was impossible for them to proceed till its place was supplied by a new one. They looked rather sadly upon this discovery, till I informed them that I had a carpenter at work for me, who should repair the damage without costing them a dime, and that they were more than welcome to remain my guests just as long as it might suit their convenience.

In a short time, the horse, who had done the mischief, was domiciled in the stable, before a crib full of oats, which He munched very industriously no doubt laughing a real horse-laugh at the accident he had caused, secretly resolved that he would, in future, run the Dearborn against every stone post he met, when there was a prospect of a good supply of oats.

The carpenter was now ready to commence operations upon the axle-tree but in the first place, the Dearborn must be unloaded. The most prominent article among the baggage, was the celebrated Egyptian Mummy, which Joe had bought at Barnum’s Museum, and recognized as the embalmed body of one of the Egyptian Magi who confronted Moses in the presence of Pharaoh, all but foiling the Hebrew leader by the re-performance of his own miracles.

Among the Mormons, and indeed among thousands of others, this mummy of the supposed Egyptian Sorcerer, was an object of unutterable awe. It was currently reported that often at the solemn hour of midnight, Joe Smith and the mummy had been heard holding converse with each other, in a low, unearthly tone.

I ought previously to have informed my readers that the Prophet had chosen Kirtland, Ohio, for the “New Jerusalem” of the Mormon Order, but the explosion of the bank, of which Smith was President and sole manager, rendered it quite desirable for him to seek out a new location for the Mormon Zion. The Prophet and his elder, Martin Harris, were engaged in that mission.

As the mummy could not safely be left out of doors while the Dearborn was undergoing repairs, I directed Smith to take the embalmed magician into the house. Hardly had he crossed the threshold, when my wife, Mrs. Peter Parker and our five daughters, catching but a single glimpse at the grim visage of the mummy, uttered a wild screech and plunged for the back door, as if the ghost that appeared in the tent of Brutus, was after them with a sharp stick.

There is a cave in the perpendicular wall of the bluff, the broad entrance into which, but a few rods distant, is seen from my door. The Prophet concluded to deposit the mummy in that secure retreat. Promising that I would soon follow I cautiously descended the cellar stairs, unlocked the door of a closet, the key of which I never trust out of my own hands, and filled a green flask from a keg of choice brandy. Carefully depositing the flask in one pocket, and a couple of tumblers in the other, with a pitcher of cold spring water, the latter carried boldly in open view, I bent my steps to the cavern.

Now, I am afraid that this confession will lead strangers to think that I am a drinking character. No conclusion could be wider from the fact. On the contrary, I am not only strictly temperate myself, but a warm advocate of the temperance cause. I am decidedly opposed, however, to the enactment of laws to restrain the sale and use of liquors. I am in favor of leaving the cause to “moral suasion,” or, as Mrs. Partington calls it “moral suction.” No matter which term is used, for “suasion” and “suction,” when applied to the temperance cause, mean exactly the same thing.

True, I use a little brandy, but only as a medicine. I have about four spells of sickness every day, and take a little brandy each time to relieve me.

When I repaired to the cavern, the Prophet, having deposited the mummy on the spacious rock floor, sat near by, writing with a pencil in his journal. I offered him the flask of brandy, but to my utter astonishment he declined it. But he was my guest, and common politeness required that I should drink to our better acquaintance, whether he joined me or not. As he professed to be a Prophet, and this was his first visit to Bluffdale I felt it my bounden duty to honor him by taking an uncommonly large horn.

In a short time I commenced talking to him in a jocose manner about his power of working miracles, and told him if he would wake the mummy into life, and make it talk, I would become a Mormon myself.—He replied, without raising his eyes from the note-book in which he, was writing;—”I beg your pardon, Mr. Parker, but if you will do me the favor of waiting till I have made a few more memorandums in my journal, I shall be, happy to converse with you about Mormonism, or on any other subject you may please to introduce. It will not take me more than fifteen minutes to gnish all I wish to write.”

Of course, I yielded to his request, and was silent. To pass the time which he would devote in writing, as agreeably as possible, I took another horn of brandy and stretched myself out full length, upon a kind of rocky shelf that was covered with a thick coat of green moss. No sofa could have formed a softer, more delightful couch. Tho cavern had a refreshing coolness, and not a sound penetrated this retreat, except the soft, soothing murmur of a spring whose waters fell from midway of the bluffs in the back yard of my cottage, at no I great distance from the cave. The drearry ‘twilight that reigned in this deep recess, was equally favorable to the indulgence of that pensive state of mind termed “reverie.”

The Prophet and the mummy were both before me, and hardly more than twenty feet distant. My thoughts were busy in conjectures about the history of the Sorcerer, when, Joe Smith, having closed his memorandum book and deposited it in his pocket, took his shoes from off his feet, and with a slow and solemn tread, approached the sarcophagus of scented wood in which reposed the embalmed body of the Magian. Bending down, he took from the sarcophagus a rod about three feet in length, and an inch thick at each end, which I recognized, at a glance, as the rod with which the Patriarch Moses had performed so many, and such wondrous miracles. The rod was much distended about the region of the stomach, as if it had neither disgorged nor digested the serpent of the Egyptian Magi which it swallowed four thousand years ago. With this rod the Prophet traced a broad circle around the mummy, chanting all the while in a low voice, in a language which I presume was chaldee. His ceremony completed, he approached the sarcophagus, and striking the rod seven times upon the floor of the rock, gazed intently upon the face of the mummy and exclaimed:—”Sorcerer of Egypt, in the name of the Mormon Prophet I command you to awake arise.”

