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The Mummy’s “Book of The Dead” prop

We recently had a question from a reader about this prop. “Connie” wrote in wanting to know how to replicate the mechanism that, in the movie, is used to unlock The Book’s cover. Never having seen The Mummy, I went into research mode and enqueued it from Netflix. Then I watched it. Big mistake.

But, you know, to each his or her own. And “The Book of the Dead,” with its ornate clasps and intricate star-shaped key, is admittedly an awesome prop. The scene Connie is referring to, I believe, occurs at almost exactly one hour into the “Deluxe Edition” cut of the film, and shows the intrepid but remarkably foolish archeologists inserting the aforementioned star-shaped key into a correspondingly star-shaped opening in the book’s cover, turning it, and thereby releasing the spring-loaded cover clasps and, with them, all manner of unpleasant whatnot.

So I started Googling around, looking for dweebs enthusiasts that might have already built such a thing. And while I did not find any working mechanical replicas of the prop, I did discover the remarkably beautiful static replica shown in the photo at the top of this post by Jeff Stelter of Stelter Creative Woodworks.

I also found this video by YouTuber oneandonlyJadedMonk showing his working mechanical replica of the star-shaped key used to open the book. Connie, if you’re looking for a real expert, I think this might be the man to talk to.

But as for completely working cover locks, I’m afraid I have to admit defeat. Having watched the scene a few times, I’m completely confident that a suitable lockwork could be designed and built, but actually doing either is well above my pay grade. But something I’ve learned writing for this blog is what an incredible resource the MAKE readership can be, and so I’m going to throw the question out to them.

How ’bout it, folks? Anybody know how this thing works? Or know of somebody’s who has built one? Or, even better, know anything about the original prop?

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan