A discovery of an ancient mummy in the Alps of Austria in September 1991, perhaps unleashed one of the most darkly intriguing and apparently fatal curses of recent times. And what’s more, the body count might not be complete yet. As we will look at in a moment, the curse of the Otzi Mummy is possibly a modern actioning of an ancient promise of vengeance. Most of us are familiar with the curses of the ancient Egyptian mummies, for example. Arguably, the most well-known of these curses would be that of Tutankhamen’s tomb, which following its opening in 1925 apparently made good on its warnings.
The main financial backer of the expedition, Lord Carnavon, suddenly became very ill in the months that followed. He was taken to the hospital in Cairo and was believed to be suffering from an infection caused by an insect bite. Days later, he was dead. Furthermore, according to legend, at the moment he took his last breath, a power failure took hold of Cairo. And further still, when the time of his father’s death was confirmed, Lord Carnavon’s son revealed that at the very same moment, the family dog let out a sorrowful howl and dropped dead. Just to add a further twist to the affair, when the body of Tutankhamen was examined, an insect bite was discovered on the young pharaoh’s left cheek. The insect bite that led to Lord Carnavon’s fatal infection was in the exact same place.
By 1929, a total of eleven people had met with a suspicious end. This would include a relative of Lord Carnavon, Lord Westbury, who was so traumatized by the apparent curse, he would take his own life. Whether matters regarding the Otzi mummy reach similar heights remains a question.
The Iceman’s Discovery
In September 1991, two German tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, were hiking along an unmarked trail in the Otztal Alps along the border of Austria and Italy. As it turned out, they weren’t alone. At over 10,000 feet the pair discovered a body of what they thought to be a fellow mountaineer who must have perished recently on the mountain. The body itself was half frozen into the ice, with only the head and torso visible.
They would contact police and inform them of their find. The following day, along with a police search unit, the Simons returned to the spot where the body lay. An initial attempt went ahead to remove the body from the ice. However, it remained steadfast. A sudden change in the weather forced the postponement of the retrieval. Two days later, however, the unit and the Simons returned again. This time, they had an entourage of onlookers and media people with them.
The body was removed and, along with several tools and items discovered with it, it was placed roughly on the ground before the cameras and onlookers. The remains were taken to the University of Innsbruck and prepared for analysis. Initial examinations discovered it was certainly not the body of a recently deceased hiker. It was instead the remains of a male mummy. One that appeared to date back to almost 5,000 years. Soon after, these ancient remains were referred to by the media, historians, and scientists alike, as the Otzi Iceman.
The Beginning Of Deadly Occurrences
Amid initial investigations, as well as disagreements as to whether the Austrian or Italian government “owned” the discovery, several strange and sudden deaths began to befall those who had one connection or another to the Otzi Mummy and its recent discovery.
The first suspicious death was that of Rainer Henn, a 64-year-old forensic pathologist with Innsbruck University. Henn was one of the first to touch the remains and was one of those who forcibly removed it from the ice. He was also the person who prepared the remains for transportation to the university. He would die in a car accident several years following the discovery. Perhaps more chilling was the fact he was on his way to give a lecture on the mummy.
Shortly after this, a second death occurred. 52-year-old, Kurt Fritz, who had led the search units to the spot following the report by the Simons, would die in a bizarre and unexpected avalanche. He was the only one of the unit he was working with that day to die.
There was soon another mysterious death. The cameraman who had filmed the removal of the mummy, Rainer Hoelz, and who was part of a documentary of its discovery, would receive a sudden diagnosis of a brain tumor. He would die shortly after.
More Mysterious And Sudden Deaths
In October 2004, one of the discoverers of the Otzi Mummy, Helmut Simon, would go missing while walking in the Gaiskarkogel mountain range, also in Austria. Some claim he was increasingly bitter regarding the lack of “financial compensation” or even recognition over the find. Eight days later, came the discovery of his body face down in a small stream, eerily similar to the position the Otzi Iceman. It seemed he was the victim of a sudden blizzard which caused him to lose his footing and fall 300 feet to his death from a ledge above.
Even more bizarre was the death of 45-year-old, Dieter Warnecke, who had led the search team for Simon. He died of a sudden heart-attack only hours after Simon’s funeral. Shortly after these two 2004 deaths came the death of 55-year old Konrad Spindler. Spindler was one of the first scientists to conduct in-depth examinations of the mummy. He suffered from multiple sclerosis and complications from the condition would prove to be fatal.
Spindler’s death, to many, is merely a coincidence. The scientist, however, would joke that he “would be the next victim” of the curse, something he didn’t believe in. Shortly after Spindler’s death, though, came the seventh and, so far, the last mysterious death connected to the Otzi Iceman. And once again it was a scientist who had conducted extensive and intimate examinations of the remains. And who, like Spindler, would publicly dismiss the notion of curses and suspicious deaths.
Still More To Come?
63-year-old Tom Loy was an American molecular archeologist and was a driving force in what would prove to be key examinations of the Otzi mummy in the 2000s. In particular, his discovering of multiple blood types on the clothes and remains of the mummy was crucial to the widely accepted theory that, in life, he had met a violent and bloody end.
To some, it was more than strange and coincidental then that not long after these examinations, Loy received confirmation of a rare disease of the blood. He would die sometime later from the condition. What is perhaps interesting here, however, is when Loy was first diagnosed with the condition that eventually killed him, 1992. Just after he began to work on the Otzi Iceman.
The study of the Otzi Mummy continues today. And a wealth of information has come to light through the study of the remains. While many believe there is something to the curse of the Otzi Iceman, skeptics point out that, while seven deaths may sound high on the surface, compared to the hundreds that have worked on the project, it is a very small percent. Furthermore, there have been no other deaths with connections to such studies. At least, not yet.
The video below looks at the Otzi Mummy and the mysteries connected to it in a little bit more detail.
Vengeance From The Other Side?
Of course, as we mentioned in our opening to this article, the curse of the Otzi Iceman is far from the only one with connections to people or relics from antiquity. For example, the discovery of the Terra Cotta Army in China by a small group of farmers. While making lots of money for the Chinese government, the discovery brought no riches to the farmers themselves. In fact, many of those involved would run huge debts throughout the remainders of their lives. Three of them would even die very early deaths, one of which was by his own hand.
In our article looking at the demise of the Knights Templar, we looked at the circumstances which would lead to Friday the 13th being a date synonymous with bad luck. One of the people arrested during the raids at the orders of King Philip of France, was the last (official) Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay. Molay would be a prisoner for seven years, tortured for much of that time, before his execution in 1314. He would burn alive at the stake. However, before he succumbed to the flames, he spoke aloud at his killers. He would unleash a curse upon them. Both King Philip, and Pope Clement V, who stripped Molay and the order of the “divine duties”.
Molay would issue warnings to both Philip and Clement. They would “have to answer for their crimes in God’s presence”. And would have to do so “within a year and a day”. In April 1314, only a month after the execution of Molay, Clement was dead. Shortly after, Philip would suffer a fatal stroke while hunting.
The video below examines some of the most mysterious curses from ancient times.