Legend has it that disturbing the remains of pharaohs would bring a great tragedy to its pillagers. This is exactly what happened to the scientists who discovered King Tut, the boy king’s burial chamber. Discovered in 1923 by British archaeologist Howard Carter and his friend Lord Carnarvon, King Tutankhamen’s burial chamber and sarcophagus housed his many riches. The discovery was celebrated around the world. Little did they know that they may have unleashed a curse. Skeptical? Decide for yourself.

The curse of the pharaoh

Several deaths followed the great discovery in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. The first was Carter’s friend and financier, George Herbert who was also known as Lord Carnarvon. Two months after the discovery, he was found dead — what was later determined to be blood poisoning caused by a mosquito.

Eight other deaths followed, either after a visit in King Tut’s chambers, receiving a gift from the king’s bounty, or being present during the excavation. This included Sir Bruce Ingham, who received a paperweight gift from Carter which was inscribed with, “Cursed be he moves my body.” Shortly after, his house burned down in a fire. During reconstruction, the area was hit with a flood.

George Jay Gould, an American financier, died of pneumonia after visiting the site. Aaron Ember died in a house fire after hosting a dinner party. Richard Bethell died under mysterious circumstances in a hotel room, and even after his death, his house (which contained some of the valuable artifacts from the excavations) was subject to a number of suspicious fires. All were present during the initial discovery and excavation. Hugh Evelyn-White, a British archaeologist, was so fearful because of the string of deaths, he took matters into his own hands.

Several other peculiar incidents happened. Radiologist Sir Archibald Douglas Reid, who performed an x-ray test on King Tut, died just three days later. And Aubrey Herbert, Lord Carnarvon’s half brother, also died unexpectedly, though he had no other affiliation to the discovery other that his relationship to Lord Carnarvon.

A scientific explanation behind the string of deaths?

One possible (but hotly contested) explanation — the deaths may be linked to the toxins found within the tomb. Ancient remains carry dangerous molds that spread spores into the air when disturbed. Inhaling them could have cause respiratory problems, which could possibly account for some of the deaths.

As for the fires and floods? They don’t fit neatly into that hypothesis. Perhaps science is looking to explain something that cannot be explained. Bizarrely, the leader of the excavation, Howard Carter, lived a full life and died of natural causes many years later. Why was he spared? Perhaps only King Tut knows for sure.