The idea of a mummy that can blink sounds like something in a movie that you would see right before the power cuts, and you hear a scream coming from the living room.
But in this case, it is the real-life story of a mummy of Rosalia Lombardo that died from pneumonia back in 1920 due to the Spanish flu. Her father was devastated and heartbroken. He approached a noted embalmer, Alfred Salafia, and asked him to preserve Rosalia’s body as best as possible.
Alfredo Salafia, a skillful embalmer, and taxidermist performed such an excellent operation on Rosalia that nearly a hundred years after her death, the little girl appears to be merely dozing beneath the glass case in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy, where she rests.
He did such an amazing job that even her internal organs are still intact and visible under x-rays.
Having been dubbed the nickname “sleeping beauty”, Rosalia Lombardo is one of the world’s best-preserved mummies.
Even though she is perfectly preserved, this is not why people flock across the world to visit her. Visitors actually come to see her as they believe the little girl actually blinks her eyes. They say that Rosalia Lombardo opens and closes her eyes by a few cm throughout the day, making her blue eyes that are still intact glisten in the low lights inside the catacombs.
There are a few different theories as to why her eyelids ‘blinking’ could be possible.
Some believe that it could be due to a change in temperature inside the crypt that causes her eyelids to contract, producing the blinking effect. Others believe it could possibly be an optical illusion caused by the light from the window at different times during the day. As the day progresses and the direction of the light changes, Rosalia appears to open and close her eyes several times throughout the day
Unlike the typical embalming processes that would have been used, where the internal organs are removed and the empty cavities filled with natron salts to completely desiccate the body, Salafia made a small puncture in the body and injected a mixture of formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. Each ingredient in the concoction performed a unique job. The formalin killed all the bacteria, the glycerin ensured that her body didn’t desiccate, and the salicylic acid wiped out any fungi in the flesh. The magic ingredient was the zinc salts that petrified Rosalia’s body giving it rigidity and preventing her cheeks and nasal cavities from caving in. This could be the potential key to why the blinking effect could be happening.
The “sleeping beauty” is one of eight thousand mummies in the Capuchin Catacombs of Sicily. Rosalia was one of the last corpses to be admitted to the catacombs and is now one of the most well-known.
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