The screen icon, 78, was spooked by King Tutankhamun while making a guest appearance as American socialite Martha Levinson, the wealthy mother of Lady Grantham, played by Elizabeth McGovern, in the third series of the lavish ITV drama.
Shirley joined the cast of the show, which also stars Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, earlier this year to film her scenes at Highclere Castle in Hampshire.
The Oscar-winning actress, a New Age spiritualist who believes in reincarnation, claims she immediately tuned into the auras “buzzing” around the film set.
She said: “It was a fantastic experience. Highclere was haunted and the pictures came off the wall.”
Shirley believes the haunting of the castle, which has been the family home of the Carnarvon family since 1679, can be linked to the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
It was a fantastic experience. Highclere was haunted and the pictures came off the wall
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, and archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, outside Cairo, in 1922, exposing treasures unsurpassed in the history of archaeology.
The tomb was transferred to Highclere after the earl’s sudden death from a mosquito bite in 1923.
This led to the stories of the “Curse of Tutankhamun”. Legend has it that if anyone disturbs the mummy of a pharaoh they are cursed with bad luck. Shirley said: “They had the tomb of King Tut in the basement.”
The star, who was nominated for an Oscar five times before winning Best Actress for Terms of Endearment in 1983, will clash with Dame Maggie’s formidable Dowager Countess Violet when the third series of Downton is screened in January.