Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 43 - The Valley of the Kings

Moment in Oddity - The Mothman

The people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia have claimed for over fifty years now that their small community is plagued by the activity of a bird-like humanoid creature that has come to be known as the Mothman. The first sightings of Mothman came in November of 1966. A group of gravediggers claimed that they were buzzed by a man-sized creature that flew in low over the trees and then flew over them. A couple days later, two couples reported seeing a large man-sized creature flying in a park area they were driving through at night. When the headlights from the car caught the creature, they say they saw that the Mothman had glowing red eyes. Several other people from Point Pleasant claimed to see a flying creature with red eyes over the next several weeks. The following year, the Silver Bridge collapsed. Forty-six people were killed. Many believed that the Mothman either caused the accident or that it was warning them about the coming tragedy. The legend of Mothman was formulated around this event and it is now thought to be a portent of tragedy. The Mothman has been sighted in other areas as well, including Russia before the Chernobyl disaster. Some people believe the Mothman sightings have been a hoax or mass hysteria. John Keel wrote "The Mothman Prophecies" in 1975 and it later was made into a 2002 movie starring Richard Gere. The Mothman may be real or it may just be legend, but either way, it certainly is odd.


This Day in History - Electromote Begins its Run

On this date, April 29th, in 1882, the Electromote began its run in Germany. The Electromote was the precursor to the trolleybus. It was a converted four wheel landau carriage. An electric motor was used to power the chain drive that was attached to the rear wheels. The electric motor was powered by a cable that was attached to an overhead line. Dr. Ernst Werner von Siemens was the inventor and he ran the traveling vehicle on a 591 yard trail-track starting at Halensee railway station in a suburb of Berlin, Germany. The line ran to “Straße No. 5”, today's Joachim-Friedrich-Straße, and “Straße No. 13”, today's Johann-Georg-Straße, crossing the upper Kurfürstendamm at former Kurfürstenplatz. The Electromote only ran until June 13, 1882 and the track was dismantled. The run was basically an experiment and considered successful. Other similar vehicles were constructed and tested in America and Europe. The first trolleybus that was used to publicly move people, also originated in Berlin in 1901. Max Schiemann developed that trolleybus and although it only ran until 1904, the system he invented became the standard trolleybus current collection system.

Valley of the Kings


Egypt is a land of ancient treasures and wonders. Pharaohs were honored in death with immense public monuments that we know as pyramids. The Old Kingdom of Egypt built monuments in Giza and the Nile Delta. The New Kingdom pharaohs of Egypt wanted to be buried closer to their dynastic roots and they had their crypts built in the hills of Luxor. This area became known as the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Kings would end up housing the remains of at least sixty Egyptian nobles. Pharaohs from King Tut to Ramses II have tombs here. There are more than tombs here though. There are tales of curses and hauntings in the Valley of the Kings.

Luxor, Egypt is the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. It is located in upper southern Egypt. Luxor is considered the world's largest open air museum and houses the Necropolis, the temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak, the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings. Luxor is the Arabic word for "the palaces." Thebes was the capitol of Egypt during the New Kingdom and considered the home of the god Amon-Ra. From the 18th Dynasty to the 20th Dynasty, Thebes prospered and became very powerful politically and militarily. The city faded during the Late Period and later fell into ruins.

The Valley of the Kings is also known as Biban el-Muluk, which means "doorway or gateway of the kings." The Valley has two branches, an eastern and western branch. The eastern branch is called ta set aat, which means "The Great Place." The royal tombs are located in this eastern branch. The western branch is larger, but only contains a few tombs. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom chose the Valley as their final resting places.

The New Kingdom began with the 18th Dynasty and the first pharaoh of that time period was Ahmose. He was the last pharaoh to be buried in a pyramid. The location of the pharaohs' tombs changed with the New Kingdom and pyramids were no longer built. Instead, crypts were dug into the limestone hills. The tombs are all very similar. They consist of three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. When a new pharaoh began his reign, construction on his tomb began. The construction usually lasted six years. The interior of the tombs are inscribed with words from the Book of the Gates, the Book of the Underworld and the Book of the Dead.

When a pharaoh or other noble died, they were mummified after a formal announcement. The preparations took three months. The mummification process took longer because the body was placed in Natron for seventy days. Mummification was used as a way to preserve the body, so that it could reanimate in the afterlife. Their burial chambers were stocked with elaborate preparations that included treasures, furniture, clothes, food, wine, beer and jewelry. Pets were buried with their owners as well. Sixty-two of these tombs were discovered before 1922. The most recent tomb was discovered in 2005. Most of these tombs were robbed well before they were officially discovered. When Greek writer Diodorus Siculus visited the Valley of the Kings in 60 B.C., he wrote, "We found nothing there except the results of pillage and destruction." Today, people can visit these tombs that are opened on a rotation. Eleven of the crypts are lit by electric lighting.

