Were six deaths attributed to the 'Curse of Tutankhamun' actually murders by arch-satanist Aleister Crowley?
9th November 2011
The mysterious deaths gripped the nation back in the 1920s and 30s.
More than 20 people linked to the opening of Tutankhamun's burial chamber in Luxor in 1923 died in bizarre circumstances, six of them in London.
A frenzied public blamed the 'Curse of Tutankhamun' and speculated on the supernatural powers of the ancient Egyptians.
But a historian now claims the deaths in Britain were the work of a notorious satanist, Aleister Crowley.
Mark Beynon has drawn on previously unpublished evidence to conclude the occultist – dubbed the wickedest man in the world – masterminded a series of ritualistic killings in 'revenge' for the British archaeologist Howard Carter's opening of the boy-king's tomb.
After analysis of inquest reports, Crowley's diaries, essays and books, he also argues Crowley was a Jack the Ripper-obsessed copycat murderer.
His 'victims' included Carter's personal secretary Captain Richard Bethell, who was found smothered to death at an exclusive Mayfair club, and Bethell's father Lord Westbury, who plunged seven floors to his death from a St James's apartment where he reportedly kept tomb artefacts.
Other victims were said to be Sir Ernest Budge, a former keeper in the British Museum's department of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities – found dead in his bed in Bloomsbury – and Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey, a 23-year-old Egyptian prince shot dead by his wife, Marie-Marguerite, in the Savoy Hotel shortly after he was photographed visiting King Tut's tomb.
Mr Beynon says Crowley and Marie-Marguerite had been lovers and Crowley put her up to the shooting.Crowley had motives to tarnish the legacy of Carter's discovery, Mr Beynon argues.
He accuses Crowley of being responsible for the deaths of:-
Raoul Loveday who died on February 16, 1923. The 23-year-old Oxford undergraduate was a follower of Crowley's cult at a Sicilian Abbey. He died on the same day at the very hour of Carter's much-publicised opening of Tutankhamun's burial chamber after drinking the blood of a cat sacrificed in one of Crowley's rituals. Mr Beynon argues that he was deliberately poisoned.
Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey who died on July 10, 1923. The Egyptian prince, 23, was shot dead by his French wife of six months, Marie-Marguerite, in London's Savoy Hotel shortly after he was photographed visiting the tomb. Mr Beynon says that Crowley and Marie-Marguerite had been lovers in Paris. She was working as a hostess at the Folies Berghre and he was a regular patron at the same venue. He suggests that Crowley put her up to the shooting.
Aubrey Herbert, died September, 23, 1923. Shortly after Marie-Marguerite's acquittal, Aubrey Herbert, the half-brother of Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning after a routine dental operation went suspiciously wrong at his private hospital in Park Lane. He had only recently returned from his own trip to Luxor. Mr Beynon speculates that Crowley was behind the death and may again have used Marie-Marguerite to do his dirty work.
Captain Richard Bethell, died November 15, 1929. Howard Carter's 46-year-old personal secretary was found dead in his bed at Mayfair's exclusive Bath Club. Bethell was said to have been in perfect health. It was initially thought that he died of a heart attack but his symptoms raised suspicion that he was smothered to death as he slept. Crowley had only recently returned to London and was often a guest of novelist W. Somerset Maugham at the club.
Lord Westbury, died February 20, 1930. Bethell's father, Lord Westbury, 77, was believed to have thrown himself off his seventh floor St James's apartment. But Mr Beynon found that it was practically impossible for an elderly man to have climbed out onto the window ledge and suggests that Crowley threw him off.
Edgar Steele, died February 24, 1930. Only four days after the death of Lord Westbury, Mr Steele, 57, died at St Thomas' Hospital after a minor stomach operation. Mr Beynon speculates that Crowley was behind the death. He was in charge of handling the tomb artefacts at London's British Museum.
