From Cautionary Tales: The Mummy's Curse
Disturbing the remains of the Egyptian Pharaohs is known to incur a deadly curse, so why did a team of archeologists still risk inciting the wrath of King Tutankhamun by entering his burial chamber? And how many of them met a premature end for their impudence?
This episode comes to us from our friends at Pushkin Industries. It's a podcast we love called Cautionary Tales by Tim Harford. We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these cautionary tales are for the education of the grown-ups — and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of Messy and The Undercover Economist) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They’ll delight you and scare you, but also make you wiser.
You can find Cautionary Tales on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Further reading and listening related to this episode:
Roger Luckhurst’s book, The Mummy’s Curse , is the perfect guide to every angle of the tale. Nigel Blundell’s The World’s Greatest Mistakes gives a vivid tabloid-style version, and Snopes described and then fact-checked the tale of the Unlucky Mummy. Skeptoid covers and debunks various explanations for the curse.
The Mesmeromania incident is covered in detail by Christopher Turner for Cabinet Magazine. Shankar Vedantam and Bill Mesler set it in wider context in their fascinating book Useful Delusions.
Charle’s Duhigg’s story about Target and the pregnant teenager is in the New York Times Magazine.
Academic studies on placebos, nocebos, and the BMJ article about the mummy’s curse:
Howick, J. Unethical informed consent caused by overlooking poorly measured nocebo effects. Journal of Medical Ethics. https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:07126ead-92c8-4b82-87b2-7e677aaf98b5
Colloca L, Miller FG. The nocebo effect and its relevance for clinical practice. Psychosom Med. 2011;73(7):598-603. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182294a50
Nelson MR. The mummy’s curse: historical cohort study. BMJ. 2002 Dec 21;325(7378):1482-4. doi: 10.1136/bmj.325.7378.1482. PMID: 12493675; PMCID: PMC139048.
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