Case File: The Curse of King Tutankhamun
Date: November 26, 1922
Description: The tomb of King Tut was located in the Valley of the Kings south of Cairo and filled with incredible gold and archaic relics. It was supposedly guarded by a protection curse against grave robbers upon which they should meet premature deaths.
History: In 1922, Howard Carter went on an expedition to locate and open King Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt. His financial backer was George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. He had spent thousands of dollars and was about to give up, but Carter begged him to let the expedition continue. Carnarvon met with a psychic who gave him a warning that problems would happen if he continued the dig. Despite this, they continued.
On November 26, 1922, Carter, Carnarvon, and his daughter opened the tomb. They were overjoyed to find several golden artifacts inside. Word quickly spread of the discovery. Thousands of people descended on the area surrounding the tomb. The legend goes that on the night the tomb was opened, the lights in Cairo went out. Shortly thereafter, people and animals who were associated with the opening of the tomb began dying. The first to die was Carter's pet bird, who was killed by a serpent that was a symbol of King Tut.
The first human to die was Carnarvon; during the expedition, he was bitten by a mosquito. Later, he cut the bite while shaving which caused an infection. He died from blood poisoning a few weeks after the opening of the tomb. The night Carnavon died, the dogs at his home in England began howling, then dropped dead. In 1923, another man involved in the opening of the tomb, George Jay Gould, died as a result of a fever.
Other people that died, possibly as a result of the curse, included:
- Carnarvon's half-brother Aubrey Herbert in 1923
- South African millionaire Woolf Joel
- Egyptian prince Aly Fahmy
- Fahmy's brother Hallah Bey
- British Sidar of Egypt Lee Stack in 1924
- Egyptologist H.E. Evelyn-White
- Radiologist Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid
- Howard Carter's assistant Richard Bethel
- his father Lord Westbury
- Egyptologist A.C. Mace
- Egyptologist James Breasted in 1935
- and finally, Howard Carter in March 1939
Although some believe that the deaths may just be coincidental, others believe that the deaths were a result of the mummy's curse.
Background: King Tutankhamen was a relatively minor pharaoh who ruled Egypt for ten years. Howard Carter was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist who was thirty-eight when the tomb was opened and was sixty-five when he died.
Investigations: A medical doctor investigated the case and believes that there was a scientific explanation for the deaths related to the alleged "Pharaoh's curse". It is believed several of the deaths could be linked to a mold that had been trapped in the tomb and released. He further adds that the lights in Cairo were always failing, which makes the phenomenon less incredible. The story about Carnavon's dogs is unconfirmed.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the May 10, 1996 episode.
Results: Unresolved. Skeptics insist that the curse was not real and that the deaths were merely a coincidence. A study about the deaths and the alleged curse, published by the British Medical Journal, determined: "there was no significant association between exposure to the mummy's curse and survival and thus no evidence to support the existence of a mummy's curse".
- The Curse of King Tut on Wikipedia
- King Tut on the History Channel
- King Tut Curse Exposed As Fake - December 3, 1935
- King Tut Curse Ridiculed By A Leading Egyptologist - September 2, 1937
- King Tut curse still enthralls - November 26, 1992
- The mummy's curse: historical cohort study - December 21, 2002
- Is the curse of King Tut real? - November 12, 2012
- Tutankhamun's Curse? - March 3, 2014
- The Curse of King Tut: Facts & Fable - March 21, 2014
- Digging up trouble: beware the curse of King Tutankhamun - July 23, 2014
- 9 Victims of King Tut's Curse (And One Who Should Have Been) - January 4, 2018
- King Tutankhamen: Secrets behind alleged pharaoh's curse - January 5, 2019
- King Tutankhamun: How a tomb cast a spell on the world - October 29, 2019
- King Tut's Curse at Hoaxes.org