In the annals of legendary curses, one stands above the rest, shrouded in an eerie mystery – the infamous “Curse of the Pharaoh,” alternatively known as King Tut’s Curse. 

Since the moment King Tutankhamun’s crypt was unearthed in the secluded Valley of the Kings of Egypt, ominous whispers began to circulate. 

They told of a dreadful curse awaiting those who dared to disrupt the sacred tranquility of the young Pharaoh’s last abode.

The date was November 4, 1922, when the diligent team of researchers, under the command of British archaeologist Howard Carter, stumbled upon a single step. 

This marked the threshold to the long-lost burial site of King Tutankhamun. Subsequently, the king’s tomb was exposed to daylight on November 26, 1922. 

After more than three millennia of undisturbed silence, it was posited that the once-revered pharaoh had unleashed a curse, a formidable malediction bringing death and havoc to those insolent enough to disrupt his everlasting rest.

Much like a spectral tale whispered in hushed tones or an extraordinary media frenzy, the conjecture surrounding the so-called “curse of the pharaohs” swelled to monumental proportions over the decades.

The curse may not have taken the form of a wrathful, homicidal mummy, but the accounts hinting at a series of strange deaths amongst those involved in the tomb’s discovery are indeed chilling. 

Many have claimed that those associated with the tomb’s opening swiftly fell prey to the malevolent curse, their lives snuffed out under peculiar circumstances. 

This chilling tale gained momentum because, undeniably, several individuals linked to the discovery of the crypt met their untimely end shortly after the tomb was unveiled.

Did the Curse Claim Financier Herbert’s Life?

The death that stands out the most in relation to the curse is likely that of George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. 

This British nobleman and hobbyist Egyptologist was the financier behind the excavation. His demise on March 25, 1923, roughly a year following the unveiling of the tomb, is generally deemed enigmatic. 

However, his health was already in decline prior to his arrival in Cairo, and his passing, quite simply, resulted from an ordinary mosquito-borne ailment. 

The concept of the curse found an ardent proponent in none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who also penned a book advocating the existence of fairies.

Scores of individuals were linked, directly or indirectly, to the opening of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, from security personnel to archaeologists. Among such a crowd, some unforeseen demises would naturally occur due to sheer probability. 

As the investigator James Randi noted in his book “An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural,” “the average duration of life for … those who should have suffered the ancient curse was more than twenty-three years after the ‘curse’ was supposed to become effective. 

Carnarvon’s daughter died in 1980, a full fifty-seven years later. Howard Carter, who not only discovered the tomb and physically opened it, but also removed the mummy of Tutankhamun from the sarcophagus, lived until 1939, sixteen years after that event.”

Carter not only survived to the respectable age of 64, succumbing eventually to cancer, but also Sgt. Richard Adamson, a part of Carter’s team and the sentry who stood guard at the burial chamber continuously for seven years, being the closest European to the remains of Tutankhamun, lived for another 60 years until his death in 1982. 

His longevity is not unique; as Randi pointed out, “This group died at an average age of seventy-three plus years, beating the actuarial tables for persons of that period and social class by about a year. The Curse of the Pharaoh is a beneficial curse, it seems.”

Why a curse?

From whence did this malevolent curse originate? As per Randi’s explanation, “When Tut’s tomb was uncovered and its seal broken in 1922, the event rocked the archaeological world. 

In a bid to deter the relentless press, while still allowing them an element of the sensational, the excavation’s overseer, Howard Carter, propagated a tale of a curse placed upon any who disturbed the eternal rest of the boy-king.” 

While Carter was not the originator of the notion of a hexed tomb, he did skillfully exploit the idea to ward off interlopers from his groundbreaking discovery.

In truth, all royal crypts — not merely Tutankhamun’s — were reputed to be laden with an identical “curse”, yet none had resulted in any nefarious consequences upon their unsealing. 

Carter was not unique in his endeavor to dissuade potential tomb raiders with the specter of supernatural retribution. In fact, a renowned writer had proffered a very similar curse:

“Good frend, for Iesus sake forebeare To digge the dust encloased heare. Bleste be ye man [that] spares these stones, And curste be he [that] moves my bones.”

“Blessed be the man that spares these stones, and cursed be he that moves my bones.” 

This epitaph, penned in 1616, belongs to none other than William Shakespeare. Far from employing theatricality for its own sake, the world-renowned playwright used these words as a deterrent against a distasteful prospect that his fame and fortune could not stave off: the potential violation of his grave by tomb raiders. 

These “anatomists” sought the Bard’s remains not out of ill-will or vindictiveness, but for scientific purposes — to trade his body to physicians for medical education in schools.

Shakespeare was far from being the only individual in his era troubled by the prospect of posthumous theft; grave plundering was indeed a widespread occurrence during his lifetime and even prior to it. 

Regardless of whether Howard Carter, King Tut, or William Shakespeare held genuine faith in the efficacy of curses, the essential factor was the belief instilled in those who might dare to disturb their final resting places. 

And their ploy was successful: even a hundred years after the opening of Tut’s tomb, many individuals continue to believe in the curse.

List of Nine Major Deaths Attributed to King Tut’s Curse

1. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon

The man responsible for funding the unearthing of King Tut’s tomb was the initial victim of the alleged curse. 

