X Close



UCL events news and reviews


The Mummy’s Curse: The Truth Behind an Edwardian Rumour

By Katherine Aitchison, on 29 May 2012

Anyone who knows anything about the horror genre will have heard stories of curses placed on tombs in Ancient Egypt to deter grave robbers and those who would plunder the graves of priests and pharaohs. But where do these stories come from and is there any truth behind them?

On 21 May Professor Roger Luckhurst of Birkbeck College presented the true story of a mummy’s curse to a packed Petrie Museum audience.

Or perhaps, I should say, he presented the truth behind the rumour as far as he could piece it together drawing from numerous different accounts. A little more convoluted as a turn of phrase, but much more accurate.

The mummy in question is, in fact, simply a coffin lid known as “The Unlucky Mummy”, or to give it its official name: British Museum object-22542.

This lid, once part of the last resting place of an unknown woman from a high-ranking family in the priesthood, was donated to the museum by the sister of Arthur F. Wheeler, the man who was believed to have brought it back from Egypt.

But the story surrounding the lid is full of intrigue, featuring a number of shooting accidents and suspicious deaths as well as a lost fortune and a picture of a ghostly face.