Art: Nigel Lowrey
The city of Birmingham is famous throughout the world for its rich industrial heritage, its vast canal network and its large population of supernatural creatures. The following is a brief overview of some of its more popular and enduring myths:
The Wump-Tay (pronounced ‘wump-tay’) is a large, ectoplasmic spirit-form with shapeshifting powers that enable it to take the form of any object it desires, so long as it’s a noun. It can grow to the size of a double-decker bus and usually assumes the style, shape and mannerisms of a double-decker bus.
A notoriously mischievous spirit, the Wump-Tay will often lie in wait at bus stops preying on rush-hour commuters and other gullible types. Typically, a would-be passenger will glimpse the diabolical double-decker parked some distance ahead and make a frantic dash for it. The creature will watch the hapless victim approach, and – at the very last moment – slam its doors shut in the poor schmuck’s face and drive off at great speed, often without signalling.
A similar tactic occurs late at night. Shrouded in mist, the Wump-Tay will slowly and seductively approach a desperate-looking soul waiting for the last bus home. As the victim clumsily fumbles for the right change, the mist will clear – revealing an ominous text scrawled on the Wump-Tay’s destination blind: “Sorry – Not in Service”.
For a number of years the Wump-Tay was absent from Birmingham’s streets after the local council sold it for an undisclosed fee to the Toho Film Company of Japan. It went on to star in several popular “monster movies” of the period including Godzilla vs. Wumpt-Tay the Ghost Bus (1973) and Destroy All Buses! (1974). The Wump-Tay eventually returned to the West Midlands after being fired from the set of 1977s Mecha-Bus vs. Omni-Bus ’77 (1977) for allegedly “slamming its doors shut in the face of a studio head”.
The origin of the Wump-Tay remains a mystery. One popular legend claims it was the vengeful ghost of a classic 1965 Daimler Fleetline double-decker whose life was, quite literally, cut short following a surprise altercation with a low-bridge.
People from Birmingham often call themselves “Brummies”, a word etymologists claim can be traced back to the ancient Midlands art of preserving dead bodies known as “Brummification”. The origin of the word “etymologist,” however, still remains shrouded in mystery.
The original Brummies were dead local aristocrats whose bodies were painstakingly preserved using bandages, motor oil and a secret recipe containing 11 herbs and spices. This, of course, was something only the super-rich could afford due to their innate ability to keep up with monthly repayments over several thousand years.
The practice was introduced to Birmingham by Ancient Egyptian undertakers at a time when the city still had strong commercial links with the Ptolemaic dynasty. Writing in the 1st century AD, the Roman historian Tacitus described a large British settlement “some CXII miles north of Londinium, so long as you leave the M XLII at Junction VIII.” He scornfully referred to it as “The Pyramidlands”, although reluctantly acknowledged that the area “had more camels than Venice.”
Birmingham’s links with ancient Egypt remain visible to this day. Many public spaces still feature ornate statues of sphinxes, obelisks and dog-headed industrialists. The area now known as the Balti Triangle, for instance, once had a third dimension and formed a massive pyramid. In Victorian times, the construction of the city’s famous canal network was only made possible thanks to a generous donation of water by the River Nile.
It was during the Victorian era that ancient Brummie remains first became a regular feature at local museums. Unfortunately, many of these exhibition pieces were accidentally brought back to life by clumsy trainee curators out to impress their bosses. These bandage-wrapped fat-cats would inevitably embark on a violent campaign of destruction, often fuelled by rage, sour grapes and a frustrated sense of entitlement. “I’m no snob, but these days just about anyone can call themselves a Brummie,” said one embittered 19th century Tutan-ka-Hooligan who preferred to remain bandaged.
Its worth remembering, of course, that the 1867 Municipal Titles Act famously abolished the archaic property restrictions that prevented ordinary Birmingham folk from calling themselves ‘Brummies’. Sadly – due to the institutionalised misogyny of the patriarchal ruling elite – the legislation forgot to include women. This situation was only partially alleviated by the 1918 partial repeal of the Institutionalised Misogyny Act.
A detailed account of a more contemporary resurrection rampage appears in Sarcopha Guy (Rameses House, 2004), the autobiography of revived Brummie bad-boy Ozzy Mandias. Unfortunately, the book has yet to be translated from its original hieroglyphics.