Mystery of mummified rodent-human ‘Rat Boy’ leaves museum experts stumped

A mysterious box containing something that looks like a rat-human hybrid shocked museum workers when they arrived at work to find it sitting unaccompanied.

The strange package greeted staff at Wayne County Historical Museum in the US city of Richmond, Indiana, when they arrived for work on Monday (May 22).

Inside was the mummy with a rat-like head, a humanoid body, and pointy teeth and claws, accompanied by a note that said said it was the “Richmond Rat Boy”, and that it was found long ago in the basement of a local hospital.

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The note also said that it once belonged to a circus worker-friend of the donor’s late grandfather.

Collections manager Kerry George said: “My co-worker brought it inside for me to open. We joked that it was probably a severed head – we all watch way too many horror movies.

“I read the note written on the box, thankful that I had at least some information about the contents, put on some nitrile gloves – because you never know – and opened it.

“It had some old newspapers as padding, dated 2019.

“Rat Boy's head was the first thing I saw and I initially thought it was a piece of terrible taxidermy. When I pulled out the rest of the newspaper, there he was in all his glory.”

Museum staff think the artefact is probably a “gaff” – a cryptid that was fabricated as a sideshow attraction, like the so-called Fiji Mermaid once exhibited by P.T. Barnum.

Another such “mermaid” was recently analysed by Japanese scientists and found to be made from cloth, paper, cotton, fish skin and animal hair.

Similarly, the museum thinks Rat Boy was probably made from plaster of Paris and clay, moulded over an armature frame, and decorated with animal claws and hair.

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It’s thought to have originated in the circuses that frequented the area from the 1910s to the 1930s.

Kerry said: “You'll see in the note the story that Rat Boy was supposedly ‘found in the basement of some hospital’.

“Who knows what kind of weird experiments were carried out on some poor patient that turned him into a rat?! This is the first gaff any of us have come across.”

But the real mystery is the identity of the donor, without which the item can’t officially enter the museum’s collection.

The package was addressed to the museum and left at its back gate, but the donor didn’t leave their name or contact details, and it wasn’t officially signed over.

Now they are asking for the donor to come forward.

Kerry said: “I think the best explanation is that someone was cleaning out grandpa's house and didn't have any use for Rat Boy, but wanted to make sure he was taken care of.

“We get artefacts donated like that all the time.

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“Normally, that happens during business hours and we have a short form for the donor to complete.

“But we can't officially accept something into our collection without that paperwork.

“We would love to find the donor, not only so we can get the paperwork signed, but to thank them.”

Until then, she said, the museum staff are doting on their new artefact.

“It was love at first sight,” said Kerry. "We are a very small staff of five who burst into fits and giggles!

“He will remain with us forever. We will preserve and take care of him the same way we take care of all our artefacts.

“He's become so popular we're planning a way to exhibit him – and one of Richmond's bespoke t-shirt businesses has already created t-shirts for us to sell to help with his care."

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