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Mark Juddery

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The 7 Most Overrated Curses

Posted: 10/23/11 05:06 PM ET

When things go wrong, we have to keep smiling. When everything goes wrong -- morbidly, tragically wrong -- we can always blame a curse. I've had days like that myself, and I'm reasonably sure that someone had put a curse on me on all of those occasions. That's the only rational explanation.

Other so-called "curses," however, are just plain ridiculous. Here is the proof.

The Curse of Tutankhamun
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Probably the most famous curse - and unlike some of the others on this list, there's not even any circumstantial evidence for this one. The famous idea of a cursed Egyptian tomb was invented by a young English novelist, Jane Loudon Webb, in her 1828 novel, The Mummy. Ten years after Mary Shelley invented one of the great horror monsters in her novel Frankenstein, Webb invented another: the walking mummy, returning to life to seek vengeance.
The idea of walking mummies was popular among writers of horror stories, so when explorer Howard Carter led an expedition to discover Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a great believer in the supernatural, and - when not penning Sherlock Holmes stories - a writer of horror yarns) warned of "a terrible curse". When the tomb was opened, the Cairo correspondent of London's Daily Express wrote that Carter's team had seen an inscription that, translated from Hieroglyphics, stated: "They who enter this sacred tomb shall swiftly be visited by the wings of death."
This story was complete nonsense, but it still found its way into the New York Times and other respected newspapers. It won extra credence a few weeks after the tomb was opened, when Carter's sponsor, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, died from a septic mosquito bite.
Believers of this curse blame it for twenty-six deaths, but despite the warning that visitors to the tomb would "swiftly" face their death, only six of the deaths occurred within the next decade. Carter himself lived for another 17 years (which, for Tutankhamun, was almost a whole lifetime). Still, the "curse" story still seems to be mentioned whenever someone happens to get food poisoning within a week of looking at an ancient Egyptian artefact at a museum. It was a hoax, people. A hoax!
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