Jaw-Dropping Facts About History's Most Disturbing Curses

October 8, 2020 | Rachel Seigel

Jaw-Dropping Facts About History's Most Disturbing Curses

The Kennedy Curse, the 27 Club, the creepy events surrounding the filming of The Omen. Even though we try to stay rational, sometimes, when eerie coincidences defy explanation, it's natural to wonder if something is just cursed. Keep the lights on: Here are the perplexing stories behind history's most disturbing curses.

Historical Curses Facts

1. That Car is Bad Luck

Can a car be cursed? It certainly seemed that way when a series of unfortunate accidents befell people who drove or worked on James Dean’s Porsche in the year after it was hit by an oncoming car and Dean was killed. After the hot rod designer George Barris purchased the car, he took it in for a tune-up. The vehicle fell on and broke the mechanic’s legs.

Barbara Hutton FactsNeedpix

2. The Curse Continues

As if Dean’s demise and a pair of broken legs weren’t enough, the Porsche's curse continued. Two different doctors bought the car’s engine and transmission. One of the doctors suffered serious injuries in a car accident. The other passed in another automobile accident. Both were supposedly driving cars with the parts in them at the time.

James Dean FactsShutterstock

3. And Still More

Still not convinced that the car was cursed? How else can you explain what happened next? That same year, someone purchased the car’s tires. They ended up in hospital when both tires supposedly blew at the exact same time. According to legend, a truck carrying the car’s shell also crashed, instantly killing the driver.

Haunted Objects factsWikimedia Commons, Brad Hammonds

4. Divided by Twenty

American presidents are no strangers to curses, and as the story goes, Native American leader Tecumseh placed a curse on President William Henry Harrison back in 1840. He said that every 20 years, whoever was president wouldn't live past their time in office. Harrison was the first, perishing just one month into his term. After that, the curse claimed its victims like clockwork.

After Harrison's demise came Abraham Lincoln (1860), James A. Garfield (1880), William McKinley (1900), Warren G. Harding (1920), Franklin Roosevelt (1940), and JFK (1960). Harding and Roosevelt perished of natural causes during their presidencies. Everyone else was shot. Supposedly, the curse broke when Reagan (1980) survived a shooting while in office. Pretty freaky, right?

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons


5. Family Curse

Speaking of presidential curses, we have to talk about the infamous "Kennedy Curse." Though the pedigreed family was one of the most well-known dynasties in America, their fates were absolutely chilling. Beginning in the 1940s, the descendants of Joe Kennedy Sr. have been plagued with everything that lies between misfortune and utter disaster. To date, the Kennedy Curse has ended the lives of twelve people beginning with Joe Jr., who perished when his plane exploded in a freak accident, back in 1944.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons

6. Misfortune Follows Them

Four years after Joe Jr’s demise, his sister Kathleen also passed on in a plane crash while on vacation with her second husband. Then, in 1963, shortly after John F. Kennedy became president, things finally seemed to be going well—until JFK was assassinated. Just five years later, JFK's brother Robert suffered an eerily similar fate: He too was shot and passed on from his injuries.

John F. Kennedy factsWikimedia Commons

7. We’re Cursed!

The third Kennedy brother Ted absolutely did not believe in the curse—or he didn't until he accidentally drove his car off a bridge in 1969. He survived, but his passenger drowned, leading him to rethink his position on the family curse. Over the years, a skiing accident, drug overdose, a plane crash, and other terrible events have caused the demises of many more of the Kennedy clan.

Historical Curses FactsGetty Images

8. Cursed Castle

If you ever see a castle for sale for a price that seems too good to be true, take heed. It just might be the cursed castle known as Craig-E-Clare. Tucked away in the Catskill Mountains, the bad luck surrounding the property started with its purchase by Ralph Wurts-Dundas in 1915. Dundas began construction of the current castle almost immediately, but passed on in 1921 before it was completed. While Dundas’ demise could have been unrelated to the castle, horrible misfortunes began to afflict the rest of the Dundas family, leading to the idea that the castle was cursed.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Forsaken Fotos

9. From Mother to Daughter

In 1916, Dundas's wife Josephine was sent to a mental hospital without ever getting to live in the completed castle. This also could have been explained away, but as the story goes, her daughter Muriel had her inheritance stolen by the castle’s staff, and then she too was locked away after being suspected of madness several years later. Since then, every attempt at using the castle has ended in failure. To this day, the building is abandoned.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Peter Bond


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10. Didn’t Make It to 30

Was it bad luck or some kind of curse that has caused a number of brilliant musicians to pass away at age 27? It all started with blues musician Robert Johnson whose early passing was said to be the devil calling in his debt. Other musicians to die at 27 include Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. 27 was definitely not their lucky number!

