Curious Curses : 11 Famous Accounts of Curses

Since the Hope Diamond post has been doing so well, I’m going to let you all have a wonderful treat to whet that exceptionally curious appetite!  There are so many unusual stories that have bombarded our imaginations for centuries and it is only in our society today that we look upon such ideas as superstition or coincidence.  Well, let it be so but that doesn’t mean anyone can say another is wrong about their own curious experiences…they belong to them personally!

Most of these strange little stories have been passed from one century to the next and some are even followed out of respect for their history and notoriety. Whether you believe in curses or coincidence making sense of all the things in the world without a little bit of fun involved is simply boring!  You don’t have to believe in a thing to find it curious!

1. The Forever 27

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A truly tragic club to be a member of!  This is actually quite an exclusive club in which you can only be included if you are a musician and you die at the age of 27.  I don’t know if you could actually narrow this down as a curse but for musicians it is a birth year to live through!  The list get longer all the time!

2. The Curse of the Great Bambino

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They say that when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in the 1919 – 1920 off season that they traded their luck.  From then to 2004 (an 86 year span!) the Red Sox got close but never got the World Series title until the 21st century.  I think it’s safe to say the curse is over…happily for Boston!

3. Never say “break a leg”!  Or perform Macbeth for that matter!

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Why you ask?  Because it’s bad luck obviously!  Macbeth is has quite possibly the most undeserving bad luck of any of Shakespeare’s plays!  For your amusement I have found some facts on a site called straight dope..curious name indeed!

  • In a 1672 production in Amsterdam, the actor playing Macbeth substituted a real dagger for the blunted stage dagger and killed the actor playing Duncan, in full view of the audience.
  • On the opening day of a London run in 1703, England was hit with one of the most violent storms in its history.
  • At a 1721 performance a nobleman in the audience got up in the middle of a scene and walked across the stage to talk with a friend. The actors chased him from the premises; he returned with militiamen, who burned the theater down.
  • Female Lady Macbeths haven’t been immune. In 1775, Sarah Siddons was nearly attacked by a disapproving audience. In 1926, Sybil Thorndike was almost strangled by a fellow actor. And in 1948, Diana Wynyard decided to play the sleepwalking scene with her eyes closed and sleepwalked right off the stage, falling 15 feet. In the best show-must-go-on tradition, she finished the performance.
  • In the mid-1800s, two rival actors (William Charles Macready of England and Edwin Forrest of the U.S.) staged competing productions, so that on May 10, 1849, they were both playing Macbeth in New York. An audience of Forrest fans threw fruit and chairs at Macready during his performance at the Astor Place Opera House, disrupting the show and starting a riot. The militia was called in and fired on the crowd; more than 20 died and another 30-plus were wounded.
  • On April 9, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was reading passages from Macbeth – those following Duncan’s assassination – aloud to some friends. Within a week Lincoln was himself assassinated.
  • During the first modern-dress production, at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1928, a large set collapsed, seriously injuring some cast members.
  • In a 1937 production a heavy counterweight crashed to the stage, missing Laurence Olivier, playing Macbeth, by only inches.
  • In a 1942 staging, with John Gielgud as Macbeth, three actors (two witches and Duncan) died and the set designer committed suicide.
  • In a Thursday-night performance in 1947 actor Harold Norman was stabbed during the final sword fight in act 5 and died of his wounds. On Thursdays his ghost is now said to haunt the Coliseum Theatre in Oldham, where the fatal scene was played.
  • In a 1953 outdoor production in Bermuda, during the realistically staged attack on Macbeth’s castle, a gust of wind blew smoke and flames into the audience, who fled. Charlton Heston, playing Macbeth, suffered severe burns on his groin and leg because his tights had accidentally been soaked in kerosene.
  • Rip Torn’s 1970 production in New York City was halted by an actors’ strike.
  • David Leary’s 1971 run was plagued with two fires and seven robberies.
  • In 1971 Roman Polanski (who may himself have seemed cursed at the time, as his wife Sharon Tate had been murdered by followers of Charles Manson just two years earlier) made a film version; a camera operator was almost killed in an accident on the first day of shooting.
  • J. Kenneth Campbell, playing Macduff, was mugged soon after the play’s opening in 1981 at Lincoln Center.
  • In a 2001 production by the Cambridge Shakespeare Company, Macduff injured his back, Lady Macbeth bumped her head, Ross broke a toe, and two cedar trees from Birnam Wood topped over, destroying the set.

