An advance reader wrote to ask about the historical notes in the second book of the series The Titanic Mummy Mystery – and I had to admit that as I delved into the events while writing, I was led further down the proverbial rabbit hole until the book had expanded to 113,000 words that took an age to edit down. Everyone knows the story of the sinking of the world’s biggest ever ocean liner, on her maiden voyage, in the middle of the night in April 1912. Some are aware of the alternative (I resist the words ‘conspiracy theory’ these days) reasons put forth around the disaster, usually the question of whether sister ship Olympic was substituted for the sake of the insurance money. Not many are aware of the truly strange events that occurred before, during and after the ship went down in icy waters.
Within the book, the Gilded Age millionaire JJ Astor IV did indeed bring his teenage new bride up the Nile to his personal dig at tel-Amarna, where the Nefertiti bust was ‘discovered’ at the end of 1912. Margaret (The Unsinkable Molly) Brown was along on the honeymoon, as was Guggenheim with his French showgirl mistress. It was extremely odd that JP Morgan was also cruising up the Nile at the same time, to his own dig and the house he’d built at Luxor. Strange coincidence, especially as Astor (along with editor W.T.Stead) was in fact a staunch opponent of Morgan’s plan (the Aldrich Plan via the Jekyll Island secret meeting) to create a ‘Federal Reserve’ private banking system, that would allow him to control and create the money supply. From these events, the occult practices and genuine fascination with Egyptology in the Edwardian period became a foundation of the story.
Once aboard the Titanic, as Ruby’s investigations uncover, there was a fire in the coal bunker that was never extinguished, the officers were switched around at the last moment and the firemen did all walk off the boat at Southampton, aside from 23-year-old Fireman John Coffey who deserted the ship shortly after, at its final port of Queenstown by hiding under the mail sacks. Why? The question has never been satisfactorily answered.
There were a number of peculiar moments once the iceberg was hit – assuming there was an iceberg. I say that because the entire concept of Captain Smith being pressured to make fast time is nonsensical seeing as the reporters were all lined up for her planned arrival. She wouldn’t want to arrive to zero fanfare on her first docking at New York. There was also some discussion around the evidence that the hole in the hull was ripped by a bomb, not a berg. Then there’s the ‘mystery ship’ that numerous survivors saw on the horizon and believed was coming to help, but sat there rather ominously and then sailed away. Other oddities noted in the book were all taken from real life – the red flares for emergency calls weren’t loaded onboard, and aside from there being too few lifeboats, Second Officer Lightoller did push Astor away from an empty boat. There was also a report that John Jacob Astor was seen in a lifeboat, his body was later picked up close to one, and no ship’s funnel ever broke off so the question remains, how did the richest man in the world get coshed in the back of the head?
Astor was a man immersed in the occult and spiritual, he funded Tesla and others in highly technological inventions. Outer space and other dimensions interested him sufficiently that he wrote his own novel A Journey in Other Worlds, where he was already describing air travel, solar power and spaceships. One of his inventors devised a plan for an airship that would travel at 500-miles an hour but when they presented the idea to the military, were told it was of no interest. (The inventor also died soon after in somewhat unusual circumstances). Astor’s obsession with Egyptology leads one to imagine he could have been looking for some occult secrets, not only exhibits for the Metropolitan Museum. His only daughter, Ava Alice, did believe herself to be the reincarnation of an Egyptian high priestess and was the first to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb when it was discovered.
The Unlucky Mummy was a real sinister thrill put about in the newspapers at the time. Questions abounded about whether it had been loaded on Titanic by W.T. Stead who was a great spiritualist, and also wrote a novel predicting the demise of a steamship via striking an iceberg. The British Museum had to confirm they still had the demonic thing in the basement. Margaret Brown did indeed gift her precious lucky ushabti figurine (used in Egyptian funeral rites) to the captain of the Carpathia and he kept it for the rest of his life.The section featuring the spirit medium Etta Wriedt is taken from true events, she was due to return to London with Stead to conduct a seance with Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.
After the tragedy, there was a whole heap of confusion and yes, there was a scandal around insider trading that went all the way to the top: Lord Pirrie who led the inquiry, as well as Lloyd George. As usual, tons of bigwigs made a killing on the misfortune of others. The list of millionaires who didn’t show up for the sailing and the last-minute cancellations was topped by JP Morgan, the owner of Titanic although this was buried under layers of holding companies, and included a great many other millionaire associates of the banker.
So there was plenty for Ruby to chew on in her investigation of the Titanic conspiracy sinking and how it connected to the millionaire’s fascination for Egyptian occult rituals and antiquities. If anyone has uncovered other mysterious facts of interest do drop me a line – I’d love to hear them.