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Some People Really Believed A Mummy's Curse Sank The 'Titanic'

The Egyptian curse of the Unlucky Mummy was on everyone’s minds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not only had this curse claimed the lives of many of those who came in contact with its namesake's curious visage, but it also supposedly played a part in the sinking of the Titanic. At least, that’s what people believed at the time. How could this Unlucky Mummy curse 1,500 people to their doom while sitting in the British Museum? If you’re asking that then you really don’t know how curses work. 

Or maybe the Titanic mummy's curse wasn’t a curse at all. Even though people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and journalists at The Washington Post fully believed in this sunken item’s power, it’s more than likely the people who found themselves on the business end of the Unlucky Mummy’s curse were simply unlucky themselves. 

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  • After It Was Unearthed, People Mysteriously Lost Their Lives

    After It Was Unearthed, People Mysteriously Lost Their Lives
    Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    When a group of young British men traveling through Egypt in the late 1800s discovered a sarcophagus containing the remains of Princess of Amen-Ra, they decided between themselves who'd take it home. The fellow who scored the mummy paid to have it shipped back to his hotel, but shortly afterward, he wandered into the desert - never to be seen again. 

    The curse of the Unlucky Mummy wasn't satisfied with taking this young man's life; within a short time, the remaining men allegedly suffered accidents or lost all their money.

    The mummy reportedly found its way into the hands of one of their sisters. She didn't fare any better than the men who discovered the Unlucky Mummy and soon suffered a great deal herself.

  • The Coffin Allegedly Belonged To A High Priestess

    Stories about the Unlucky Mummy state that the remains inside the mummy board belonged to a priestess of Amen-Ra. She allegedly lived during the 21st Dynasty - 1085 to 945 BCE - but there's not a lot of history connected to this mysterious woman. While there don't seem to be any high priestesses of Amen-Ra, there are stories of high priests. These men were more militaristic than their title implies, and they commanded armies throughout the Luxor area of Southern Egypt.

    According to Nautilus:

    Sometime in the 1860s, five recent Oxford graduates took a trip to Egypt... To remember their trip, they bought a souvenir in the mummy pits of Deir el-Bahri - the coffin lid of a priestess of Amen-Ra. The high priests of Amen-Ra, named after an Egyptian deity, were military rulers who commanded southern Egypt in the 21st Dynasty (1085 to 945 BC), a time of turmoil and strife. Powerful and prone to keep secrets, the priesthood worked to appease the gods that Egypt had clearly angered. With her wide, baleful eyes, open palms, and outstretched fingers, the priestess on the coffin lid seemed to cast a malevolent allure.

  • When It Was Brought Back To England, Madame Blavatsky Felt Its Malignant Influence

    When It Was Brought Back To England, Madame Blavatsky Felt Its Malignant Influence
    Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Followers of the occult will recognize the name Helena Blavatsky as the Russian philosopher who created the doctrine of theosophy, a religion based on Eastern mysticism and Western esotericism. Blavatsky was basically a catchall occultist, so when stories about a cursed mummy circulated, she had to investigate. 

    Upon entering a room where the mummy board was held, Blavatsky supposedly felt something strange - a disturbance in the energy around her. When she finally figured out it was the mummy board, she said it was the cause of all the negativity around her and asked that it be removed from her presence. 

  • The British Elite Feared The Mummy

    It didn't take long for rumors about the mummy to spread through England in the late 1890s. When it took up residence in the British Museum, the upper echelon of Londoners leaned into their gossip about the curse of its inhabitant. Members of the British elite formed "ghost clubs," and they chatted in secret about the dark energy of the priestess of Amen-Ra. 

    In 1904, the stories went wide when English journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson wrote a series of articles about the curse of the mummy in the Daily Express. Most notably, Robinson's articles led people to believe "Egyptians had powers which we in the 20th century may laugh at, yet can never understand."

  • Journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson Lost His Life After Running Pieces About The Priestess

    In order to satiate both the curiosity of the British people and his own quest for knowledge, journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson spent months at the British Museum researching the mummy. Initially, he wanted to disprove the rumors surrounding the curse, but the more he looked into the mummy board, the more he believed the stories surrounding the mystical artifact to be true. Eventually, Robinson lost his life to typhoid fever.

    Stories about Robinson's involvement with the mummy board and his subsequent passing are impossible to extricate from the myth of the curse. Even though he passed three years after reporting on the mummy, his friends and family still believe the artifact had something to do with his demise.

    English author Archibald Marshall said he believed his friend succumbed because "[t]he very last time I saw him he told me a wonderful tale about a mummy which had caused the [demise] of everybody who had to do with it."

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Writer Of 'Sherlock Holmes,' Believed She Possessed Evil Powers

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Writer Of 'Sherlock Holmes,' Believed She Possessed Evil Powers
    Photo: Arnold Genthe / WIkimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Despite writing about the endlessly logical detective Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed the curse of the mummy was the real deal. After journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson met his end following a bout with typhoid fever, Doyle surmised his friend had actually tempted fate by writing about the mummy.  

    At the time, Doyle said he warned Robinson away from putting too much effort into the mummy, specifically because of its reputation for bringing chaos in its wake. When presented with the idea that Robinson passed from a fever, Doyle said that's exactly how a mummy's curse would work. He explained

    It was caused by Egyptian "elementals" guarding a female mummy, because Mr. Robinson had begun an investigation of the stories of the mummy’s malevolence. It is impossible to say with absolute certainty if this is true... but I warned Mr. Robinson against concerning himself with the mummy at the British Museum. He persisted... I told him he was tempting fate by pursuing his enquiries. The immediate cause... was typhoid fever, but that is the way in which the elementals guarding the mummy might act.