“The Adventure of the Mummy’s Curse” — H. Paul Jeffers

H. Paul Jeffers is the author of many works of fiction and non-fiction, the most recent of which is Taking Command, the first biography of World War II general J. Lawton Collins. He has written many other biographies as well, including several volumes about President Teddy Roosevelt. His other non-fiction work ranges wildly from books like Freemasons: Inside the World’s Oldest Secret Society to With an Axe: 16 Horrific Accounts of Real-Life Axe Murderers to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Great Depression. In the realm of Sherlockiana, in addition to this story, Jeffers is the author of the novels The Adventure of the Stalwart Companions and Murder Most Irregular, as well as The Forgotten Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a book of stories based on the original radio plays by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green.

“Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh.” This inscription was supposedly found carved on a stone tablet by British explorers Howard Carter and George Herbert when they opened the tomb of the Egyptian king Tutankhamun. It’s said that when the men entered the tomb, all the lights in Cairo went out and Herbert’s three-legged dog dropped dead. Herbert himself soon followed, felled by a mosquito bite. Carter’s pet canary was also killed, in a freak cobra accident, and before long two dozen members of the expedition had died under mysterious circumstances, victims of the mummy’s curse. Or that’s the story anyway. Numerous explanations have been advanced to explain the misfortune that befell the expedition. In 1986 Dr. Caroline Stenger-Phillip proposed the intriguing notion that the explorers had been sickened by exposure to mold and bacteria that had been preserved in the hermetically sealed tomb. However, a 2002 statistical analysis in the British Medical Journal concluded that members of the expedition had not in fact died significantly faster than the general population. The “curse” was a media myth, albeit one that’s inspired a lot of great entertainment, including our next tale.