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The Curse of the Pharoah is an audio drama released by Big Finish Productions in September 2009. Carolyn Stoddard is visited by an Egyptologist who is searching for answers to life after death.
Famed Egyptologist Dr. Gretchen Warwick has come to Collinwood, searching for the answers to life in the hereafter. At first, Carolyn cannot understand why Warwick needs her help, but, to her horror, she soon discovers that she is the key to the dark, dangerous world on the other side of death...
Carolyn Stoddard anxiously searches through some files. They contain hieroglyphs and make no sense to her. She can feel his presence. She starts to make changes to one of the documents. A door opens, she panics.
A knock at the door, Carolyn answers it. It’s a woman who says she’s travelled from Egypt to meet her specially. The woman introduces herself as Dr. Gretchen Warwick mentioning her friendship with Professor Stokes. She brings up Carolyn’s marriage to Jeb Hawkes and that Stokes has told her all about the Collins family. Gretchen's been informed that Carolyn might know something about an ancient Egyptian artifact that she’s been studying. Carolyn’s mother Elizabeth enters, who upon finding out that Gretchen is a friend of Stokes’ offers her a place to stay at Collinwood. She accepts.
Gretchen wastes no time getting settled in. She has completely redecorated the room she’s been given with all her Egyptian possessions. She discusses with Carolyn an image of the Nephren-Ka, the forgotten Pharaoh. She shows her an artifact that Carolyn recognizes immediately. It is a golden box bearing the seal of a serpent that has four heads. It is a monster called the Naga that is associated with the Leviathan race. Gretchen tells Carolyn that the box has the power to bring back Jeb Hawkes and Gretchen’s own recetly departed husband, Herbert.
Ever since seeing the Naga box Carolyn has been experiencing visions taking her thousands of years into the past. She can’t control them. She is in the world of 5000 years ago, Egypt during the third dynasty, the time of Nephren-Ka. Carolyn is in the mind of the wife of Nephren-Ka. Nephren-Ka is a strong quick-witted man, who has rebelled against the disciplines of the old religion. Nephren-Ka is ruthless and mad, having insinuated himself into the Egyptian royal family, he has killed them all and had their temple destroyed. He has ordered that a new temple be built bearing the insignia of the four headed serpent.
Carolyn sits in a darkened room. Gretchen is going to demonstrate to her that her claims of bringing back the dead are truthful by making contact through the powers of the Naga. Whilst she performs the ritual she asks Carolyn to remain silent. Carolyn thinks she hears the voice of Jeb. She anxiously calls out to him, causing contact to break off. This angers Gretchen as Carolyn was meant to remain silent for the experiment to work. However, this demonstration seems to have convinced Carolyn of Gretchen’s claims.
At the Blue Whale, Carolyn encounters Mike Garner, Frank's younger brother, but she realizes that she’s not in the mood to talk so she makes a quick exit. Mike follows her thinking something is wrong. She turns her back on him and continues on her way. At that moment the whole atmosphere seems to change. A loud splash is heard and Mike is now nowhere to be seen. A pale shape sinks into the black water below. Carolyn almost slips in some slime; she can see a trail of it leading from behind the Blue Whale to the spot where Mike had been standing. A deep breathing noise approaches and Carolyn screams.
Nephren-Ka’s wife cannot believe what her husband has become, a zealot for his new religion worshiping Gods who are far older and powerful than the one they have always worshiped. Her husband's desire is to rule the world and if these gods are obeyed they will fulfill their his wishes. She fears that she would be murdered if she were to challenge him in his new beliefs. She is sure that he would feed her to that faceless horror that lives in the temple. At night she hears a slow horrid breathing, a monstrous hiss of a voice as it communes with its kin, and occasionally the shrieks of those it devours, of the one's her husband gives it as offerings.
Back at Collinwood, Sheriff Patterson questions Carolyn over Mike's death. He confirms that something left Mike’s body mutilated. Once he leaves, Carolyn rushes straight up to Gretchen’s room, but she isn’t there and she can’t be found anywhere. Elizabeth hasn’t seen Gretchen since before Carolyn left that evening.
Inside her room Carolyn begins to sense a presence is with her. It the same feeling she had when Gretchen made contact with Jeb’s spirit. She is certain it is Jeb that is with her. She hears Gretchen's voice in the hall so she goes to the door of Gretchen’s room. She can hear Gretchen talking to someone. She goes in and Gretchen explains that she was listening to a recording that her husband dictated before his death. Carolyn is certain she is lying. She tells Gretchen about Mike's death and accuses her of having been involved. Gretchen responds that it had nothing to do with the ceremony they performed. Carolyn starts to have doubts about what they’re doing. Gretchen says that if the ritual had anything to do with Mike’s death then it was Carolyn’s fault for disobeying her instructions. She threatens Carolyn that if she doesn’t cooperate then she will cut out her mother’s heart and feed it to the guardian of the temple. Gretchen knows all about the things Carolyn has been experiencing in her visions; they are what brought Carolyn to her attention.
