4/5/1923 - A story better played out on a rainy, lightning filled, windy night full of dread, rather than a fine Spring day, at the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo, Egypt, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (a man who provides funding used to locate old Egyptian burial sites), dies at the age of 56 from a mosquito bite infected with erysipelas (an acute skin infection associated with high fevers, shaking, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and chills) that is then acerbated by his cutting the bite while shaving ... setting off rumors (it is said that at the exact moment that he dies, the lights of Cairo flicker, and in distant England, his dog howls once and then drops over dead) that he is the first victim of a "Mummy's Curse" for participating in the opening of the tomb of the ancient boy-king (only nineteen when he begins his tomb stay), Tutankhamen (and adding more weight to the story, the bite is said to be in the same spot as a lesion discovered on the mummified face of the dead pharaoh).
Tombs actually being cursed extremely rare (and of dubious potency), the first account of a "mummy curse" is reported by Louis Penicher in 1699 when he relates the story of a Polish traveler bringing two mummies back to his country from Egypt, and suffering horrible nightmares for it, until he pitches his prizes into the sea. Dam opened, a variety of authors over the years begin crafting lurid tales of pharaoh curses and mummies arising from the dead ... and the public eats them up. Planting seeds for what is to come, the curse of King Tut's Tomb comes to life by way of famed Egyptologist James Henry Breasted claiming to see a canary in the home of archaeologist Howard Carter eaten in its cage by a cobra (the symbol of Egyptian royalty), and to keep intruders away from the digs, Carter himself plants stories with the press about the site of his dig being cursed. Pump primed, when fabulous artifacts are found in the tomb, and then Lord Carnarvon dies, the story of a curse goes viral around the world ... and still exists to this day (one of the people that buys into the story is famed writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, he of Sherlock Holmes fame, who postulates that Egyptian priests might have created "elementals" to guard the graves of the country's royal rulers). But does the tale have any merit whatsoever?
Sealed Door Into Tomb - Cursed?
Carter Opening Door
Layout Of The Tomb
Though studies are run that show the death rate for the group of individuals that enter King Tut's tomb is no different from that of the general public in various countries ... and Carter living 16 years after he makes his discovery of the boy king's treasure appears to be proof enough to negate the stories of ancient curses (along with the fact that the last survivor present for the tomb and sarcophagus being opened, American archaeologist J. O. Kinnamon lives to be 84, dying in 1961), there are enough participant deaths involved that a supernatural explanation never quite goes away.
Fifty-eight individuals present, only eleven die within a dozen years of the big reveal. Here is a list of the individuals that some believed are struck down by the curse (beyond Lord Carnarvon):
*Denver and Rio Grande executive, George Jay Gould I, contracts a fever after visiting the tomb, and dies of pneumonia on the French Riviera in the summer of 1923.
*Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey of Egypt is shot to death by his wife in the summer of 1923.
*Hugh Evelyn-White, an archaeologist who helps with the excavation of the tomb, hangs himself in 1923, leaving behind a note stating, "I have succumbed to a curse which forces me to disappear."
*Colonel Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert, Lord Carnarvon's half-brother, dies of blood poisoning in September of 1923 ... after a failed dental procedure.
*American Egyptologist Aaron Ember dies in a house fire ... trying to save a book he has been working on translating ... The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
*Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, the radiologist that x-rays King Tut's mummy, dies from a mysterious illness in January of 1924.
*Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of the Sudan, is assassinated driving through Cairo in 1924.
*A. C. Mace, a member of Carter's excavation team, dies in 1928 from arsenic poisoning.
*The Honorable Mervyn Herbert, another Carnarvon half-brother, dies in 1929 from "malarial pneumonia."
*Captain, The Honorable Richard Bethell, Carter's personal secretary, dies in bed at the Mayfair Club in 1929 in a suspected, but never proven, smothering murder.
*Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethell, 3rd Baron of Westbury, father of the smothered captain, throws himself out of seven-floor apartment in 1930 (leaving behind a suicide note mentioning not being able to stand "more horrors").
And also included in the curse, is Sir Bruce Ingham, a dear friend of Carter's who receives a mummified paper-weight hand bearing a scarab bracelet that reads, "Cursed be he who moves the body. To him shall come fire, water and pestilence." Ingham's house burns down twice after receiving the ancient gift (and is hit by a flood too during one of the rebuildings).
Fake News Is Not Something New!
Too much for Universal Pictures to resist as they look for a new franchise monster to join Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, using bits of myth and King Tut tales, in 1932, they star Boris Karloff in another profitable horror movie, The Mummy (a money maker still, there will be a series of Universal mummy movies through the 1930s and 1940s, Hammer Films will make a number of mummy movies during in 1950s and 1960s, Universal will reboot the monster films in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and redo the redo with a Tom Cruise mummy vehicle in the summer of 2017) ... that begins with an ancient curse being ignored that resurrects Karloff's character, the mummy Imhotep. And so the legend of the ancient Egyptian's death curse lives on. Mumbo-jumbo almost certainly, but just in case ... I will be accepting no tanna leaves, mummified hands, or scarabs ... now, or anytime in the future!
4/5/1922 ... a mosquito bite and a bad razor blade cause a good portion of the world to go bonkers!