I literally couldn’t put down the Atlas of Cursed Places and finished it in 2 readings, but now I don’t want to go to the Maldives. Subtitled “A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations” this book by Olivier Le Carrer was 1st published in France and made it to the United States in 2015.
Le Carrer is well qualified to handle his creepy subjects. A sailor and expert in maps, he has been to 30 of the 40 places he writes about in the Atlas of Cursed Places, which is also a treat for lovers of old maps like me. Totally without humor and with a focus on gory but fascinating details, Le Carrer told me why I don’t want to go anywhere near the places he writes about, like the Maldives.
The Maldives, 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean that have been raved about as Eden-like for the last 50 years, are threatened by Thilafushi, what Le Carrer calls “The Toxic Lagoon”. Over a million people either live in the Maldives or visit each year, and they all create waste. By 1992 the authorities needed a dump and designated the island of Thilafushi as the place for garbage, 21 pounds of it each day from just one resident and one visitor. Thilafushi quickly became a mountain of leaking, smelly stuff and noxious waste like spent batteries. Rafts tied to this island sometimes break free and drift around. Yuk.
The scariest, most hair-raising (I hope) story in this book reminded me that the Curse of Aten didn’t just affect King Tut. The child of an incestuous relationship, Tut was never healthy. He became Pharoah at the age of 9 and married his half-sister shortly thereafter. They had 2 stillborn children before he died from a malaria-like infection in 1327 BCE, according to Le Carrer, while still a teenager. After his tomb was opened in the 1920s and before his elaborate mask started touring the globe, 27 suspicious deaths related to his tomb’s excavation and the handling of his stuff were recorded. For example, Lord Carnarvon, the man who backed the project, died from a single mosquito bite 4 months after the tomb was opened.
The stories in this book come from all over the world. There’s a haunted graveyard in Kansas described, an eerie suicide forest in the shadow of Mount Fuji in Japan depicted that claims far more victims annually than the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. Come to think of it, I probably want to cancel that trip to Venice too.