27 club Graffiti in Tel AvivWikimedia Commons


11. Watch Out for the Iceman!

King Tut is one of the most famous mummies to supposedly carry a curse, but another mummy Otzi is also attached to a curse. Known as the Iceman because of the glacier that preserved his body, as soon as they dug him up, people started to die. Seven men associated with Otzi have all passed on in violent accidents, including the hiker who discovered him.

Archaeological Discoveries FactsWikimedia Commons

12. Vampire Vine

Blaming a vine for a series of unfortunate demises seems pretty crazy, but wait until you hear about the Spaulding family. Over 16 years, a whopping nine Spauldings fell victim to a disease that supposedly “sucked the life out of them." They blamed a nasty vine found on the family plot in the local cemetery—and here's the creepiest part: When gardeners finally cut the root, they said that the plant “twitched, screamed, and bleed."

Historical Curses FactsNeedpix

13. Don’t Let it Touch the Coffin

According to legend, if the vine touched the coffin of a family member, another demise would occur shortly thereafter. The family believed in this curse so strongly that they dug up the body at the end of the row of graves, cut the vine to keep it from reaching the next coffin, and burnt the body. Totally creepy!

Funerals FactsFlickr, Don LaVange

14. Cursed Franchise

The Poltergeist movie franchise is believed to be one of the most cursed movie franchises of all time, and with good reason. From the slaying of 22-year-old Dominique Dunne to the untimely demise of 12-year-old star Heather O’Rourque, four cast-members passed on in just six years. People blamed the curse on the set-dressers, who apparently used real cadavers as props.

Historical Curses FactsGetty Images

15. Open the Gates

The curse that supposedly plagues the Grimaldi family of Monaco can be traced back to a badly-behaved ancestor. Prince Ranier I allegedly abducted and attacked a beautiful woman who turned into a witch and cursed him and his family forevermore. The curse stated that a Grimaldi will never find happiness in marriage, and sadly, so far her cruel words have become true.

Prince Ranier III’s wife Grace Kelly passed on in a car accident, and both of their daughters have been unlucky in love. Their brother Prince Albert II is still married, but it remains to be seen if he’ll break the curse.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons

16. I Curse My Enemies!

As Knights Templar leader Jacques de Molay burned at the stake, he placed a curse on his enemies. Not only did Molay declare that that Pope Clement V and King Philip IV of France would perish within a year, but he also said that Philip’s line would end. The curse came true; Clement passed on shortly after from disease while a stroke took Philip. All of his sons and grandsons also passed, and by 1328, the line ended as promised.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons


17. Beware the Deadly Vase

Way back in the 15th century, a young bride was killed the night before her wedding holding a silver vase that she’d been given as gift. Since then, every person in the family who inherited the vase passed on quickly after receiving it. Naturally, the family decided the vase was bad luck and packed it away. This ought to have been the last anyone saw of the vase, but fate had other plans...

Lady Jane Grey FactsShutterstock

18. Missing Key Information

The vase turned up again in 1988 with a note warning that it would bring nothing but pain. But who'd believe something so whacko? Not the vase's owners. They auctioned off the container (without the note, natch). That would have been useful to have, because the next four owners all passed on, leading a family to demand that the law enforcement take it off their hands.

Historical Curses FactsShutterstock

19. SOL

Playing Superman, one of the most popular comic book heroes in history, seems like the chance of a lifetime, but ever since the character’s creation, the Man of Steel might as well be called the Man of Misfortune. The disturbing "Superman Curse" begins with the comic’s creators, who sold the character to DC for just $130. They lost their court battle for royalties and struggled financially for the rest of their lives.

