"the mummy's curse"
Howard Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamen
Public DomainHoward Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamen - Credit: Harry Burton

There was a popular belief, after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter, that a curse had been unleashed to wreak revenge on those who had disturbed the pharaoh.

British novelist Marie Corelli wrote a letter to the New York World magazine quoting an obscure book that promised punishment for those who disturbed a tomb. Two weeks later, the expedition's financial backer, Lord Carnarvon, died. He had been bitten by a mosquito, and opened the bite again whilst shaving. He died of blood poisoning. Arthur Conan Doyle asserted that Lord Carnarvon had been killed by the curse, and a media frenzy ensued.

Reports emerged that after a paperweight made out of a mummy's hand and bearing an inscription promising 'fire, water and pestilence' was given to Carter's friend Sir Bruce Ingham, Ingham's house burned down, and a flood followed after the house was rebuilt.

A variety of other deaths have been attributed to the curse. However, plenty of people involved in the expedition, most notable Howard Carter himself, lived long and healthy lives. He died in March 1939, at the age of 64.