Beasts of Ephesus

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7 of History’s Most Infamous Curses

Posted by jase on July 25, 2009

1. James Dean and “Little Bastard”

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was killed when the silver Porsche 550 Spyder he called “Little Bastard” was struck by an oncoming vehicle. Within a year or so of Dean’s crash, the car was involved in two more fatal accidents and caused injury to at least six other people. After the accident, the car was purchased by hot-rod designer George Barris.

While getting a tune up, Little Bastard fell on the mechanic’s legs and crushed them. Barris later sold the engine and transmission to two doctors who raced cars. While racing against each other, one driver was killed, the other seriously injured. Someone else had purchased the tires, which blew simultaneously, sending the driver to the hospital.

Little Bastard was set to appear in a car show, but a fire broke out in the building the night before the show, destroying every car except Little Bastard, which survived without so much as a smudge. The car was then loaded onto a truck to go back to Salinas, California. The driver lost control en route, was thrown from the cab, and was crushed by the car when it fell off the trailer. In 1960, after being exhibited by the California Highway Patrol, Little Bastard disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.

2. The Curse of Tutankhamen’s Tomb

In 1922, English explorer Howard Carter, leading an expedition funded by George Herbert, Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, discovered the ancient Egyptian king’s tomb and the riches inside. After opening the tomb, however, strange and unpleasant events began to take place in the lives of those involved in the expedition.

Lord Carnarvon’s story is the most bizarre. The adventurer apparently died from pneumonia and blood poisoning following complications from a mosquito bite. Allegedly, at the exact moment Carnarvon passed away in Cairo, all the lights in the
city mysteriously went out. Carnarvon’s dog dropped dead that morning, too. Some point to the foreboding inscription, “Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of a pharaoh” as proof that King Tut put a curse on anyone who disturbed his final resting place.

3. “The Club”

If you’re a rock star and you’re about to turn 27, you might want to consider taking a year off to avoid membership in “The Club.” Robert Johnson, an African-American musician, who Eric Clapton called “the most important blues musician who ever lived,” played the guitar so well that some said he must have made a deal with the devil. So when he died at 27, folks said it must have been time to pay up.

Since Johnson, a host of musical geniuses have gone to an early grave at age 27. Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones, died at age 27 in 1969. Then it was both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in 1970 and Jim Morrison the following year. Kurt Cobain joined “The Club” in 1994. All 27 years old. Coincidence? Or were these musical geniuses paying debts, too?

4. “Da Billy Goat” Curse

In 1945, William “Billy Goat” Sianis brought his pet goat, Murphy, to Wrigley Field to see the fourth game of the 1945 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers. Sianis and his goat were later ejected from the game, and Sianis reportedly put a curse on the team that day. Ever since, the Cubs have had legendarily bad luck.

Over the years, Cubs fans have experienced agony in repeated late-season collapses when victory seemed imminent. In 1969, 1984, 1989, and 2003, the Cubs were painfully close to advancing to the World Series but couldn’t hold the lead. Even those who don’t consider themselves Cubs fans blame the hex for the weird and almost comical losses year after year. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 — no other team in the history of the game has gone as long without a championship.

5. Rasputin and the Romanovs

Rasputin, the self-proclaimed magician and cult leader, wormed his way into the palace of the Romanovs, Russia’s ruling family, around the turn of the last century. After getting a little too big for his britches, a few of the Romanovs allegedly decided to have him killed. But he was exceptionally resilient.

Reportedly it took poison, falling down a staircase, and repeated gunshots before Rasputin was finally dead. It’s said that Rasputin mumbled a curse from his deathbed, assuring Russia’s ruling monarchs that they would all be dead within a year. That did come to pass, as the Romanov family was brutally murdered in a mass execution less than a year later.

6. Tecumseh and the American Presidents

The curse of Tippecanoe, or “Tecumseh’s Curse,” is a widely held explanation of the fact that from 1840 to 1960, every U.S. president elected (or reelected) every twentieth year has died in office. Popular belief is that Tecumseh administered the curse when William Henry Harrison’s troops defeated the Native American leader and his forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Check it out:

  • William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840. He caught a cold during his inauguration, which quickly turned into pneumonia. He died April 4, 1841, after only one month in office.
  • Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 and reelected four years later. Lincoln was assassinated and died April 15, 1865.
  • James Garfield was elected president in 1880. Charles Guiteau shot him in July 1881. Garfield died several months later, from complications following the gunshot wound.
  • William McKinley was elected president in 1896 and reelected in 1900. On September 6, 1901, McKinley was shot by Leon F. Czolgosz, who considered the president an “enemy of the people.” McKinley died eight days later.
  • Three years after Warren G. Harding was elected president in 1920, he died suddenly of either a heart attack or stroke while traveling in San Francisco.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944. His health wasn’t great, but he died rather suddenly in 1945, of a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.
  • John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and assassinated in Dallas three years later.
  • Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, and though he was shot by an assassin in 1981, he did survive. Some say this broke the curse, which should make George W. Bush happy. At the time of this writing, Bush, who was elected in 2000, is serving his second term in office.

7. The Curse of the Kennedy Family

Okay, so maybe if this family had stayed out of politics and off airplanes, their fate might be different. Regardless, the number of Kennedy family tragedies have led some to believe there must be a curse on the whole bunch. You decide:

  • JFK’s brother Joseph, Jr., and sister Kathleen both died in separate plane crashes in 1944 and 1948, respectively.
  • JFK’s other sister, Rosemary, was institutionalized in a mental hospital for years.
  • John F. Kennedy himself, America’s 35th president, was assassinated in 1963 at age 46.
  • Robert Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother, was assassinated in 1968.
  • Senator Ted Kennedy, JFK’s youngest brother, survived a plane crash in 1964. In 1969, he was driving a car that went off a bridge, causing the death of his companion, Mary Jo Kopechne. His presidential goals were pretty much squashed after that.
  • In 1984, Robert Kennedy’s son David died of a drug overdose. Another son, Michael, died in a skiing accident in 1997.
  • In 1999, JFK, Jr., his wife, and his sister-in-law died when the small plane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Source: How Stuff Works

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