Superman factsFlickr, Gareth Simpson

20. Not so Super

The sorrows of Superman’s creators were just the beginning. Since then, many of the actors who have portrayed Superman have had equally bad ends. Television’s first Superman Kirk Alyn was so typecast as Superman that he never landed another major role. He claimed that Superman ruined his life, and maybe it did. Sadly, by the time Alyn breathed his last in 1999, he was virtually unknown.

However, compared to the struggles faced by other Superman actors, Alyn's stalled career seems like a blessing.

Historical Curses FactsGetty Images

21. The Cape is a Curse

After voicing Superman in an animated serial from 41-43, everything was going well for Bud Collyer until he reprised the role for a new series in 66. A few years after dawning the cape for a second time, he suddenly fell ill and passed on at age 61. The curse continued with George Reeves, who perished of a gunshot wound in a still-mysterious case, and Christopher Reeve, who became paralyzed after falling from a horse.

Superman & Lois Lane in black'n white.Getty Images

22. Blame Dad

The untimely demise of both martial artist Bruce Lee and his son Brandon have long been thought to be the result of a family curse. Bruce’s father Lee Hoi Chuen supposedly ticked off some Chinese merchants, and in response they cursed him, promising that all the males in the family would die young. It’s hard to say whether it was curse or coincidence, but Lee’s parents thought it was real. They even tried to trick the spirits by calling him by a feminine name, though it doesn't seem like that worked.

Brandon Lee FactsWikimedia Commons


23. A Century of Drought

Chicago Cubs fans are a superstitious lot, and they blamed their team’s bad luck on a curse dating back to 1945. The curse was thanks to William “Billy Goat” Sianis who was kicked out of the stadium after fans complained that he’d brought his pet goat to the game. He allegedly cursed the team that day, and up until their World Series win in 2016, the team suffered from incredibly bad luck and had not won the championship since 1908.

Historical Curses FactsFlickr

24. The Cursed Part of the Ocean

Since 1945, there have been numerous reports of strange happenings in the Western part of the Atlantic Ocean known as the Bermuda Triangle, and this has led superstitious people to believe that the area is cursed. Nobody knows exactly what is causing ships and aircraft to mysteriously disappear or is knocking compasses off kilter, but a curse is as good a guess as any!

Oceans factsFlickr

25. Don’t Sing Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way” is a popular choice at Karaoke bars around the world, but you won’t find it in the song selection in the Philippines for a dark reason. Six people lost their lives after being attacked while singing the song at karaoke bars over there, leading to a widespread belief that the song is cursed. Welp, I'll never hear the first lines of that song the same way again ("And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain")...

Action Movies factsWikipedia

26. But the Painting Survives

In the 1950s, artist Giovanni Bragolin created a series of paintings featuring crying children, and one painting, titled “The Crying Boy” is said to be cursed. Many of the homes that hung the painting ended up burning down, but the painting was always found undamaged. Weirdly, the boy in the painting was also supposedly orphaned when his parents passed on in a house fire.

Seymour Fleming FactsShutterstock

27. That’s My Chair!

What happens when the town drunk manages to marry a beautiful young woman against her father’s wishes? As in the case of Elizabeth Auty back in 1702, a lot of bad stuff. When Auty's father came to get her back, his new son-in-law Thomas Busby bashed Auty's head in with a hammer and hid the body. Importantly, this all happened while Auty was sitting on a very specific, and now very cursed, chair.

Biggest Secrets factsPixabay

28. Sit on My Chair and Tremble

Busby was not the sharpest tool in the shed, so after offing his father-in-law, he was quickly caught and executing. While awaiting his demise, Busby cursed the chair that Auty had sat on, saying that anyone who sat on it would die. At first, people didn’t believe in the curse, but over the next 300 years, the chair seemingly claimed numerous victims, including two RAF airmen who dared each other to sit on it.

Historical Curses FactsPxHere

29. Don’t Tempt Me

The demise of a young workman who sat on the chair was the last straw for the owner of the Busby Stoop Inn where the chair was housed. After that, he offered it to the Thirsk museum on the condition that they don’t allow anyone to sit in the chair. Since then, the museum has received multiple requests from people who want to test the curse, but they have always wisely refused.

