The Pharaoh’s Curse

Born in London in 1874, Howard Carter was a famous Egyptologist and archeologist whose main discovery, in 1922, triggered a series of mysterious deaths.

Let’s start from the start. Gifted with a remarkable ability to draw, Carter worked hand in hand with excavation teams undertaking digs in Egypt at the age of 17, where he would copy ancient Egyptian artifacts. But he had to wait until 1899 to oversee excavation operations himself.

Eventually, in 1907, he was appointed by Lord Carnavon, an English aristocrat who financed excavations projects in the Valley of the Kings, as the leader of his excavation team. His objective was to unearth the tomb of King Tutankhamun (who, for obvious reasons, will be named ‘King Tut’ or ‘The Boy King’ in the remainder of this article.)

The Valley of the Kings, Egypt. (Photo credit: Nikola Smolenski via Wikimedia)

The outbreak of WW1 interrupted the search, and Lord Carnavon became more and more eager for results: he was about to stop the funding of Carter’s operations when, in November 1922, a discovery was made. Steps had been found, and digging further, they led to a sealed doorway on which the name Tutankhamun was written.

A telegram later, Lord Carnavon arrived in a hurry on the site. On the 26th of November, Carter used the chisel he had been given by his grandmother on his 17th birthday to cut a hole into the door. When he cast a glance inside, only lit by the shaky flame of a candle, Lord Carnavon asked nervously: “Can you see anything?” “Yes, wonderful things!” Carter replied.

Howard Carter examines the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun
Howard Carter at work over King Tut’s sarcophagus. (Source:

At the entrance of the Boy King’s tomb was supposedly engraved the indication “Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King”. But who cared? The time was at the celebration for one of the most important archeological discoveries in history! Inside, treasures, statues, vases, a throne, a golden coffin were among the precious items that had been resting in the chamber for thousands of years… So nobody would deny himself this pleasure.

Lord Carnavon died on April 5, 1923, allegedly because of a mosquito bite that got infected. His death occurred less than two months after King Tut’s burial chamber had been opened.

In the next seven years, nine other people who had contributed in the discovery died from unnatural causes in mysterious circumstances. George Jay Gould I, who had visited the tomb, of a fever; Carnavon’s half-brother of blood poisoning; the Governor General of Sudan, Sir Lee Stack, was assassinated in Cairo; even Carter’s personal secretary, Richard Bethell, committed suicide.

Was there any King Tut’s curse?

Actually, research has shown that out of the 58 people who had visited the tomb, no more than 8 had died mysteriously in the next decade. What’s more, Carter himself lived until the age of 64. He died in 1939 of lymphoma. On his epitaph, one can read: “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.”

Definitely, the message is friendlier than King Tut’s. This is how you get people searching for your tomb!


Author: Nicolas

Ingrédients : 33% d'anecdotes insolites, 19% de livres poussiéreux, le reste de curiosité névrosée. Auteur du Petit dictionnaire des sales boulots (Vendémiaire, 2022). Chroniqueur chez Slate et RetroNews.

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