I recently learned that Dublin, Ireland, has some interesting mummies that can be visited. I knew about bog bodies that were discovered around the island, but I didn’t know that Dublin holds creepy bodies from ages past.
One is of a cat and rat that were trapped in an organ pipe in the 1860s at Christ Church Cathedral.
The placard reads: Possibly our most famous residents, our cat and rat were trapped in an organ pipe in the 1860s and became mummified. They were made famous by James Joyce, when he writes in Finnegan’s Wake, “… as stuck as that cat and mouse in that tube of the Christchurch organ …”
Another is a collection of noble families that were found when their coffins naturally broke open over time under St. Michan’s Church.
Bram Stoker is thought to have visited the vaults in the crypt below St. Michan’s and possibly to have found inspiration there for at least a few of the scenes in his classic Dracula.
“Based on historical accounts and medieval art, people during this period were prone to many superstitions. The Catholic Church was the most powerful entity in Europe at the time, and the masses were consumed with the presence of evil and eradicating it in any form it might be believed to take. Because of their secretive nature and their ability to survive extraordinary circumstances, the general population came to fear cats as consorts of Satan. The innocent cats began to be killed by the thousands.
“The cats ultimately got their revenge, of course. Since there were few felines left, the rat populations increased unchecked, and the plague grew even more widespread. You’d think that the humans would make the connection by this point, but instead, they made things even worse. They began to associate the plague’s new vigor with the cats and even with dogs. They believed that since both of these animals typically harbored fleas, they must be the cause of the plague. Subsequently, cats were outlawed in many parts of Europe, and huge numbers of cats and dogs were killed. In fact, at one point in the middle ages, there were barely any cats left in England at all.
“Even though cat ownership was illegal in some regions, a few people kept their felines. Other people finally noticed that these cat owners often seemed to be immune to the black plague. Word spread quickly, and more observations of this phenomenon were noticed. This resulted in research, crude as it was during the time.
“Eventually, it was decided that the rats, not the cats, were responsible for spreading the black plague. Then, of course, everyone wanted to own a cat or two.”
I am working on a story with a cat who is found feasting on a dead body. I’ve always been intrigued by stories of cat owners who are eaten by their pets. When I was a teenager, there was a story in my neighbourhood of an old woman who was found in her home weeks after she had died, and she had been mostly eaten by her four cats. Such pragmatic creatures.