Early history of the Surnateum

It all began in the last quarter of the 19th century and continues into the present day; a world of adventure, where expeditions to far-flung lands and exotic dangers; a world where all-powerful 'reason' replaces and conceals any other view of reality.
People tend to think they can understand and explain everything. Our gods are long dead and buried forever in the sands of yesteryear, replaced by omniscient man. An anthropocentric vision of creation divides the world into 'civilised' and 'primitive', a world in which the most advanced person is called a 'gentleman'.
Legendary cities were uncovered - Troy, Tikal, Knossos, Ur of Chaldea and Machu Pichu.  Multiple discoveries were made, each one very different from the next.
Courageous explorers and reckless adventurers scoured the most mysterious corners of the globe. Some of their names were Arminius Vambéry, Henry Morton Stanley, Schliemann, David Livingstone, Aleister Crowley, Alexandra David-Neel, Jack London and Howard Carter - to name just a few. They returned from their exploits with fabulous tales capable of stirring the imagination.

For the less rash amongst them, a number of secret societies and occult groups were created in Europe: from the Golden Dawn to Astrum Argentum, from the Theosophical Society to spiritualist circles, along with the Temple of Al, the Martinists, the Rose+Croix, the Worshippers of the Sixth Wound of Christ, various Masonic groups, multitudes of esoteric sects and groups offering armchair adventurers the thrill of the forbidden and the illusion of controlling cosmic forces. At these meetings, scraps of ancient knowledge are exchanged and discussed by cranks and charlatans such as Eliphas Lévi, Sâr Péladan, Eugène Vintras, Zanne, H.P. Blavatsky and P.B. Randolph, pieces of ancient rituals are played out like works of theatre, without worrying about what could happen. The only thing that counts is wearing the gaudiest, most ridiculous outfits and adopting the most pompous titles: Archmagus Ipssissimus, Sâr, Kadosh the Knight and the Unknown Superior.
Soon, strange objects from exotic tombs, forbidden sanctuaries and forgotten monasteries began invading private collections and cabinets of curiosities across Europe. Egyptian and Peruvian mummies, statuettes of unknown gods, cursed weapons discovered in ancient Burmese temples and extremely rare books of spells fell into the hands of reckless individuals incapable of controlling the forces they contained. After all, money can buy everything, even the illusion of holding power over the world. The fragile imbalance that man had maintained with the cosmos for millennia was upset. The vertical dimension of man, the dimension binding him to the divine, was lost.

And of course, problems appeared: ancient curses caused the most unexpected disasters, unexplained fires destroyed museums and exhibitions, mysterious killers terrorised London, Paris, Düsseldorf and Brussels, inexplicable shipwrecks swallowed up the titans of the sea and skies, incomprehensible suicides made the front-page headlines. Incomplete rituals opened forbidden doors that could not be closed again. Certain obscure divinities, thirsty for human blood, were only too happy to cross the threshold and feast at the party...
Panicking collectors began to get rid of cumbersome artifacts. The most reckless amongst them destroyed them and suffered an appalling backlash; others sold their artefacts to other victims or donated them to museums, but were still not spared.

Some of these collectors turned in desperation to the 'Collector', the first in a long line of Surnateum Collectors!
As an individual who was extremely sensitive to the magical influences emanating from haunted antiques (hauntiques), he set about studying the rites used to control the powers of these objects. He delved into the most disturbing shamanist techniques, became and adept of voodoo (which he considered the richest and most 'alive' religion of his time) and, above all, developed an extraordinary empathy with the universe in which he lived.
Since this task exceeded the exceptional capacities  of this one man, he put together a team of 'sensitives', all open-minded and blessed with relatively unusual gifts. Such well known figures as Charles Fort and Jacques Bergier were at one time associated with the Surnateum and with the various Collectors.
As the decades passed, the collection became so large that it became necessary to find a permanent physical space for it, a sanctuary: a Museum of Supernatural History (the Surnateum for short).
In addition to working on the 'donations' made to the museum, the staff started tracking down haunted objects around the world. Where possible, these objects are returned to where they came from; otherwise they are kept in the sanctuary.
This amazing collection was coveted by the powerful: Heinrich Himmler, who would stop at nothing to get hold of certain occult treasures; just as Baron von Ungern-Sternberg and Nicholas II had dreamed of doing before him.
And if you doubt that magic can be used these days to enslave a people, then take a closer look at the corridors of power in the reign of Mobutu Sesse Seko, 'King of Zaire'. Or just look at what happened when the Taliban, installed in power by the Americans, destroyed two giant statues of the Buddha. Before long, the Taliban disappeared. Was that just a coincidence?
The heritage of the Surnateum is handed down from one initiate to another, from one Sensitive to another, from one Collector to the next.
It is worth noting that other strange collections and psychic museums exist or have existed in the past. Examples include the Psychic Museum founded in 1925 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Horniman museum, which contains a massive anthropology collection illustrating magic, types of worship and religions from around the world, and the Cumming museum devoted to the history of Southwark (South London), which is home to the Lovett collection focusing on London superstitions. The collection at 'La Casa de Leon' in Fredericksburg, Texas, was recently auctioned off for some $10 million, and the Ripley museums exhibit their stunning collections around the world. The Antwerp museum of ethnography sometimes hosts strange collections and the Volkskundemuseum (also in Antwerp) has a small area devoted to 'superstitions', where one can admire a superb flute played by rat charmer. And as for the Louvre and its ghosts, that's a whole other story...