A few months after the tomb's opening tragedy struck. Lord Carnarvon, 57, was taken ill and rushed to Cairo. He died a few days later. The exact cause of death was not known, but it seemed to be from an infection started by an insect bite. Legend has it that when he died there was a short power failure and all the lights throughout Cairo went out. His son reported that back on his estate in England his favorite dog howled and suddenly dropped dead.
Even more strange, when the mummy of Tutankhamun was unwrapped in 1925, it was found to have a wound on the left cheek in the same exact position as the insect bite on Carnarvon that lead to his death.
By 1929 eleven people connected with the discovery of the Tomb had died early and of unnatural causes. This included two of Carnarvon's relatives, Carter's personal secretary, Richard Bethell, and Bethell's father, Lord Westbury. Westbury killed himself by jumping from a building. He left a note that read, "I really cannot stand any more horrors and hardly see what good I am going to do here, so I am making my exit."
Outside the tomb of King Tut shortly after it was opened in 1922.
What horrors did Westbury refer to?
The press followed the deaths carefully attributing each new one to the "Mummy's Curse" By 1935 they had credited 21 victims to King Tut. Was there really a curse? Or was it all just the ravings of a sensational press?
Herbert E. Winlock, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, made his own calculations about the effectiveness of the curse. According to to Winlock's figures of the 22 people present when the tomb was opened in 1922, only 6 had died by 1934. Of the 22 people present at the opening of the sarcophagus in 1924, only 2 died in the following ten years. Also ten people were there when the mummy was unwrapped in 1925, and all survived until at least 1934.
In 2002 a medicine scholar at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, named Mark Nelson, completed a study which purportedly showed that the curse of King Tut never really existed. Nelson selected 44 Westerners in Egypt at the time the tomb was discovered. Of those, twenty-five of the group were people potentially exposed to the curse either because they were at the breaking of the sacred seals in the tomb, or at the opening of the sarcophagus, or at the opening of the coffins, or the unwrapping of the mummy. The study showed that these exposures had no effect on the length of their survival when compared to those not exposed.
Perhaps, the power of a curse is in the mind of the person who believes in it. Howard Carter, the man who actually opened the tomb, never believed in the curse and lived to a reasonably old age of 66 before dying of entirely natural causes.