Chances are you will recall the story of the notorious Tutankhamun curse, which was one of the press sensations of the early 1920s. On 5 April 1923, just seven weeks after Howard Carter opened the Egyptian monarch’s tomb, his rich patron, George Herbert (fifth Earl of Carnarvon), died from a fever. It was caused, probably, by a mosquito bite. Nothing so odd about that, but some leading imaginative writers of the day were not content to let the matter lie.
Marie Corelli, the then-popular novelist, suggested that the tomb had been protected with mysterious poisons. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went much further, and ventured that Tut’s resting place had been guarded by malevolent ‘elementals’, set there by Egyptian magicians to stand sentry for the prince and his treasures across eternity.