Mummy mystery finally solved for Wilsonville woman

Mummy mystery finally solved for Wilsonville woman »Play Video

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A mummy mystery has finally been unwrapped for a Wilsonville woman.

Hilary Lester has been living with a creepy looking relic for decades now, not knowing exactly what or what it was. But that all changed when she put it on eBay. A couple of scientists on the East Coast saw it for sale and they were so intrigued, they flew to Wilsonville to investigate it.

The mummy, named Gretchen after Lester's high school rival, was brought home by Lester's father in the late 1970s. Ron Beckett and Gerald Conlogue -- best known as the scientists from the old National Geographic show 'Mummy Road Show,' gave Gretchen a head-to-toe exam at Oregon State University's Veterinary Medicine School. They were impressed by Gretchen's ribs and a wide-eyed Lester was already fascinated by their findings.

"We found a wood tooth, so they believe she's got a wood tooth," Lester said.

Gretchen was then scanned and X-rayed. It turned out that Gretchen was mostly made of wood, nails, bandages and possibly animal bones.

"It's pretty safe to say that she is fake ... man-made," Lester said.

That was Lester's hunch all along, though. Her dad was an antique collector and bought the mummy for his museum in North Carolina. But the mummy sat in storage.

"Then it came to my house when my dad died, so, it's been in my house sort of creeping out my kids," Lester said.

The experts said Gretchen most likely traveled with P.T. Barnum's circus as a sideshow hoax -- just another oddity people would pay to see.

"It is a fake mummy, but it's an important part of who we were in this time period," Beckett said.

Becket said all mummies have a great story to tell -- it's written in their bones. Or in this case, it's written in the boards, bandages and nails.

"It gets your juices flowing," Beckett said. "What were they doing? What were people doing in the late 1800s and early 1900s? You know everything was changing. We had more free time. What was our entertainment? The world was getting smaller. Let's go see a mummy."

The big question now is simple: What's next for Gretchen?
 
"Now that I know she's not real, I can throw her back on eBay, right?" Lester asked, laughing.

Lester won't actually put the mummy back on eBay. Sending those images and nails, along with everything that made up Gretchen to the Smithsonian, might be a route Lester takes. That way, officials there will be able to figure out when the mummy was made. Beckett and Conlogue think Gretchen may date back to the 1830s or 1840s and have found evidence she may have even been to a mummy unwrapping party in Great Britain.