In ancient Egypt, curses were placed on sacred objects and possessions to stop people from disturbing them. The curse is what will happen to anyone who doesn't heed the warning. The first people to fear mummy's were Arabs who conquered Egypt in 641. The Arab writer's warned people never to tamper with the mummy's or their tombs because they knew Egyptian's practiced magic during the funeral ceremonies. Inside of a sacred tomb contained ancient writings and paintings that showed mummy's could return to the living and seek revenge. The idea of curses being linked with mummy's has intrigued people for centuries. The first published book about an Egyptian curse was published in 1699 and hundreds more followed. The most popular stories of a mummy's curse was the real life opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1923 which captured the nation.
Often facts about ancient curses have been embellished to make for a better story. Like the rumors of the people present at King Tut's tomb, only six people met untimely deaths after being present at the opening instead of the 13 of 26 that has been rumored. In one of Hollywood's famous renditions of a revenge seeking mummy, Brendan Fraser's The Mummy, the 'Hum-Dai' is not a real Egyptian curse although the mummy Imhotep is real. However, the real person was not a bad guy like the movie portrayed. In fact, Imhotep was a doctor, high priest, architect, scribe and a royal adviser. His name means, 'One who comes in peace.'
The curse written on the wall at the tomb of Senmut translates to mean, 'His lifetime shall not exist on earth.' The tomb was made for Queen Hatshepsut of Senenmut's (also known as Senmut) royal adviser. He was a powerful man of his time and allowed to build his tomb close to the one built for the Queen pharaoh which was a rare privilege for anyone of non-royal blood. After the Queen died he was forgotten and the tomb never completed. The paintings and subscription's inside are well preserved, including the ancient curse. Its not yet open to the public but efforts are underway to make it accessible.
The curse on the tomb of the High Priest of Hermeru translates to "I shall seize his neck like that of a goose." Hermeru's tomb has a stairway that descends to an open court where a chapel is carved into the rock below ground level. The entrance is encased with limestone and is a tomb of someone who was honored by his pharaoh. The tomb isn't damaged but the paintings and decoration came to a stop before being completed. The tomb has two false doors and contains two chambers, possibly one for his wife.
The curse on the tomb of Pennout claims, 'He will be miserable and persecuted.' Pennout was a High Priest of the pharaoh Ramses II. There are many paintings that represent the life of Pennout. There is an illustration of Pennout giving a land donation to Ramses VI to generate income for a statue of the pharaoh. Many visit this tomb each year, and it's open for the public to brave the curse. This is one of the best preserved tombs of its kind that haven't been lost under Lake Nasser. Pennout's wife also shares the tomb with her husband in an underground stone chamber.
An archeologist was assisting with removing two mummy's from the Bahariya Oasis tomb and he was haunted by dreams of children during the procedure. The dreams only stopped after the mummy of the father was reunited with the children at the museum. Many people involved with removing mummy's or traveling with them in their possession have been haunted by strange dreams until the mummy's were no longer in their possession.
There is a report by Zahi Hawass of a young boy sick with a terminal illness. The boy loved Egypt and one day went to the Egyptian museum and looked into the eyes of the mummy of King Ahmose I. Afterward, the boy was miraculously cured from his illness without any explanation. Later the boy went on to study Egyptian culture, and was specifically interested in the Hyksos period. Zahi Hawass is a notable archeologist and tour guide and has recently shown President Obama and Beyonce around the pyramids.
Egyptian writing wasn't deciphered until the 19th century so actual curses weren't uncovered written inside tombs. However, it was still common for people to associate entering a tomb with bad luck. In 1699, there was one of the first written accounts of a Polish traveler who experienced terrifying visions of two specters while traveling with two mummy's in the cargo. The ship met with a massive storm and the waters were dangerously rough until the mummy's were thrown overboard.
A young archaeologist Zahi Hawass learned the dangers of excavating an Egyptian tomb after working on the Kom Abou-Billou site. On the first anniversary of the excavation his cousin died, then his uncle on the second and his aunt on the third. Years later, while working in the Pyramid of Giza, he uncovered the curse that means, 'All people who enter this tomb, make evil against this tomb and destroy it may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them on water and the scorpion against them on land.' Hawass came to the belief mummy's shouldn't be displayed to the public but it was better than allowing people to enter the tombs.
Workmen spent the day on March 10, 1971 clearing a tomb in the digging grounds of Sakkara, only 20 miles from Cairo. The head of the dig was Walter Bryan Emery who found a small statue of the Egyptian god Osiris. He carried it back with him to the village where there was a small house. He left it with his assistant who later reported Emery went into the washroom and started moaning. The assistant reported Emery stood there paralyzed and he called for help. At the hospital he was diagnosed as paralyzed on his right side. By the next morning he was dead.
In late 2013, a Manchester museum was haunted with an Egyptian statue that rotated 180 degrees every three days seemingly on its own. The statue was in a glass case and untouched from everyone except from the curator who kept turning it back. The museums curator claimed the ancient Egyptians believed if the mummy was destroyed then the statuette could be used as an alternative vessel for the spirit. A time lapse video has been sped up to clearly show the statue moving without being touched. Scientists offered another explanation claiming the friction of two surfaces could be moving the statue but regardless it is still really creepy.
The curse of the Pharaoh's struck again with the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1923, which launched the modern era of Egyptology. This is the most famous case because many people at the original opening of the tomb died before their time under weird conditions a short time after the opening. While working at the tomb Howard Carter, the lead of the project, sent a messenger to his house. On arrival, he heard a faint cry and saw Carter's canary being eaten by a cobra, the sign of the Egyptian monarchy. The incident was reported by the New York Times in December of 1922. Out of the 26 people at the opening of the tomb six died from mysterious causes, although rumors greatly exaggerate this number. Scientists have attributed bacteria on the walls of the tomb to the curse. Most of the Egyptian curses are metaphysical but in some cases booby traps and the use of poison did enforce the curse causing death or injury to those who entered.