The pharaohs who were buried in the Valley included Tutankhamun, Rameses I through VII, IX and XI, Amenhotep II and IV and Seti I. Amenhotep IV is better known as Akhenaten. He ruled for seventeen years during the 18th Dynasty. He built the city of Amarna for the Aten. His queen was Nefertiti and his son was Tutankhamun. He gave Queen Nefertiti unusual stature and she reigned with him almost as an equal, which is depicted in the artwork from the time. Akhenaten died during his seventeenth year of rule and his son Smenkhkare became pharaoh. This lasted for only a year and he was succeeded by a female pharaoh, Neferneferuaten, who ruled for two years. King Tut then became king and was known as the boy king. This time period is very murky in the historical logs because the Egyptians were secretive about their rulers and Neferneferuaten was not given a royal burial.

The Rameses family of pharaohs took reign and moved the capitol to Memphis. Their time of rule is when the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. Rameses I was the first king of the 19th Dynasty. He was a military commander and when he died he was buried in the Valley until his tomb was vandalized. He was moved to Deir el Bahri. Rameses VI has the largest tomb in the Valley and it is decorated with the shattered remains of his immense granite sarcophagus. He was the fifth king of the 20th Dynasty and he obtained rulership by usurping it from his nephew, Rameses V.

The tomb of Thutmose III is unique in that its ceiling is spangled in stars and the walls are covered with 741 deities. Seti I's tomb is the most elaborate tomb. His sarcophagus was made from alabaster and was brought to England by Giovanni Belzoni. Other nobles ranging from princes to wealthy citizens were also buried in the Valley.

The air about the Valley of the Kings seems charged with the supernatural. Have the ghosts of former pharaohs led to the discovery of the tombs located here? The Egyptians have a saying that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again." There was widespread belief in ghosts in Egypt. The Egyptians believed that humans had a soul and they named it Khu. Khu was depicted as an ibis in hieroglyphs. During the Greek and Roman periods, it was believed the Khu could enter other people's bodies and torture them. The Egyptians later developed a belief in the human having five components. Those components included the heart, shadow, name, Ba and Ka. The Ba was the soul and the Ka was the spirit. Death occurs when the Ka leaves the body. In the afterlife, the Ba and Ka come back together and form the Akh, which is similar to the Western ghost. As long as the proper ceremonial rites were practiced, the Akh could reanimate. An Akh could do harm or good. They can even cause nightmares.

The Curse of King Tut is a well known legend. Howard Carter was an Egyptologist who was not university educated. He had been educated at home and gained his expertise in Egyptology through hands on practical experience he obtained in Egypt. He got his start by drawing pictures of artifacts for archeologists. Carter met Lord Carnarvon in 1907. Lord Carnarvon was an amateur archeologist and the two men worked together excavating in Thebes. In 1914, the two men applied for a license to excavate in the Valley of the Kings and they received that license. A big plus for Carter in teaming up with Lord Carnarvon is that the Lord had money and was willing to finance their diggings. World War I slowed the men down, but in 1917, Carter resumed his digging. He was positive that King Tut's tomb was in the area because artifacts with his name had been found here. He searched for five years to no avail. Lord Carnarvon gave him one more year of financing. On November 4, 1922, Carter found the stairs leading into King Tut's tomb. On November 26th, Lord Carnarvon accompanied Carter as the tomb was opened and they beheld great treasures of gold. And they released the curse.

The find was reported to the proper authorities and the press came running. Artifacts were photographed and emptied from the tomb. Things were going smoothly until March of 1923. Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito. He later nicked the bite with his razor and it became infected. Within three weeks, the Lord was dead. The day he died, the lights in Cairo went out. His dog, who was in England when the Lord died, passed away on the same day as his master. Carter's pet canary was killed by a cobra shortly thereafter. Stories about a curse began at this time and were fueled by the later deaths of twelve people who had been present when the tomb was open. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of those people who perpetuated the story about the Curse of King Tut. Howard Carter claimed to see jackals like the god of the dead, Anubis, near the tomb. Jackals had not been seen in this part of the desert in over thirty-five years. Some believe the deaths were caused by a deadly fungus or that the deaths were just coincidences. Many of the team lived on into old age, including Carter. So was the tomb of the great pharaoh guarded by a curse?

Shirley MacLaine played a guest role on Downton Abbey in 2012 and she claimed the home where the show is filmed is haunted. And not just by any ghost, by King Tut. The home belongs to Lord Carnarvon's family. MacLaine claims the tomb of King Tut was once stored in the basement of the home. She also claims King Tut spooked her while on set. But then MacLaine says a lot of things.

One haunting tale is about a chariot that travels through the Valley of the Kings. When the clock hits midnight, the apparition of a pharaoh, wearing a golden collar and headress is seen riding aboard a chariot that is pulled by black phantom horses.

The Pharaoh Akhenaten is rumored to have been cursed by the priests of his time because he abolished the worship of the Egyptian gods during his rule. The curse has forced him to wander the desert of the Valley of the Kings through the afterlife. Many people have witnessed his apparition wandering.

Do the ghosts of the pharaohs still continue to roam the Valley of the Kings? Have they led the mortal in finding their lost tombs? Does the opening of the tombs release ghosts and curses? Is the Valley of the Kings haunted? That is for you to decide.

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