History Embalmed

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut

The Discovery of the tomb of the Bo King Pharaoh Tutankhamun led to Worldwide interest in the subject and a total media frenzy.

The intact tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered by the Egyptologist Howard Carter who was financed by the English aristocrat George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon on 4 November 1922.

When the significance of the tomb and the fabulous golden treasure of the pharaoh was realised the newspapers started to make their reports. On 22 December 1922 the New York Times ran an article about the 'Splendors of the Tomb':

 "No finer human interest story, no more thrilling drama, no greater archaeological revelations could be summoned from history or the most vivid imagination than is told by the mute objects in this tomb of King Tutankhamen - mute objects that speak with golden eloquence and whose message is now being revealed to the world."

This type of newspaper article set the scene for the story to unfold of the Tomb and Curse of Tutankhamun to unfold.

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut - the Frenzy
By December 1922the press go into a frenzy about the discovery of the tomb. There are so many reporters clamouring for the story that the archaeological work being conducted on the Tomb of King Tut is disturbed. Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter become very concerned about this unchecked activity. The were both hounded by eager journalists. Howard Carter was reported as:

 "weary of telegrams and sick to death of reporters…he wanted to avoid being followed by gentlemen of the press."

Howard Carter worked with Arthur C. Mace, the assistant curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, department of Egyptian art, on the Tomb of King Tut. They were reported as saying that:

"Archaeology under the limelight is a new and rather bewildering experience for most of us. All of a sudden we find the world takes an interest in us, an interest so intense and so avid for details that special correspondents at large salaries have to be sent to interview us, report our every movement, and hide around corners to surprise a secret out of us."

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut - The Exclusive Contract with the Times
The situation with the press came to a head when on 9 January 1923 Lord Carnarvon signed a £5,000 exclusive contract to cover the Tomb of Tutankhamun with the London Times. In addition to the exclusive rights he also negotiated 75% of all profits from the sale of Times articles to the rest of the world. The newspapers and the press media in general were furious about this monopoly on the news of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Reporters were forced to find different ways to cover the story, in addition to the original  stories provided by the Times newspaper.

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut - Speculation about the Curse
The journalists and reporters from other newspapers needed to produce new and exciting stories. Arthur Weigall of the Daily Mail said he felt "pity" for the "ordeal" the mummy faced. Then there was the story about the pet canary which belonged to Lord Carnarvon. Newspapers reported that on the day the tomb of King Tut was opened a cobra "grabbed the canary." This was seen as an omen as a rearing cobra emblem was associated with the protection of the pharaoh. The Egyptian staff regarded the incident as a warning from the spirit of Tutankhamun against further intrusion on the privacy of the tomb. Newspapers reported that:

"Already in this land of superstition myths are beginning to grow up….out of [the canary's death] the most fantastic stories are being manufactured…so it has been easy to weave a legend that brought in the little bird, which in some ways symbolized the modern spirit of civilization, and the cobra, which stood for the powers of old dynasties…"

There was an inscription found on an Anubis shrine found in the tomb of Tutankhamun that stated:

"It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased".

Reporters embellished this Anubis Curse, Anubis was the God of the Dead. The seeds of the Curse of King Tut had been sown...

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut - The Death of Lord Carnarvon
Lord Carnarvon became ill in March 1923 when blood poisoning occurred after he nicked a mosquito bite with his cut-throat razor. On 5 April 1923 Lord Carnarvon died in Cairo of septicaemia, followed by pneumonia. Speculation about the curse increased. Newspapers reported that on the very time of his death all of the lights went out in Cairo for twenty minutes. It was also reported that at the very moment that Lord Carnarvon died his pet Fox Terrier dog, Susie, let out a loud howl and dropped dead at home in Highclere Castle in England. The Curse of King Tut ideas were fuelled by a novelist named Marie Corelli. Then, on the day that news of the death of Lord Carnarvon reached England the famous novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter from the Times. When the reporter mentioned the death of Lord Carnarvon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle repeated his views that the death could have been of a result of "elementals" or "curses" created by ancient priests to guard the tomb of King Tut. The story made headlines in newspapers the world over. Ideas about the "Curse of King Tut" continued to be published. Myths and legends about deaths, curses and mummies were both fun and frightening.

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut
Newspapers blamed the death of Lord Carnarvon on a curse. On 14 April 1923 the New York Times reported "Carter Ignores Curse Idea." Then it was reported by newspapers that "Several American politicians went so far as to call for an investigation of mummies to determine whether or not these possessed the same medical dangers as those thought to be apparent in the tomb." There was another Newspaper heading from the New York times stating that  "Pharaoh's Ka Guards the Tomb." The following newspaper report also appeared:

"Those most intimately connected with [the tomb] during the last few months suffered in some way or other. Even the journalists who covered the story have felt the reaction. Three of them have been ill…"

A strange coincidence was also reported when the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was unwrapped. The mummy was found to have a wound on the left cheek. The wound was in the exact same position as the mosquito bite which had led to the death of Lord Carnarvon.

Then various mysterious deaths were then reported about anyone associated with the excavation of the Tomb of King Tut. The reports of the newspapers and the myths and legends about the Curse of King Tut continue to this day...

Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut
Each section of the website addresses all topics and provides interesting facts and information about the Golden Age of Pharaohs and of Egypt. The Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts provided about the fascinating subject of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun and the role of the Newspapers in the legends and myths surrounding the Curse of King Tut.

Curse of King Tut

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