“Mummies Alive” debuts Sunday and investigates a different mummy each show.
The saga of Sylvester — a mummy owned by Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Seattle’s waterfront — continues.
Long the shop’s No. 1 attraction, the history of Sylvester has been pondered and studied since he was first displayed there in the 1950s. How did he die? How was he so well preserved?
In the first episode of a new Smithsonian Channel TV series, “Mummies Alive,” scientists and historians use advanced autopsy technology and other techniques to inch toward the truth — or at least provide some theories. The show debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday, June 7, and investigates a different mummy each show.
Premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, June 7, Smithsonian TV.
Legends have swirled around Sylvester for years. For instance: In life, it is said, he was a gunslinger of the Wild Wild West, gunned down over a card game. Clutching a bullet wound in the stomach, Sylvester stumbled into Arizona’s Gila Bend desert in 1895, where nature’s convection oven cooked him into a mummy.
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But tests done in 2005 confirmed that Sylvester was preserved with arsenic — an embalming technique of the time. This explained his extraordinarily well-preserved body. Sylvester is a rich brown color, with teeth, some organs and even his mustache intact.
“He’s so different than what you think of as a mummy because you can see all his features,” said the shop’s co-owner Andy James.
Those in “Mummies Alive” hypothesize Sylvester’s story was embellished as part of a traveling sideshow. James said he was curious to know what else the show’s research found. But he didn’t expect every riddle of Sylvester’s life to be solved.
“We’ve had him studied a few times and usually you answer a couple questions and you pose a couple more,” he said. James said his family has owned the shop since it was founded around the late 19th century.
How Sylvester died is a more complicated puzzle. Was it the spray of shotgun pellets by his temple? The hole in his stomach? Or were other factors at play?
“The unanswered questions are always a draw for people,” James said.
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop is set to reopen on July 1, after a temporary closure due to Seattle’s seawall-replacement work. New goodies are in store when it opens, Andy’s wife, Tammy James, said. Tammy is a co-owner as well.
Whether the show’s conclusions are definitive, or debunk Sylvester’s gun-toting, sharpshooting pastimes, Tammy James said Sylvester will always be a draw for hordes of viewers.
“Sylvester is well loved no matter who he is,” she said. “He’s just kind of a Seattle character.”