4. James Dean’s Spyder

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A tragedy indeed!  James Dean only made three movies in his career (though he was on TV often enough) and he is still considered one of the greatest actors of the 20th century!  The car was nicknamed…oh my…”Little Bastard” and was one of only 90 made in 1955. After the crash that killed James Dean on September 30, 1955 the car would become just as famous as its’ tragic ill-fated driver!

  • Car designer George Barris bought the wreck for $2,500. On delivery, the Porsche slipped off its trailer and broke the legs of a mechanic.
  • A doctor bought the engine and put it in his own Porsche.The first time he took the car out, the vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a tree. He was killed on the spot.
  • Another doctor bought the transmission and wrecked the car while supposedly racing the first doctor in the incident above!  He said the car locked suddenly at the curve and he flipped.
  • When Barris sold two of the Spyder’s tires to a teenager in New York, it is reported that the tires blew simultaneously on the first drive around!
  • Two young thieves were injured while trying to steal the steering wheel.
  • In 1959, a fire broke out in the Fresno garage where Dean’s Porsche had been stored.  It is said that every car was destroyed except the Porsche Spyder!
  • As the car was on display at a show in California as a warning to teenagers about wreckless driving, the car feel from the display breaking a teenagers hip.
  • While in transport on a flatbed truck, the vehicle lost control and the driver was crushed to death by the Spyder.
  • While on tour for James Dean’s anniversary of his death, three bolts popped loose and crushed a young boys legs.
  • After the tour, the car was sealed tightly in a box car and shipped back to California.  Once the box arrived still sealed, the car was gone.  It has disappeared and has not been seen since!

5. The Kennedy Curse

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There is something to be said about wealthy, powerful families…money can’t buy everything!  The Kennedy’s are America’s royalty, the ones who made us look good to the rest of the world even though they had their fair share of curious problems!  The family was/is quite large and sometimes curious accidents just happen in greater numbers.

  • 1941Rosemary Kennedy was believed to be mentally retarded but in fact suffered from mental illness. She underwent an experimental surgery with the intention of controlling her outbursts. The results of the lobotomy were disastrous, and she remained in an institution until her death in 2005.
  • 1944Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is killed over the English Channel while flying a mission during World War II.
  • 1948Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy Cavendish dies in a plane crash in France after loosing her husband in combat.
  • 1955Jacqueline Kennedy suffers a miscarriage.
  • 1956Jacqueline Kennedy gives birth to a stillborn daughter.
  • December 19, 1961Joseph P. Kennedy, the family patriarch, suffers a greatly disabling stroke
  • August 7, 1963Patrick Bouvier Kennedy , the second son of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, dies two days after his birth, nearly six weeks premature.
  • November 22, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
  • 1964Ted Kennedy is in a plane crash in which one of his aides and the pilot were killed.
  • June 5, 1968Robert F. Kennedy is shot multiple times in Los Angeles.
  • 1969 A car driven by Ted Kennedy goes off a bridge. Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to Robert Kennedy, dies in the accident.
  • 1973Edward Kennedy, Jr. At the age of twelve loses his right leg due to bone cancer.
  • 1973Joseph P. Kennedy II, son of Robert and Ethel, is the driver in a Cape Cod car accident that leaves one passenger permanently paralyzed.
  • 1973Alexander Onassis, stepson of Jacqueline Kennedy, dies in a plane crash.
  • 1984David A. Kennedy dies from a Demerol and cocaine overdose in a Palm Beach.
  • 1997Michael Kennedy dies in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado.
  • 1999John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy; and Carolyn’s sister Lauren Bessette died when the private plane Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean

6. The President Ends at 0

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A very famous American legend of how White House occupants with terms beginning with the same end number of the year William Henry Harrison would be cursed.  This was supposedly placed upon the ill-fated president after he won a battle for western expansion against Native Americans after which a man known as “The Prophet” set the curse down on Harrison.  The curse, however, is said to be broken since the last 2 presidents had survived their terms.