At every blow of the rod, I felt the cavern swing to and fro like a vibrating pendulum. The cane extended itself to a length and breadth and height that seemed interminable. The vaulted roof rose into the heavens far above the path way of the loftiest summer clouds. The whole cavern swathed in a pall of darkness the most deep and terrific. And yet, every object within the magic circle was distinctly visible. At the voice of Smith I saw a tremor pass along the body of the mummy, and its skinny lips partly unclosed, but the embalmed body remained without other signs of life, silent and motionless in its sarcophagus.

The Prophet now approached still nearer to the mummy, and striking the floor again seven times, with a force that made the cave rock throughout its vast extent, exclaimed:—”Egyptian Sorcerer! worshiper of false Gods, dare you disobey the commands of the Latter Day Prophet? I must invoke a power still more potent than my own. Shades of Mormon and Morani, whose bones have mingled with the dust for twice a thousand years, I call upon you; I invoke your aid.”

Almost immediately, two forms, gloomy, and indistinct, slowly approached from the remotest depths of the cavern, but stood still at a great distance from the circle. I felt the very marrow freeze in my bones, and my flesh creep as these shades stood still and silent, in the almost palpable darkness that invested the cavern. It was then that the Prophet Smith put forth his last and most powerful spell. Taking from his bosom one of the “GOLDEN PLATES” upon which had been graved the BOOK OF MORMON, he held it aloft before, the mummy. Instantly every character on the plate shone full upon the face of the Egyptian, with a brightness far more intense than the blinding incandescence of a furnace of molton iron. The Hebrew character at the top of the plate, representing the “Ineffable Name,” beamed broad upon the forehead of the embalmed Magian. With a shriek that no mortal voice could utter, the mummy sprang to its feet, and trembling in every joint at the presence of Smith and the “Golden Plate,” exclaimed:—”Prophet of the Latter Day Saints, speak your behest: I obey.

I did not hear the command which Smith gave, but hardly had ho done speaking, when the city of Memphis, with its towers and royal palaces, and the vast plain through which flowed the broad Nile, was spread out before me. It was summer, and a burning sun, the intensity of whose heat was never mitigated by cloud or shower, stood at noon-day in the brazen sky; yet afar off on the plains, a countless throng of abject slaves, weary and faint with toil and privation, were rearing under the lash of taskmasters, a stupendous pyramid for the sepulcher of a king.

Smith, indignant at the sight of such misery and oppression, cried,—”If you exhibit past ages, let it be of a period before our unfortunate, misguided race existed.”

Tho Magian uttered a low murmuring sound, and the globe we inhabit was rolling on its axis through the realms of uncreated space, but devoid of a single human inhabitant. The air was hot, and the vapor that rose, in thick clouds, from the tepid ocean that surged from pole to pole, obscured the light of the sun.—Here and there, long strips of slimy earth rose a few inches above tho surface. All else was the wide domain of a shoreless ocean. Upon these islands, half submerged, grew a rank vegetation, of plants whose species, countless ages ago, became extinct. The current of this mighty ocean was sweeping giant ferns, algæ, coniferæ, and other plants and trees, into the great estuary that now forms the coal fields of Illinois. From these dark forests, came the voice of no bird. The feathered tribes had not yet been created. Huge saurians, of frightful shape, sought their prey in these waters, while the pterodactyle “was a fit companion for the reptiles that swarmed in the seas, or crawled on the shores of a turbulent planet.”

A sign was given by the Prophet, and the sorcerer paused. He was commanded to unfold the history of Mormonism, from its commencement, down to the close of time. He began with the discovery, by the Prophet Smith, of the “Golden Plates” in the “Hill of Cummora,” in the State of New York, and gave a brief outline of the progress of the Order, its rapid increase, and the baptism of fire and blood through which it was compelled to pass in Missouri and Illinois. It, is an astonishing fact that every event in their history which had not then taken place, unaccountably escaped my memory till after tho events themselves had come to pass Then, I recollected distinctly that. tho Magian had foretold them in the cavern.

When the sorcerer told of the expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo—the plunder of their homes by virtuous, law-abiding citizens of Illinois, who concerted the praiseworthy plan to assassinate Gov. Ford on his way from Warsaw, that the deed might be charged to the Mormons, and thus arouse the whole State against them—the Prophet listened with intense interest. But when the Egyptian related that Smith, had voluntarily surrendered himself to the laws of the State, and gone to prison to await a trial by a jury of his country, he, a defenseless prisoner, was murdered in jail,—when the Prophet heard this, every feature of his countenance glowed with joy and exultation He saw himself enrolled, by this deed of blood, on the long list of Martyrs who have bravely died for their faith, whether a true one or false, and knew that tho name of Joe Smith would now be as enduring as the stars. Just at this interesting moment, the Prophet shook me by the shoulder and said; “Mr. Parker, I hear your wife’s dinner bell, you have had a tine nap.”—Never in the whole course of my life did I feel so indignant as I did at this artful, base attempt of Smith to induce me to believe that I had been asleep, and that the “calling of the mummy to life, and the subsequent scenes that I had witnessed, had no existence except in imagination. Asleep! never was I more intensely awake than during the enactment of that thrilling scene. 

The exciting events which I had witnessed in the cavern had affected my whole nervous system, and so weakened the joints of my knees, that I tottered all the way home to dinner, and staggered into the house like a drunken man. My wife, Mrs. Peter Parker, is a very sensible woman, and seemed to understand my case at once. She led me into another room, administered to me a large tumbler of soda water, helped me on to the bed, boots and all, saying that sleep would be better for me than any other remedy that she could prescribe.

I awoke near sunset. The axle-tree had been finished and fitted to the dearborn some hours before, immediately after which, Joe Smith, Martin Harris, and the mummy, set forth on their travels, leaving a thousand thanks for the kind hospitality of Mr. Peter Parker.

Bluffdale, Ill., May 1857.

Leave a Comment