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Optical Illusion: Why This Mummy Appears To Be Opening and Closing Her Eyes

spooky mummified girl in Sicily
spooky mummified girl in Sicily

A spooky mummy in Sicily has been the subject of speculation for many years. In time lapse videos and photos recorded, the girl, Rosalia Lombardo, is seen to be opening and closing her eyes. Rosalia died in 1920 of pneumonia and during the day, her intact blue eyes can be seen when she moves her eyelids. Italian researchers however, have a perfect explanation for this.

spooky mummified girl in Sicily
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Rosalia is among the best preserved mummies, among some 8,000 more lining the catacombs, that are beneath the Capuchin Convent, Palermo, Sicily. She is nicknamed “sleeping beauty” and looks just like a 2 year old baby napping. Her beauty face framed by curly hair, pokes above a blanket and she has a ribbon tied round her head. Rosalia’s eyes however do not open or shut at all.

“It’s an optical illusion produced by the light that filters through the side windows, which during the day is subject to change,” Dario Piombino-Mascali, curator of the Capuchin Catacombs said.

The mummy was slightly moved and shifted horizontally in a humidity free glass coffin. This new position is what makes it easy for one to see her eyelids. “They are not completely closed, and indeed they have never been,” Piombino-Mascali said.Piombino-Mascali unearthed Rosalia’s preservation secret in 2009. Most of the mummies were treated by monks at the catacombs and desiccated by the environment but Rosalia was artificially mummified.

spooky mummified girl in Sicily
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Rosalia’s father was heartbroken by her death and wanted her body preserved for eternity. He enlisted the help of Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer Alfredo Salafia, who died in 1933. He however, did not reveal the chemicals he used to preserve Rosalia. 

Piombino-Mascali found salafia’s handwritten manuscript containing the ingredients he used in 2009. The formula read: “one part glycerin, one part formalin saturated with both zinc sulfate and chloride, and one part of an alcohol solution saturated with salicylic acid.”
It was a simple procedure that involved a single point injection with no cavity treatment or drainage. The concoction worked perfectly; the formalin killed the bacteria, the glycerin prevented her body from over drying, the salicylic acid killed the fungi and the Zinc salts petrified her body.

Rosalia’s body will be preserved for many years due to the new glass case. “It was designed to block any bacteria or fungi. Thanks to a special film, it also protects the body from the effects of light,” Piombino-Mascali said.

He hopes that tourists will stop making up the “totally unfounded stories” and taking pictures of the child mummy.


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