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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Tut, curse of King An international myth started by the press and carefully nurtured by them ever since.
      When the tomb of a minor pharaoh of Egypt, Tutankhamen (circa 1350 B.C., died age 19), was discovered and opened in 1922, it was a major archaeological event. In order to keep the press at bay and yet allow them a sensational aspect with which to deal, the head of the excavation team, Howard Carter, put out a story that a curse had been placed upon anyone who violated the rest of the boy-king. The fact that this “curse” was accepted as traditional for all royal tombs escaped the notice of the eager press.
      The man who had financed the project was Lord Carnavon (né Herbert, 1866-1923), and after he died in Cairo the following year, the curse of the Pharaoh was in full bloom. The fact that Carnavon was chronically ill, and particularly so when he arrived in Egypt from England to view the tomb, was ignored. Since the electricity in Cairo also went out that same night (it frequently failed at that period in the city's history), the curse seemed to be working very well.
      The story arose that many of those who had been connected with the tomb died violently and prematurely. The awkward facts are that the average duration of life for the twenty-two nonnative persons (those who can be traced) who might be said to have had anything to do with the tomb opening or excavation——those who should have suffered the ancient curse——was more than twenty-three years after the “curse” was supposed to become effective. Lady Evelyn Herbert, Carnavon'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 Tutankhamen from the sarcophagus, lived until 1939, sixteen years after that event, and British soldier Richard Adamson, who slept in the tomb as a guard for seven years following the opening, was alive and well in 1980, fifty-seven years after the violation of the tomb.
      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 would appear.
      See Appendix II for more information.

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