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Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
It is no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little bit that horror movies are my favorites. Growing up, I loved watching all the old Hammer Horror flicks including Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.
As an adult, I find the true history that these stories are based on even more fascinating than the tales themselves.
King Tut, born circa 1341 B.C.E., was the son of Amenhotep IV and the 12th king of the 18th Egyptian dynasty. He reigned for approximately ten years, and died horribly from a combination of gangrene that set in from a broken leg and malaria at the young age of 18.
On November 4, 1922 after years of searching, English archaeologist Howard Carter and his team found the tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.
According to legend, a curse was inscribed on the door to Tut’s tomb that read: “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king.”
A series of unfortunate events that occurred following the discovery of the tomb led many to believe that the curse was real.
The man who paid for the expedition, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, died a few months after the discovery from an infected insect bite on his cheek. There are reports that all of the lights in the city of Cairo went out at the time of his death. Another accompanying story claims that Carnarvon’s dog at his estate in England howled and dropped dead at that time. One source I read indicated that a similar wound was found on the cheek of the mummy of King Tut when it was unwrapped in 1925.
As a huge Downton Abbey fan, I find the following bit of trivia of interest: Highclere Castle, the Carnarvon family home, is the film location for the series, although the downstairs scenes are filmed on set in London because Herbert’s Egyptian artifacts are stored there.
Another unconfirmed story indicates that Howard Carter’s pet canary, brought with him to Egypt for good luck, was devoured by a snake on the day King Tut’s tomb was found.
There were other deaths considered to be related to the curse of King Tut’s tomb, including the murder of Howard Carter’s personal secretary, Richard Bethell. Bethell’s father, 3rd Baron Westbury, committed suicide in 1930 by jumping from a building leaving a note that read, “I really cannot stand any more horrors and hardly see what good I am going to do here, so I am making my exit.”
My personal feeling is that there is not enough information to substantiate the claim that the curse is responsible for these deaths and that this is mere coincidence. But, then, many don’t believe in coincidence….
References and additional information:
Hoving, Thomas. The search for Tutankhamun: The untold story of adventure and intrigue surrounding the greatest modern archeological find. New York: Simon & Schuster, 15 October 1978
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