Historical Curses FactsGeograph

30. A Goddess’ Wrath

If you ever visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Honolulu, definitely don’t try to leave with a piece of the volcanic rock. According to legend, anyone who tries to remove the rock risks upsetting the goddess Pele and suffering her curse. So many people have suffered bad luck after taking the rocks that the park receives countless packages with returned pieces of rock, as well as letters pleading with her to reverse the curse.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Nandaro

31. The Thousand-Year Curse

The Curse of Turan is a Hungarian curse that originated around 1000AD when King Stephen tried to force the people to convert to Christianity. One person, a six-fingered shaman with supposed magical powers refused and placed a thousand-year curse on all of Hungary. For centuries the country has suffered persecution, despair and misfortune. Was it the curse, or just bad politics?

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Thomas Depenbusch (Depi)

32. A Curse Upon Your Wang!

Sometime after the demise of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, the Ancient Greeks started adopting magical practices from the Middle East, including writing curses on small sheets of led). One such tablet was discovered in 2008. Its incredible inscription read, “May your penis hurt when you make love.” History has never been so relatable.

Historical Curses FactsWikipedia

33. Shakespeare Said it Best

The famous curse “A pox on your house” originated in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet and is generally uttered when someone is really angry. The word pox originates from the old English “pocks” which are the abscesses from smallpox and syphilis, so basically, you’re cursing someone’s family to suffer from a horrible disease.

George Carlin factsShutterstock

34. The Show Must Go On

It took nine long, painful years for the musical Spider Man: Turn off the Dark to open on Broadway, leading many people to believe that the show was cursed. It all started when the show amassed $65 million in expenses while still in rehearsals, all thanks to expensive and complicated special effects. And that wasn’t the only problem.

Historical Curses FactsFlickr

35. And the Web Comes Down

In year three the show’s producer passed on of a heart attack, and then in 2010, the show’s star took a bad fall and suffered major injuries, and then the director was fired. By the time it opened in 2014, the opening date had been delayed five times, and despite a score by Bono and the Edge from U2, it never recouped its money.

Historical Curses FactsGetty Images

36. It’s Mine!

In 14th century England, healing wells were the en-vogue thing, and many of them were associated with St. Anne, the alleged mother of the Virgin Mary. In the 16th century, Father Delwaney and his neighbor Hugh Darcy got into an argument over who owned the well. Darcy told Delwaney that he would soon lose access to it. He was right, but even he couldn't have predicted how that would come to be.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Smuconlaw

37. Not Granting Any Wishes

A few days later, King Henry VIII sent his men to take control of the priory and the well. Delwaney was furious. He cursed Darcy, telling him he’d die within the year, and then passed immediately after. A few months later, Darcy’s son passed on from an unknown illness, Darcy had financial troubles, and a year later, he was inexplicably found with his head smashed in at the bottom of the well.

Messed Up Love stories FactsShutterstock

38. Don’t Disturb the Temple

The Assyrian rulers loved to scare people with menacing curses. In 1897, archaeologists digging in the ancient city of Dur-Katlimmu found a 6-foot stone broken in two pieces that contained a curse. The curse basically threatens total annihilation to anyone who takes it from its home, so it’s probably best to leave it alone.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons, Bertramz

39. Do Not Disturb

Tomb raiding was a huge problem in Egypt, and the Egyptians would have done whatever they could to protect the tombs from theft. For example, there's a curse inscribed on the stone guarding King Tut’s tomb. It threatens a terrible fate to whoever disturbs the young Egyptian king's slumber. Apparently, that inscription meant business. After Egyptologists opened up Tut's tomb in 1922, people involved in the archaeological mission began to drop like flies.

Egyptian Pharaohs FactsFlickr

40. Seriously, GTFO

When Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb, the world was amazed, but also fearful of the mummy's curse. As time passed, it looked like they were right to be afraid. One of Carter's team, Lord Carnavon, passed on of an infected mosquito bite soon after the discovery. Then the entire city of Cairo was cloaked in darkness, with the lights going out under strange circumstances.

After Carter gave his friend Sir Ingraham an artifact from the tomb, Ingraham's house burned down and then, after being rebuilt, flooded. And the disasters just kept coming.

