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It started out as an ordinary school trip – a horde of screaming primary school pupils running around the local museum, paying no attention to the earnest explanations of their teachers and squabbling over who has most hundreds and thousands on their sandwiches. The fact that the museum in question is one of the most famous in the world – the Egyptian Museum in Turin – meant nothing to kids and little enough to their parents.
Or, to be more accurate, it meant nothing until that evening, when three of the students, all girls, fell ill – and not just your usual tummy upset of a child who has been indulging excessively in crisps and fizzy drinks, but so ill that they had to be rushed to the Mauriziano Hospital for tests and treatment. While there the parents recognised one another and became aware that the symptoms were similar. Hoping that the fact might be of assistance to the doctors, the parents informed them that the children had all been on the same school trip.
The obvious answer was that all three had bought something at the museum shop and as cases of food poisoning are a police matter, the hospital informed the carabinieri. It was that that Police commissioner Vincenzo di Gaetano revealed that there had been a number of similar incidents in the previous few months – and the only common factor was that all those affected had visited the museum’s underground mummy room.
Naturally the newspapers fastened onto this and headlines screamed about “The Mummy’s Curse!!” (or whatever that is in Italian), though they notably failed to explain why the mummies, who have long been resident, should suddenly start to exert a malign influence. The more prosaic police department suspects that the recent lack of rain in north Italy and the consequent rise in air pollution has somehow caused something toxic to concentrate in the basement. District Attorny Raffaele Guariniello believes that a lack of cleaning services at the museum, occasioned by a bureaucratic desire to economise, may have something to do with it, but at the time of going to press, the cause of the illness is still a mystery.
Oh – and the three girls are making a good recovery, which just goes to show that mummies’ curses these days are not what they used to be.