Four years ago, Lawrence K. Mooney was in the market for a mummy.
The Fairfax County resident, who said he wanted to open a museum, received a brochure in the mail from a Wisconsin firm advertising a mummified man who had died in 1911.The asking price was $6,500, and Mooney said he sent the firm. "Freak Enterprises", a downpayment of $1,000.
What Mooney didn't realize then was that the firm did not own the mummy. The photograph Mooney saw showed the remains of a mummified carnival worker which had been in the possession of a North Carolina funeral home for the past 65 years. The body had been buried in 1972 under 10 inches of concrete in a North Carolina cemetery.
Mooney was out both the mummy and his money.
"The whole thing is rather embarrasing." Mooney said this week after filing suit against the mail-order mummy firm in Milwaukee. Attempts to reach company officials in Wisconsin were unsuccessful.
"All I want is my money back," Mooney said, adding that plans for the museum had gone up in smoke. "It was the first and only time I tried to buy a mummy. They don't come on the market very often. There just aren't that many of them left," he said.
Mooney's Washington attorney, Stephen M. Trattnev, declined to discuss the case.
Hewitt McDougald, of the McDougald Funeral Home in Lauringburg, N.C., yesterday confirmed that the body had been buried in a solid bronze casket inside a steel vault.
"I didn't want anyone fooling with it (the mummy)," said the 61-year-old funeral director whose father embalmed the man 67 years ago.
"His name was Formico Cansetto," McDougald said. "But everyone called him Spaghetti. He worked as a carnival musician. One of the other car- nival workers hit him over the head with a tent stake and he died."
The elder McDougald was asked to handle funeral arrangements by the carnival worker's father, who said he would return for his son's remains. Cansetto was embalmed with standard embalming fluids McDougald said.
But Cansetto's father never returned and the elder McDougald grew accustomed to the corpse. According to his son, the mummy had been "hanging on the wall, supported by ropes under the arms" until 1940 when the younger McDougald decided to place the remains in a glass-topped wooden box. It became somewhat of a tourist attraction in the tiny town 100 miles south of Raleigh, according to the funeral director.
"They came from all over the world to see him," recalled McDougald, who said yesterday he had never heard of "Frank Enterprises."
Finally, in 1972, under the fire from Italian-born citizens, McDougald buried the body.
"I miss him," Mc Dougald said yesterday. "I'd been around him all my life. I felt like he was one of the family."