Dumb Moments In History FactsWikipedia

41. I'm Convinced

The people who discovered the tomb and those who visited its unearthed treasures suffered awful fates. An Egyptian prince was shot by his wife. The man who X-rayed the mummy passed on under mysterious circumstances. A visitor became mysteriously ill after setting foot in the tomb and perished of pneumonia only months later. A man on Carter's team was poisoned. Another member, Richard Bethell, was smothered. His father then took his own life.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons

42. Full Body Chills

The scariest "proof" of Tut's curse lies in the fate of a man named Evelyn-White. He visited King Tut's tomb and may have also helped with the excavation. Evelyn-White hung himself and left a chilling note. It read "I have succumbed to a curse which forces me to disappear." According to legend, the note was written in White's own blood.

TL,DR: Don't mess with ancient Egypt, guys.

The Victorian Era factsWikipedia

43. Unhappy Day

Getting married is supposed to be a happy occasion, but not so for Maria Vittoria dal Pazzo, sixth Princess della Cisterna, whose big day was a massive, and possibly cursed, nightmare First of all, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy was super against his son’s marriage, but the Prince went ahead with it anyway. With a good old betrayal in the bag, the day went downhill from there.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons

44. Nice Day For A White Wedding

On the day of the wedding, the woman who was to lay out Maria’s wedding dress hung herself. Maria tried to change her luck by wearing a different gown, but no dice. The colonel heading the wedding parade fell off his horse and passed on due to sunstroke. Next, the palace gates refused to open, and the gatekeeper was found dead. But it gets worse!

Fashion in History FactsFlickr,StarMama

45. Racking Up the Bodies

Unfortunately for the couple, things didn’t improve after the wedding. The best man shot himself in the head, the man who put together their wedding contract passed on after a stroke, the stationmaster passed on from being pulled beneath the wedding carriage, and a similar fate befell Count of Castiglione, whose medallion impaled him when he fell.

That was it for disasters on their wedding day, but the unfortunate princess passed on in childbirth 10 years later at age 29.

Historical Curses FactsWikimedia Commons

46. Real Life Horrors

What is it about horror movies that draw curses to them? The Omen also ranks high on a list of most cursed movies in history, and fate really seemed to be gunning for them. Not only were star Gregory Peck and the producer Mace Neufeld on two separate planes that were both struck by lightning, but Peck’s son also took his own life just before filming started. Somehow, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Historical Curses FactsGetty Images

47. A Bad Omen

The weirdness around The Omen just kept piling up. First, the IRA set off a bomb in the hotel where Neufeld was staying. Then, while filming a sequence involving a plane, the plane crashed and killed everybody on board. But the strangest element was still in store. The movie's designer John Richardson and his assistant perished in a head-on collision. The road sign closest to their car read “Ommen, 66.6 km."

Missing Person FactsPxHere

48. Bring Him Here

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was a huge admirer of the Turco-Mongol leader Timur. So much so that he wanted his body exhumed from his tomb in Uzbekistan and brought to Russia. The locals tried to explain to the Soviets that this was a capital-b Bad idea. They warned them that they’d be cursed three days later, but the Soviets foolishly ignored the advice. Three days later, the Germans attacked them, resulting in 7.5 million casualties. They should have listened!

Timur FactsWikimedia Commons

49. Cell, Meet The Grudge

A phone number may seem innocuous, but what other than a curse can explain the strange fates of all the people who were assigned the phone number 359 888 888 888? The Bulgarian mobile CEO who was first assigned the number passed on of cancer at age 48, and subsequent owners, including a Mafia boss, also passed within a few years of each other. Somebody was certainly spooked because the telephone number has since been suspended.

Hattie McDaniel FactsPixabay

50. Suicide Curse

The Kennedys aren’t the only famous family to have seen their share of tragedy. The Hemingways have a history of suicide, beginning with author Ernest Hemingway’s father, who shot himself when Hemingway was 26. Hemingway’s brother, sister, granddaughter, and the author himself also committed suicide, leading the media to proclaim the family cursed.

Pulitzer Prize Winners FactsWikipedia

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4,5,6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

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