Lord Carnarvon, in an unfortunate incident, inflicted an inadvertent wound upon a mosquito bite whilst shaving, leading to a swift onset of septicemia. 

This incident transpired mere months after the tomb had been laid bare and just six weeks following the emergence of press reports detailing the “mummy’s curse,” believed to befall anyone who dared disrupt the mummy’s eternal rest. 

As the folklore goes, at the moment of Lord Carnarvon’s death, all the lights in his residence—or by some accounts, all the lights in the entire city of Cairo—suddenly and inexplicably extinguished.

2. Sir Bruce Ingham

Howard Carter, the intrepid archaeologist who uncovered the crypt, once presented a curious gift to his confidant, Bruce Ingham. T

his gift, a paperweight, was fittingly — or perhaps quite ominously — composed of a mummified hand adorned with a bracelet. 

It was believed that this bracelet bore an inscription that warned, “cursed be he who moves my body.” 

While Ingham was spared the wrath of the alleged mummy’s curse, his residence was not so fortunate. 

Shortly after the gift was in his possession, his abode was razed by an inferno. When he sought to rebuild from the ashes, his efforts were thwarted by an unexpected flood.

3. George Jay Gould

George Jay Gould, a prosperous American magnate with extensive interests in railroads, paid a visit to the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1923. 

His health took an ominous turn shortly thereafter, entering a state of decline from which he never truly rebounded. A mere few months later, he succumbed to pneumonia.

4. Aubrey Herbert

Legend suggests that Lord Carnarvon’s half-sibling was not spared from the curse of King Tut, his connection to the amateur Egyptologist supposedly marking him for misfortune. 

Aubrey Herbert was born with a progressive ocular ailment that eventually led to complete blindness later in his life.

In a peculiar medical theory, a doctor posited that his decayed, infected teeth were mysteriously obstructing his vision. 

In a desperate bid to regain his sight, Herbert undertook the drastic measure of having every single tooth extracted from his mouth. 

However, his efforts proved futile. He did, regrettably, succumb to sepsis, a consequence of the invasive dental procedure, a mere five months subsequent to the demise of his brother, who was supposedly victim to the same curse.

5. Hugh Evelyn-White

Hugh Evelyn-White, a British archaeologist who had graced King Tut’s tomb and potentially assisted in its excavation, witnessed a grim spectacle unfold by 1924. 

After observing the specter of death claim nearly two dozen of his fellow excavators, Evelyn-White took his own life. 

However, prior to his demise, he left behind a chilling message, purportedly penned in his own blood, “I have succumbed to a curse which forces me to disappear.”

6. Aaron Ember

Aaron Ember, an American Egyptologist, maintained a friendly rapport with numerous individuals present at the unveiling of King Tut’s tomb, including the likes of Lord Carnarvon. 

Ember’s life met a tragic end in 1926 when his residence in Baltimore was engulfed in flames barely an hour after he and his wife had entertained guests at a dinner party. 

He had the opportunity to escape the inferno unscathed, but his wife implored him to salvage a manuscript he had been diligently working on while she went to retrieve their son. 

Tragically, their lives, along with their maid’s, were claimed in the catastrophic event. The title of Ember’s unfinished manuscript? The Egyptian Book of the Dead.

7. Richard Bethell

Bethell, who held the position of secretary to Lord Carnarvon and was the immediate follower of Carter in the crypt, met an untimely demise in 1929 amidst dubious circumstances. 

However, one contemporary historian has ascribed his death to the sinister deeds of the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley. Bethell was discovered asphyxiated in his quarters at a prestigious London gentlemen’s club. 

Following this occurrence, the Nottingham Evening Post speculated, “The suggestion that the Hon. Richard Bethell had come under the ‘curse’ was raised last year, when there was a series of mysterious fires at [his] home, where some of the priceless finds from Tutankhamen’s tomb were stored.” 

However, no concrete evidence establishing a link between the artifacts and Bethell’s untimely death was ever found.

8. Sir Archibald Douglas Reid

Evidently demonstrating that the victims of Tutankhamun’s curse weren’t limited to the excavators or expedition sponsors, Sir Archibald Douglas Reid, a radiologist, merely conducted an X-ray on Tut before the mummy was handed over to museum custodians. 

His health took a menacing turn the following day, and a mere three days later, he was claimed by death.

9. James Henry Breasted

James Henry Breasted, a renowned Egyptologist of that era and part of Carter’s team during the unsealing of King Tut’s tomb, reportedly returned home to a perturbing sight shortly thereafter. 

He discovered his beloved canary had fallen prey to a cobra, with the serpent still ominously occupying the birdcage. 

Given that the cobra is symbolic of the Egyptian monarchy and prominently displayed on the headdresses of kings as a guardian emblem, this event was perceived as a rather foreboding sign. 

While Breasted himself did not succumb until 1935, his death did eerily coincide with his immediate return from an Egyptian journey.

What About Howard Carter?

Carter remained untouched by any cryptic, unexplainable ailment, and his residence was never consumed by unforeseen infernos. 

He passed away at the age of 64, with lymphoma marking the end of his journey. 

His tombstone carries the message, “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.” 

Perhaps, in their inscrutable wisdom, the pharaohs deemed him worthy of exemption from their curse.

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