Lewis had acquired his mummy at a 1992 museum-closing auction in Warren, N.H. In July he told a Boston reporter about his elderly houseguest, and before you could say Nefertiti, the U.S. Customs Service, concerned that the mummy might have been illegally spirited out of Egypt, slapped an order on Lewis forbidding him to move it without the government's knowledge. Last month, Customs signed off on the mummy but not before arousing the interest of the Egyptian government, which may send in an antiquities expert to determine whether it might have a claim.
Meanwhile, Lewis says he has received six offers (one involving two rebuilt Harley-Davidsons from the Museum of Death in San Diego) for the mummy, which was brought to America in the 1920s by shoe manufacturer Ira Morse, who displayed it in his family-run museum—along with big-game trophies, World War I uniforms, semiprecious stones and dozens of pairs of shoes. Further information on the mummy, including the gender (Lewis thinks it's female), awaits the arrival, possibly in the next few weeks, of the antiquities expert.
Lewis, 50, a bachelor who lives in nearby Boothbay Harbor with his cat Boots, scoffs at people who accuse him of disrespect for the mummy, which lies in a wood-and-glass case beneath a donation jar for an animal shelter. What's more, it fits in nicely with the coffins and embalming fluid he acquired a year ago when a Belfast, Maine, funeral home went out of business.
Besides, says the reclusive shop owner, "she's the first woman I have met who could stand me for more than two years."
IF YOU'VE GOT A MUMMY, KEEP MUM. That's the lesson Terry Lewis, proprietor of Nonesuch House Antiques in Wiscasset, Maine, learned this summer.