Aleister Crowley has been condemned for many things such as leading a debauched life of sex, drugs and Eastern mysticism, and for making the Occult popular today. He has also been praised for many things, such as leading a debauched life of sex, drugs and Eastern mysticism, and for making the Occult popular today. He has of course also been made the subject of a number of unfounded allegations, of which I thought I had all heard – until now. Whilst reading the Evening Standard (hey! I was bored) yesterday, I came across the newest allegation, in a full page article luridly entitled: “Were six bizarre deaths, linked to curse of King Tut, actually the work of this notorious Satanist?”
Apparently this is the theme of a new book published this week called London’s Curse: Murder, Black Magic & Tutankhamunby a chap called Mark Beynon, whom the Evening Standard describes as a “historian.” The Curse of Tutankhamun has been the subject of books before, but this new work focusses on some half a dozen deaths allegedly connected with it. Amongst those cited are:
- Captain Richard Bethell, personal secretary to Howard Carter – died in his sleep whilst staying at his Mayfair club in 1929. Beynon alleges that he was “smothered.”
- Lord Westbury, father of Bethell, died from falling from a sixth-floor window in St James, 1930. Beynon states that he kept Egyptian artifacts which his son had given him. NB: Lord Westbury was 78 at the time.
- E A Wallis-Budge, the famous Egyptologist, died at home in Bloomsbury in 1934 aged 77.
- Aubrey Herbert, Lord Caernarvon’s half-brother, died in a hospital in Park Lane in 1923. Wikipedia states that he died from complications arising from an extremely bizarre dental procedure, although Beynon said that he had recently visited Luxor as well.
Now Howard Carter first breached the seal of Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922, only fully entering the tomb in February 1923. The original idea of The Curse arose from Lord Caernarvon dying just three months after stepping inside, in April 1923. Thereafter, a number of deaths of people connected with the expedition in relatively quick succession poured fuel on the notion.
Hence: although Aubrey Herbert’s demise looks pretty ominous, the other deaths cited begin to look increasingly improbably due to the remoteness in time from the opening of the tomb (Howard Carter himself died in 1939). Also note that two of the people in the list above were in their late seventies, so Lord Westbury’s demise could have been an accident due to his infirmity.
Ah, no! Says this new book. They were in fact all murdered by notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley! Indeed, Crowley rushed over from North Africa to London in 1923 to murder Aubrey Herbert, and then plotted the deaths of the others over an eleven (!) year period. Now here is the kicker: the reason that Beynon concentrates on these as well as certain others is apparently because that their places of death, when plotted on a map of London, form a Pentagram, which is obviously a Satanic symbol.
Where can I begin to pick apart this notion? Well for a start there is an allegation in the book that “Crowley murdered his servants while in India.” I presume this is a reference to the infamous Kangchenjunga incident in which one of Crowley’s fellow mountaineers and two servants died not through being murdered but in an avalanche. (Crowley did attract notoriety for this, not for causing their death but for not going to help them after they had suffered their accident, thus breaking the code of honour commonly observed by mountaineers). However the most glaring flaw in the whole scheme is the inclusion of Wallis-Budge. Wallis-Budge retired from the British Museum in 1924, only a year after the opening of the Tomb, and was not directly involved in the Expedition. Crowley would however have had reason to be grateful to Wallis-Budge, as the latter was the pre-eminent translator of classic Egyptian texts such as the Papyrus of Ani (aka The Book of the Dead).
It seems fairly obvious to me that Wallis-Budge’s death has been included for the sole purpose of finding fifth point for the overly-contrived Pentagram-theory. Indeed, poor old Aleister Crowley seems to have been picked upon simply because he was the most famous occultist around the time of the alleged events. Never mind that there were other students of the Egyptian mysteries alive during the whole time period! I suppose it was probably too difficult to actually find evidence against one of the more obscure occultists of the time period, although were Mark Beynon a real historian, in the academic sense of the word, this kind of task would be par for the course.
All in all, the attendant press-hype is a good example of how to use Satanism to market your new book.