Curses and cursed artefacts have long been part of legend and folklore, and more recently, popular culture.
Bizarre or seemingly paranormal events that centre around objects, people, or places tend to do what most folklore does – it provides explanations for things that cannot be explained.
Or, as in the curse of The Crying Boy, which you’ll read about below, they provide a better explanation than the one staring you in the face (spoiler: they probably left the stove on).
History.com looked into some of the most famous curses throughout history, and how they entered into the popular imagination.
The tomb of Tutankhamun
Perhaps the most famous curse of all is the Tomb of Tutankhamun, the burial place of the then-19-year-old pharaoh. All who enter, they say, whether thief or otherwise, are struck with bad luck, illness, or death because of the curse of the pharaohs.
The myth predates the 1922 Howard Carter expedition to find the tomb, but his discovery breathed new life into the fear of the curse. The first to die was Carter’s financial backer Lord Carnavon after a mosquito bite became infected.
Following on from him, 20 more deaths of people would be attributed to the curse by 1935. The media loved this story and every time someone new died, they were happy to dredge it up again.
The Hope Diamond
Evalyn Walsh McLean, seen above, was one of the owners of the famous Hope Diamond.
The diamond, which now resides in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, is believed to curse whoever wears it with endless misery.
Victims of the diamond have supposedly suffered disgrace, divorce, suicide, imprisonment, torture, financial ruin, lynching, or decapitation. One was said to have been torn apart by dogs.
Evalyn was the last private owner of the diamond and wore it happily until disaster struck.
In 1919, her eldest son Vinson was hit by a car and killed in front of their estate at the age of nine. Her husband Ned drank heavily, took on a mistress, and was eventually declared insane. In 1946, Evalyn’s only daughter, Evalyn McLean Reynolds, died of a drug overdose at age 25.
The rumours of the curse were spread by jewellers who wanted to increase its mystique and value. The media also played a part in advancing the story.
The curse of The Crying Boy
The popular 1950s reproduction of Bruno Amadio’s The Crying Boy painting caused quite a stir in the 1980s, thanks to the tabloids.
The superstition goes that the pictures of the child caused fires. Its source was an article in The Sun from September 4, 1985. A couple’s house burned down, but the fire failed to damage The Crying Boy. A local firefighter then noted that there were other fires that left only an undamaged “Crying Boy” painting.
A friend of mine has had the reproduction in her home for years without incident.
The curse of Macbeth
Out damn spot.
In the world of theatre, you’ll find many superstitions. We’re all familiar with the idea that it’s bad luck to wish an actor ‘good luck’, so instead we say ‘break a leg’.
It’s also bad luck to say the word ‘Macbeth’ outside of a performance of the play.
Tragedy is said to have befallen original productions of the play, with the myth cobbled together using fiction and selective evidence-picking.
The legend appears to have started with Max Beerbohm, a British cartoonist and critic born in the 1870s, nearly three centuries after Macbeth’s first performance. He made up a story that the first actress cast to play Lady Macbeth died just before the play’s opening night. Accidents that happened in other productions of the play over the years (this is something that happens routinely in all theatre) have been attributed to the ‘curse’.
Since then, the story has spread that the play is cursed and those who perform in it can look forward to a wealth of unhappiness.
That about sums it up.
One last one for the road.
The curse of Tuesday – it isn’t the middle of the week, the day before the weekend, or a Monday.
It’s a weird purgatory and it’s bestowing misery upon me.
When someone says Wuhan these days, the first thing that comes to mind is the pandemic. ...
After a sustained period of refusing to play ball, Cape Town has finally ticked over into ...
It's tough to know who is the weakest cog in the Trump campaign's efforts to overturn the ...
[imagesource: Twitter / @JJSubroyen] Part of the Engen oil refinery in Wentworth, south...
[imagesource:here] According to Urban Dictionary, many pastimes and beverages have a si...