Later, unable to sleep Carolyn hears Gretchen leave her room. Carolyn sneaks in there. She finds a notebook containing contact details for Professor Stokes. She telephones him and asks about Gretchen. He assures her that he has always been discreet when discussing the Collins family with Gretchen and that the name of Jeb Hawkes has never once come up.
Nephren-Ka’s wife does not fear for herself. The people have revolted against her husband and it is only a matter of time before they break into the temple and have their justice. Although she did not see it, it is said that a strange wolf-like creature was conjured up that caused the guardian of the temple to flee.
Carolyn returns to Gretchen’s room. Believing Jeb’s spirit to have guided her hand, she changed Gretchen’s notes in the hope of sabotaging the planned ritual. A door opens, she panics. In the hallway Elizabeth asks to see Gretchen for a moment. Carolyn takes this opportunity to slip out of Gretchen’s room undetected. She moves over to them and is informed by her mother that Jim Shannon a good friend of Carolyn’s father has been murdered just like Mike Garner.
Gretchen is dressed in a crimson robe and is wearing a golden tiara that is adorned with the symbol of the Naga. She instructs Carolyn to open her mind to Jeb’s presence, along with her thoughts of Herbert, it is their task to set them free. Gretchen begins the liturgy, instructing Carolyn to recite her part of the ritual. Gretchen is pleased and continues chanting. Suddenly a pale blue light envelops Gretchen’s body, her eyes are blazing with light. She declares that Carolyn will be reunited with Jeb in the kingdom of the dead, Herbert’s life will be restored and the Leviathan’s will operate though her as they see fit. She reveals that she allowed them to destroy Mike as a test of their power and that Carolyn was never in contact with Jeb. It was simply a pretense to ensure her cooperation. The blue light grows brighter; Gretchen’s body is just a black silhouette. Snakes begin to churn beneath Gretchen’s skin, her whole body changes. Gretchen starts to panic, Carolyn is sure she feels Jeb presence. Gretchen’s thrashes about in agony, the power is eating her alive, something is wrong. Carolyn bolts out of the room into her mother arms. They witness Grethcen’s final demise. Silence, every trace of the Leviathan’s are gone.
Carolyn has Gretchen’s collection of artifacts sent to a museum at Harvard to be cataloged by more responsible curators. Apart from the golden Naga box, which she throws off Widows' Hill where she hopes it will stay for all of time.
Nephren-Ka’s wife reveals her husband is dead. He has been beheaded and placed in hidden sepulcher so that her husband's soul may never rise to the kingdom of the dead. Her life has been spared and she has left instructions that the Golden Naga box be buried in a remote place so that future generations may not suffer its monstrous powers. She fears those loyal to Nephren-Ka are waiting to exact their revenge. She declares that the Pharaoh’s curse must die with him.
Background information and notes
- Carolyn confirms that after Jeb's sudden death, she returned to her maiden name of Stoddard.
- The Crimson Pearl gives the year as 1973 for the events of this story.
- Nephren-Ka, is a character originally created by H.P Lovecraft in the short story "The Outsider". Nephren-Ka was the black Pharaoh, an insane Pharaoh who secured the Shining Trapezohedron for Egypt, but after being convinced by the resident haunter of the dark, he had a lightless temple created to hold the stone and the deity within. That temple became a center of abominable happenings, and the rites out carried there were so monstrous the temple was destroyed and the Pharaoh's name was struck from all records and monuments. The Pharaoh was controlled by the cruel god Nyarlathotep, of whom the Haunter of the Dark was likely an avatar.
- In H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Haunter of the Dark," a cursed box was found in Nephren-Ka's tomb. In this play, a different box is found by Gretchen in the resting place of Nephren-Ka.
- Marie Wallace said of her character, "She had all the qualities that make a person interesting, compelling, fascinating, and out of the ordinary. Such fun to play! And of course, to then work opposite Nancy Barrett, with whom I hadn’t been on camera for many a year, why, I couldn’t ask for anything more… Until the next script comes along!”
- In the Blue Whale, Carolyn sees Rob Isvel, one of Chris's friends. Mike is the youngest of a family of attorneys in town. Carolyn recalls Vicki was interested in Frank, Mike's older brother, back when the Garners lived in Bangor.