Monday, November 1, 2010


What A Home For A Halloween Party

On the morning after, I suppose that everyone from Moses Znaimer to that mummy expert boasted about being at Billy Jamieson's Halloween party.
In fact, within hours, I was reading a Maritime doctor/traveller on the Internet who was preening about having made the list.
So Mary and I can be forgiven for saying for the second year that if you want to celebrate the feast of ghosts, zombies and vampires, there's no better place than in a large lovely loft surrounded by real shrunken heads, war clubs, death masks, Egyptian mummies and the freak stuff that Jamieson acquired when he bought the Niagara Falls museum, founded in 1827 as the first museum in Canada.
(There may even be a real ghost hanging around the fish tank fitted in the back of an old hearse. As an old ghost chaser, I have volunteered to sit all night watching the fish, drinking, and waiting for he/she/it to appear. What if it is a pharaoh wanting to tell me where he was buried, along with ancient riches, beneath the desert along the Nile!)
There are thousands of Canadians, including me, who remember as kids surveying the wonders, from two-headed calves to Midway relics, in the old Falls museum. You can get a taste of Jamieson and his museums, old and new, by reading blogs I wrote ( which detail how Jamieson owned the mummy of a famous pharaoh, Ramesses I, and sold him for $2 million at the start of his repatriation to Egypt.
That money helped build his intriguing collection that ranges from Polynesia to South America.
I wrote a blog on Feb. 1, 2009, titled Come Smell My Shrunken Head. (Just Google that headline.) The occasion was a police expert fingerprinting one of Jamieson's mummies ( it worked.) Then there was last year's party I wrote about on Nov. 2, 2009: Shrunken Heads And Great Explorations.
That reference to exploring is based on the fact that if you come early, you are part of the presentation of the Stefansson Medal (the famous Arctic explorer was born in Manitoba) to Canadians who have distinguished themselves in the remote corners of the world. It's the annual meeting of the Ontario-Nunavut Chapter of The Explorers Club of New York, the legendary club founded in 1904.
It can boast its members were first to both poles, first to the top of Mount Everest, first to the bottom of the deepest ocean, and first to the surface of the moon. Wow!
The members love to explore and love to boast about the records of their stars. Who wouldn't.
Jamieson's exploits with the great pharaoh were detailed in a PBS show on Nova called The Mummy Who Would Be King. Currently he is worked on a series for History TV which meant he didn't want us photographing his fabulous collection which will play an important role in the programs.
That's one of the reasons that the picture to the left is an earlier circumspect one of Jamieson, who dresses appropriately at Halloween as midway barker, and not one of my pictures that show his collection in marvelous colours. He's part barker, part entrepreneur, part ethnologist and part antique tribal art collector.
The party that he presides over with his lady, Jessica Phillips, is an affair where people don't talk about Jamaica beaches and package tours but about months in Antarctica or skiing alone to the South Pole.
In fact, a Canadian major who did just that, after falling in a crevice on the second day and having to be rescued, received the club's Steffanson medal.
Mary and I were chatting at the buffet with a young couple. We wondered what they did. Oh, George Kourounis said, I chase storms, And he presented his card showing that his company called Furious Earth specializes in weather and disaster videography/photography.
I guess George never says it was just an ordinary day at the office.
I wondered on the drive home what happened to my boyhood dreams of climbing mountains and sailing to remote islands. Oh, I did climb a big mountain once, in the Yukon, and at the peak found garbage left by American military pilots who landed helicopters there on dates. I have been to 70 countries and visited remote spots like Easter Island. In January, I will be fishing for peacock bass more than a thousand kilometres up the Amazon. I enjoyed it all, but it doesn't match my aspirations as a boy. And the party that I had just left was filled with men and women who didn't just read National Geographic.

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