  • 1840 – William Henry Harrison
  • 1860 – Abraham Lincoln
  • 1880 – James Garfield
  • 1900 – William McKinley
  • 1920 – William Harding
  • 1940 – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • 1960 – John F. Kennedy

7. The Hope Diamond

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I have written extensively if you wish to read on but to sum up briefly the Hope Diamond is said to be cut from a large blue diamond found in India.  Stolen from it’s sacred place, the diamond’s curse proved rather unlucky to those unfortunate enough to have worn or owned it.

8. King Tutankhamen

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Though long since debunked as merely disease and accident there were many people at the time who thought this once powerful pharaoh had cursed them all.  I mention this one more for the staggering coincidences and less on superstition itself.  Wouldn’t you feel unlucky to have disturbed a grave?  Though I curiously love the history of this curse, much of it was propagated by the media and fueled by humanities love for the unknown.

  • To start, after Carter sent a message to his house shortly after opening the tomb, the messenger reported to see Carter’s pet canary dead in the mouth of a cobra which was the Egyptian symbol of the monarchy.
  • Lord Canarvan was bitten on the cheek by a mosquito which he irritated by cutting it.  After getting blood poisoning from infection he died.  The theory of a curse was later fueled when it was discovered that Tut himself had a mark in the same place as the bite.
  • Sir Bruce Ingram was given a mummified hand by Carter as a paperweight with a scarab bracelet with a curse on it.  Later Ingram’s house burn down followed by a flood.
  • Colonel The Hon. Aubrey Herbert,Carnarvon’s half-brother, became nearly blind and died on 26 September 1923 from blood poisoning related to a dental procedure intended to restore his eyesight.
  • Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, a radiologist who x-rayed Tutankhamun’s mummy, died in1924 from a mysterious illness.
  • A. C. Mace, a member of Carter’s excavation team, died in 1928 from arsenic poisoning
  • Captain The Hon. Richard Bethell, Carter’s personal secretary, died on 15 November 1929: found smothered in his bed.

9. Ayers Rock Stealing

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This one is rather easy to explain.  Ayers Rock is not only Australia’s most famous rock, but it is sacred to Aborigines.  Many travelers come to visit and take a small rock as a keepsake.  However, as they get it home is when bad luck starts to happen.  People who claim to have very happy lives before the visit send the rocks back to the park stating how it “ruined” their lives.  There is a wall of caution with these letters stapled to it to warn current visitors not to take the rocks home.

10. The Bjorketorp Runestone

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Not a very famous curse in America but I’ve never heard of an object whose curse was quite as obvious.  The surface of this Swedish stone is etched in the 6th or 7th century with the curse in Proto-Norse runes.  When translated the message is :

“I, master of the runes, conceal here runes of power. Incessantly (plagued by) maleficence, (doomed to) insidious death (is) he who breaks this (monument).”

With the runes on the back dictating that this was a “Prophecy of Destruction/Perdition”.  Now, granted, this is a curse to be sure but what power could this possibly hold?  Well, based on superstition and a lot of bad stories…isn’t that how all great curses start?

There was only one major story taken for truth and that was of a farmer in the 15th century trying to remove the stone to farm the land.  He lit a fire surrounding the stone on a calm day with the intention of breaking the stone with cool water after it was heated.  Suddenly, a gust of wind blew the fire in the man’s direction catching his hair on fire while the fire was extinguished completely around the stone.  The man then burned to death because the flame could not be put out.

11. Timur’s Tomb

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This is more of a legend than a curse really.  Timur was a great Turko-Mongol ruler who died in 1405 and was buried in a grand tomb with inscriptions warning not to disturb him (sounds very much like Tut, yes?) One such inscription was:

“When I Rise From The Dead, The World Shall Tremble”

and another inside his tomb:

“Whosoever Disturbs My Tomb Will Unleash An Invader More Terrible Than I”

Despite these warnings and the warnings of the 3 old men who emphasized the power of the curse, Stalin had the tomb opened on June 19th, 1941.  Two days later, on June 22nd, Adolf Hitler invaded the anthropologists homeland of Russia named Operation Barbossa…without a formal declaration of war.

After numerous defeats at the hands of Germans, Stalin eventually ordered that the remains of Timur be returned to his tomb with full Islamic burial rights.  As it was being transported, the plane carrying the body flew over Stalingrad just before the Battle of Stalingrad…one of World War II bloodiest battles.  Very soon after the body was put back into it’s tomb with full Islamic rite, the Russians won Stalingrad and eventually the war.

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