The Stuff Movies are Made Of

Story from the November 16 issue

As I was correcting and reading through some of the news in my week of November 13th-18th, one story in particular stood out to me. In fact, I had to go back and reread it twice because it was so unbelievable. The news story is titled “The Fatal Pit." It begins with a local man of Karnak, near Luxor who believes that his home was built over “an ancient tomb or some old building.” So, he digs a large pit, enters, comes upon an old door, and does not return. That alone sounds like something from a movie, but things only get crazier. Alarmed by her husband’s disappearance, his wife goes after him. She too enters the pit and does not return. Now the children are concerned about where their parents have wandered off to. So, the son and daughter go to search for them, enter, and do not return. Finally, a lone village native goes to check it out and becomes asphyxiated as soon as he reaches the old door.

Karnak-Luxor-map

Quite a few questions came to me as I read this. The first one being, “is this real?” I am still questioning this, simply because it sounds so outrageous. My second question, of course, was the question of what was behind that old door. No one from this story successfully enters far enough to see what lies within, and the story focuses on their tragic deaths rather than addressing a possible discovery. But, did anyone ever enter? I can’t imagine this mysterious discovery would have been forgotten or overlooked, but maybe it was. This lead to the question of whether scenarios such as this one were common for this time period. Just how often were people discovering strange structures like this under their homes? Was this strange story really so strange?

Will Hanley
Will Hanley
Associate Professor of History

I study the legal history of the Middle East and teach at Florida State University.