Sir Ernest Wallis Budge, died November 23, 1934. A former Keeper in the British Museum's Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, he was found dead in his bed in Bloomsbury aged 77. A friend of Lord Carnarvon, he had been responsible for displaying the artefacts from Luxor. Mr Beynon says there is evidence that Budge and Crowley were associates on the London occult scene.
THE CURSE OF KING TUT
The curse of the mummy began after a series of terrible events occurred following the discovery of King Tut's tomb.
Legend has it that anyone who dared to open the tomb would suffer the wrath of the mummy.
A few months after the tomb's opening tragedy struck. Lord Carnarvon, 57, was taken ill and rushed to Cairo. He died a few days later. The exact cause of death was not known, but it seemed to be from an infection started by an insect bite.
Legend has it that when he died there was a short power failure and all the lights throughout Cairo went out. His son reported that back on his estate in England his favorite dog howled and suddenly dropped dead.
Even more strange, when the mummy of Tutankhamun was unwrapped in 1925, it was found to have a wound on the left cheek in the same exact position as the insect bite on Carnarvon that lead to his death.
By 1929 eleven people connected with the discovery of the tomb had died early and of unnatural causes.
This included two of Carnarvon's relatives, Carter's personal secretary, Richard Bethell, and Bethell's father, Lord Westbury.
Westbury killed himself by jumping from a building. He left a note that read: 'I really cannot stand any more horrors and hardly see what good I am going to do here, so I am making my exit.'
The gods of his own religious philosophy, Thelema, were mainly drawn from ancient Egyptian religion. He believed himself to be a prophet of a new age of personal liberty, controlled by the Egyptian god Horus.
It is likely he would have found Carter's excavation sacrilegious, the historian said.
In his book, London's Curse: Murder, Black Magic and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End, Mr Beynon pins seven deaths on Crowley, six of which took place in London.
Crowley, who was born into a wealthy upper class family in 1875, had a controversial doctrine for life of 'Do What Thou Wilt'. The bisexual heroin addict gained notoriety for advocating sexual promiscuity and prostitution.
He never mentions the deaths in his diaries but often wrote that his mood had 'lifted' the day after them.
The satanist was also obsessed with Jack the Ripper. He wrote in his diaries that he believed the locations of five of the Ripper's murders in Whitechapel in 1888 formed a pentagram – an important star-shaped symbol in satanism. Mr Beynon claims the locations of five of Crowley's 'murders' form a copycat pentagram.
Mr Beynon said: 'When I researched these deaths, Crowley's name popped up again and again. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence linking him to all the deaths. I have just put all the pieces of the jigsaw together.'
Mr Beynon paints a picture of a dangerous schizophrenic known to have murdered his servants in India.
An ancient couch is removed from the tomb which was opened by Lord Carnarvon
He socialised with Ripper suspect Walter Sickert and Mr Beynon argues that Crowley used the Ripper's killing spree as inspiration for his own efforts years later.
Crowley believed that the Ripper's murders had afforded him special powers, including invisibility.
Mr Beynon says that he thought his murders would also render him invisible.
To test his theory, he famously walked through London's Cafi Royal restaurant ridiculously dressed in a mustard-coloured cloak adorned with occultist symbols.
When customers fell silent and were too perturbed to speak to him, he assumed they could not see him.
Outlining his macabre theory, Mr Beynon said: 'So much of Crowley's belief system was steeped in ancient Egypt.
'He would have seen the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb as desecration.
'This was a man given to extensive world travel and yet we know he was in London when at least four of the six deaths occurred.' He added: 'I hope the book will appeal to anyone with an interest in crime or London history.
'I was fascinated researching London in the 20s and 30s.
'On the surface, it was very glitzy and glamorous but there was a dark underbelly that provided the ideal stage for this story.
'Everyone was obsessed with the supposed Curse of Tutankhamun striking down high society victims.
'But until now, no-one has ever realised that they may well have been murdered.'