Curses! Fungus Dispels the Myth of King Tut’s Tomb

--British Egyptologist Hugh Evelyn-White was among the first to enter the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen after its discovery in 1922 near Luxor, Egypt. And he was one of about two dozen explorers who were to die soon after visiting the site. “I have succumbed to a curse,” Evelyn-White wrote in his own blood in 1924 just before he hanged himself. But Dr. Caroline Stenger-Philippe, in her doctoral thesis for the Strasbourg, France, School of Medicine, maintains that King Tut’s curse was really a severe allergic reaction to fungi. She says the fruits and vegetables that the Egyptians placed in the tomb to nourish the pharaoh through eternity decayed over the centuries, creating molds. The excavators “came to look for gold and treasures and paid no attention to the pink, gray and green patches of fungi on the walls. That’s what killed some of them,” she said. But she could not explain Evelyn-White’s suicide or the mysterious deaths of several others who entered the tomb. Dr. Arthur Maier, one of France’s pioneers in allergy studies, although saying that her thesis offered “a very plausible” scientific explanation, was not entirely convinced. Those who believe in King Tut’s curse, he said, “may go on believing.”

--Britain’s Queen Mother will be the guest of British Airways for a special birthday flight aboard the supersonic Concorde. “We heard that a flight on Concorde was one of her long-held wishes,” John King, an airline executive, said. “To grant that wish is a present we are very proud to give.” The mother of Queen Elizabeth II turns 85 Sunday. She will board Concorde at London’s Heathrow Airport two days later for a special two-hour luncheon trip around the kingdom at speeds reaching 1,400 m.p.h. A spokeswoman for the Queen Mother said that there was no official statement on the trip, but added: “I’m sure she’s delighted--wouldn’t you be?”

--There is no such thing as a blue moon, says astronomer David Menke of New Britain, Conn., but he agrees that it wouldn’t sound right to say: “I haven’t seen you since two full moons occurred in the same month.” Menke has tried unsuccessfully to determine the origin of the phrase “blue moon,” which refers to the occurrence of two full moons in one month. “I don’t know its origin, but I’ve searched as far as I can on it,” said Menke, who has traced the use of the phrase to the year 1526. Wednesday will provide the first “blue moon” since Dec. 30, 1982, he said. “It will look like an ordinary full moon. It won’t be blue . . . .”