Six mysterious London deaths famously attributed to the ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’ were actually murders by notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley, a historian claims in a new book.
Incredible parallels between Crowley and Jack the Ripper have also been discovered during research by historian Mark Beynon.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, London was gripped by the mythical curse of Tutankhamun, the Egyptian boy-king, whose tomb was uncovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter.
More than 20 people linked to the opening of the pharaoh’s burial chamber in Luxor in 1923 bizarrely died over the following years - six of them in the capital.
Victims included Carter’s personal secretary Captain Richard Bethell, who was found dead in his bed from suspected smothering at an exclusive Mayfair club.
Bethell’s father Lord Westbury then plunged seven floors to his death from his St James’s apartment, where he reportedly kept tomb artefacts gifted by his son.
And Aubrey Herbert, half-brother of Carter’s financial backer Lord Carnarvon, also died suspiciously in a Park Lane hospital shortly after visiting Luxor.
At the time, a frenzied Press blamed the ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’ for the deaths and speculated on the supernatural powers of the ancient Egyptians.
But Mr Beynon has now drawn on previously unpublished evidence to conclude the deaths were all ritualistic killings masterminded by Crowley, an occultist dubbed “the wickedest man in the world”.
After unique analysis of Crowley’s diaries, essays and books and inquest reports, the armchair detective argues that he was a Jack the Ripper-obsessed copycat killer.
Crowley, who called himself ‘The Great Beast’, apparently had his own motives to tarnish the legacy of Carter’s legendary discovery.
The gods and goddesses of Crowley’s 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 ancient Egyptian god Horus.
It is likely that he would have found Carter’s excavation sacrilegious and wanted revenge, according to Mr Beynon.
In his new book ‘London’s Curse: Murder, Black Magic and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End’, published this week by The History Press, Mr Beynon pins seven deaths on Crowley, six of which took place in London:
- Raoul Loveday (16 February 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. He died after drinking the blood of a cat sacrificed in one of Crowley’s rituals and Mr Beynon argues that he was deliberately poisoned.
- Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey (10 July 1923): a 23-year-old Egyptian prince 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 Bergère and he was a regular patron at the same venue. He suggests that Crowley put her up to the shooting.
- Aubrey Herbert (23 September 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 (15 November 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 (20 February 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 (24 February 1930): only four days later, Edgar Steele, 57, who was in charge of handling the tomb artefacts at London’s British Museum, died at St Thomas’ Hospital after a minor stomach operation. Mr Beynon speculates that Crowley was behind the death.
- Sir Ernest Wallis Budge (23 November 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.
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 and was dubbed ‘the wickedest man in the world’ by the Press.
Mr Beynon paints a picture of a dangerous schizophrenic known to have murdered his servants in India.
Crowley never mentions the deaths in his diaries but often wrote that his mood had “lifted” the day after them.
He was obsessed with Jack the Ripper, writing numerous essays and poems about him.
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.