Safely stored away in the Natural History Museum‘s special display of sparkling diamonds and mysterious meteorites known as The Vault sits a stone with a sinister story. Stolen from an Indian Temple in 1855 during a mutiny, it made its way back to Victorian England with devastating results for all who claimed to own this perplexing purple pebble.
It all began with the nameless Cavalry Officer, who probably claimed it as ‘spoils of war’ who was struck down with a sudden and mysterious malady (not entirely unlike the Curse of the Pharaoh story we hear so often…). Ill and bankrupt, he passed the stone on to his son who suffered an equally unpleasant fate.
Eventually it landed in the hands of Heron-Allen, who worked as a researcher at the Natural History Museum and donated the accursed amethyst to the institution. Not only did he make a gift of the gem, but he also warned the museum about its powers. In a letter, he wrote that the stone is:
“trebly accursed and is stained with the blood and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it.”
Although you could read this letter as the writings of someone who had a flair for dramatic prose, the museum tells us that Heron-Allen was “so convinced of its curse that he had it bound in ‘the double headed snake that had been the finger ring of Heydon the Astrologer‘ to neutralise its effects.”
Which now sound like the ramblings of a mad-man. Was Heron-Allen a victim of the venomous curse too? If you look closely at the amethyst, you can see Christian iconography around it. Could this be another example of an attempt to neutralise the effects of the curse?
All I know is this; shortly after seeing the stone in the museum and taking a picture of it, I misplaced my Driving License. Co-incidence? Maybe.
Here’s picture of a monkey in the Museum to cheer you up.
If you liked this post you can see some badges from the Natural History Museum over at the Museum of Museum Badges.