World’s Strangest

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The Quick 10: Nine Victims of King Tut’s Curse (and one who should have been)

If you have any connections to Egyptology or mummies at all (work in a museum? Have an archaeologist ancestor?), be careful on Sunday. Sunday is the anniversary of the day King Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened, unleashing a powerful curse upon all who dared disturb his eternal slumber.

I mean, if you believe in stuff like that. Here are nine people who might make you believe, and one who should have been a direct recipient of Tut’s wrath but got off with nary a scratch. Now, like any good urban legend, the tale of Tut’s curse has expanded to epic proportions over the years. Some of these are probably exaggerated versions of what really happened… but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

tut1. Lord Carnarvon, the man who financed the excavation of King Tut’s tomb, was the first to succumb to the supposed curse. He accidentally tore a mosquito bite open while shaving and ended up dying of blood poisoning shortly thereafter. This occurred a few months after the tomb was opened and a mere six weeks after the press started reporting on the “Mummy’s Curse” that was thought to afflict anyone associated with disturbing the mummy. Legend has it that when he died, all of the lights in the house mysteriously went out.
2. Howard Carter, who discovered the existence of the tomb, gave a paperweight to a friend, Sir Bruce Ingham, as a gift. The paperweight, appropriately (or inappropriately, I suppose) consisted of a mummified hand wearing a bracelet that was supposedly inscribed with “Cursed be he who moves my body.” I’m sure “and severs my hand to use it as a trinket” was implied. Ingham house burned to the ground not long after receiving the gift, and when he tried to rebuilt, it was hit with a flood.

3. George Jay Gould was a wealthy financier who visited the tomb of Tutankhamen… and fell sick almost immediately afterward. He never really recovered and died of a high fever a few months later.

4. It’s said that Lord Carnarvon’s brother, Audrey Herbert, suffered from King Tut’s curse merely by being related to the financier. Herbert, having had no such problems before, became totally blind. It was mistakenly believed that his rotten, infected teeth were somehow interfering with his vision, and had every single tooth pulled from his head in an effort to regain his sight. Needless to say, it didn’t work. He did, however, die of blood poisoning as a result of the surgery, just five months after the death of his cursed brother.

tomb5. Hugh Evelyn-White was so terrified of the curse that he killed himself before Tutankhamen could. Supposedly – I’ll tell you that I couldn’t find a super credible source to back this one up, so it’s possible that the story of his death has been embellished over the years. Evelyn-White was an archaeologist who helped during excavation. After seeing death sweep over his fellow crew members in 1923, Evelyn-White wrote “I have succumbed to a curse which forces me to disappear,” and hanged himself. One account says he wrote this in his own blood, but take it with a grain of salt.

6. American Egyptologist Aaron Ember was friends with many of the people who were present when the tomb was opened, including Lord Carnarvon. Ember died in 1926, when his house burned down – he could have exited safely, but was trying to save a book he had been working on: The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Spooky.

7. Richard Bethell, who was Howard Carter’s secretary and the first person behind Carter to enter the tomb, died in 1929. Seven years later seems like a stretch to include in the curse, but given that he apparently died of respiratory failure at the young age of 35 does make you wonder…

8. Proving that you didn’t have to be one of the excavators or financers to fall victim to the curse, Archibald Douglas Reed merely X-rayed Tut before he ended up in the Museum of Cairo. He got sick the next day and was dead three days later.

9. Another famous Egyptologist, James Henry Breasted, was working with Carter when the tomb was opened. Shortly thereafter, he allegedly returned home to find that his pet canary had been eaten by a cobra… and the cobra was still occupying the cage. Since the cobra is a symbol of the Egyptian monarchy – one that kings wore on their heads to represent protection – this was a pretty ominous sign. Breasted himself didn’t die until 1935, although it was immediately following a trip to Egypt.

carter10. Howard Carter himself? Perfectly fine. Never had a mysterious, inexplicable illness and his house never fell victim to any natural disasters. He died of cancer at the age of 64. If you ask me, I have a theory about this. Howard Carter loved archaeology and Egypt and would have been deeply respectful of his subjects. His tombstone even says, “May your spirit live, May you spend millions of years, You who love Thebes, Sitting with your face to the north wind, Your eyes beholding happiness.” So, if the curse is indeed true, I hypothesize that those who died did or said something to insult the memory of the mummy.

What do you think – is the curse something to be feared, or would you totally dismiss it if you had the opportunity to check out the tomb? Share your opinions in the comments. And have a good weekend!

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