The prevalent image of The Mummy as a monster also comes from the movies, most significantly the 1932 film, The Mummy, again starring Boris Karloff. From the Internet Movie Database is this synopsis of the film by Jeremy Lunt: "In 1921 a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also found in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life." The mummy then limps around terrorizing and strangling people.
The film was most probably inspired by the sensational Egyptian finds made in the early 1920s. Since the 1800s, European archaeologists had been fascinated by ancient Egypt. They were aware that the Pharaohs had been mummified and buried with incredible treasures and artifacts to provide them with a comfortable way of life in the land of the dead. Many old tombs had been discovered, but in each case they had been long-ago plundered by grave robbers.
One young upstart English archaeologist named Howard Carter believed that at least one tomb of an Egyptian king lay untouched somewhere beneath the blistering sands of Egypt - the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Carter searched for years without success. But then on November 4, 1922, Tutankhamen's tomb was found, and it contained all of the gold and alabaster treasures they had long sought. But along with the discovery, some believe, came a curse.
On the door to Tutankhamen's tomb, so goes the legend, was inscribed a curse: "Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the king..." And in the years hence, it seemed like Tut's mummy was making good on his curse:
- On the day the tomb was discovered, Carter's canary, which he had brought with him to Egypt for luck, was devoured by a snake.
- A few months later, Carter's financial backer, Lord Carnarvon, died suddenly, perhaps from an infected insect bite.
- When Carnarvon died, all the lights in Cairo went out from a power failure.
- Although Carnarvon died in Cairo, back at his estate in England, his favorite dog howled and dropped dead.
- When Tut's mummy was unwrapped in 1925, his body bore a wound on his face in the exact same spot as Carnarvon's insect bite.
- "By 1929," says Howard Carter and the Curse of the Mummy, "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.' "
Interestingly, Carter himself did not suffer the wrath of the mummy's curse, but died of natural causes at the age of 66.
Can a mummy come to life and seek revenge on those who violate his tomb? Of course not. Can a mummy kill? Maybe. In 1999, a German microbiologist examined 40 mummies and found that they contained deadly mold spores - lethal enough to kill a person. Upon opening the tomb or sarcophagus, an archaeologist could breath in the ancient, toxic spores... and die.
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