Some might dismiss them as superstitious nonsense, but the fact that stories of curses have been around for thousands of years is a testament to their popularity. Previously, Listverse has covered some bizarre curses and creepy, cursed objects. This list will take a look at 10 of the cruelest curses throughout history. Whether or not you believe in them, you can’t deny the suffering the victims of these curses endured . . . even if it is purely coincidental.
10The Curse That Took Down A Queen
In July 2012, Sirikit, the beloved queen of Thailand, suffered a stroke and hasn’t been seen in public since. That wouldn’t be suspicious in and of itself, were it not for the whispered rumors of a decades-long curse that traces its origins back to one of the most audacious jewel heists in history.
It all started back in 1989, at the palace of the Saudi royal family. A Thai janitor broke into Prince Faisal’s room and stole $20 million worth of jewelry, which he somehow managed to smuggle back to Thailand in the bag of a vacuum cleaner. Among the jewels was a prized possession of the Saudi prince—a 50-carat gemstone known simply as the “Blue Diamond.”
Saudi authorities alerted Thai police of the crime and the thief was quickly arrested, but not before he had sold some of the stolen gems on the black market. The remainder of the loot was promptly returned to the Saudi royal family—except more than half of the jewels had been replaced with crude fakes. Not only that, but the Blue Diamond was still missing and, to add insult to injury, the Thai police suggested it never existed in the first place.
But for a jewel whose existence has never been definitely proven, the Blue Diamond has caused more problems than it is worth, leading some to suggest that it’s cursed. The curse supposedly claimed its first lives back in February 1990, when three Saudi diplomats (who had been tasked with investigating the jewelry heist) were all shot execution-style on the same night. Thai police insisted that there was no proof that the murders were in any way related to the “Blue Diamond Affair,” but the Saudis thought otherwise and suspected a cover-up.
Their suspicions were fueled when the local press reported that the wives of some of Thailand’s most powerful men had been seen wearing jewelry that resembled the missing Saudi gems. Interestingly enough, the most recent alleged sighting of the elusive Blue Diamond was on Queen Sirikit, who was seen wearing a remarkably similar jewel shortly before her stroke and sudden disappearance from the public eye. Many believe that Queen Sirikit is the latest victim of the Blue Diamond curse, which is said to wreak havoc until it is returned to its rightful owner.
9The Curse That Killed Millions
In 1941, a team of Soviet anthropologists traveled to Uzbekistan on a state-sanctioned expedition. Their mission, as approved by Stalin himself, was to locate the tomb of Tamerlane and exhume the body inside. Tamerlane was an infamous 14th-century warlord who is seen as a national hero in Uzbekistan. As such, members of the local Muslim clergy desperately tried to stop the exhumation. They warned that if the warlord’s sleep were disturbed, disaster would follow on the third day. Mikhail Gerasimov, the leader of the expedition, dismissed their warning as a local superstition and oversaw the exhumation of Tamerlane on June 19, 1941.
The decision of the Soviet anthropologists to open the tomb could be seen as either brave or foolhardy. On the outside of the casket was an inscription, which read, “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.” Three days later, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union in a surprise attack. Coincidence? Perhaps. Regardless, the world did tremble.
Some people still believe Stalin invoked the wrath of Tamerlane when the Soviet anthropologists exhumed the the warlord’s body, with the Nazi invasion was a direct result of Tamerlane’s curse. It’s interesting to note that the turning point in the German-Soviet war came with a surprise victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. And what happened right before that battle? Stalin ordered Tamerlane’s skeleton to be re-interred in Uzbekistan with full Islamic burial rites. The curse was supposedly lifted, but not before it had exacted a terrible toll: Although the Soviets eventually emerged victorious, Germany’s invasion resulted in the death of 7.5 million Russians.
8The Curse Of The Hawaiian Volcano Goddess
“If you disrespect Pele, she will kill you,” warns Professor Kame’eleihiwa from the University of Hawaii. Timothy Murray probably wished he had known that before he relocated to Honolulu. In his own words, Timothy had “always had good luck.” That is, until he upset Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes.
One day, Timothy decided to visit the famous Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Entranced by the black sand, he took some home in an empty water bottle. After that, things started to go downhill. The woman he had been dating for five years, and was about to propose to, suddenly dumped him. The FBI actually arrested him in a computer copyright infringement case (something that rarely ever happens). Oh, and his beloved pet died unexpectedly. But the curse hasn’t just affected Timothy Murray.
According to a Hawaiian legend, anyone who removes a piece of volcanic rock (or some volcanic sand) will incur the wrath of the goddess Pele. Supposedly, Pele is so angered when the rocks (which she sees as her children) are pocketed by ignorant tourists, that she exacts a terrible revenge on them in the form of a curse. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park receives a never-ending stream of packages containing rocks from guilty-minded individuals who are intent upon reversing a sudden deluge of bad luck. Many also include letters of apology, addressed to the Volcano Goddess herself, begging for the curse to be lifted.
7The Spider-Man Curse
A lot of people have heard of the Superman Curse, but it pales in comparison to another, more recent, curse also named after a famous superhero. This one has plagued Broadway, not Hollywood, and involves the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. The show had to be postponed several times after a series of technical mishaps resulting in several injuries. It wasn’t long before the media began to wonder whether the show was cursed.
It all started during rehearsals back in 2010, when an actor suffered from broken feet and a concussion after a failed catapult stunt. Then a stunt double broke both of his wrists. On the night of the first preview performance, one of the main actresses sustained a concussion when she was hit in the head by a rope. She left the show shortly thereafter. T.V. Carpio stepped in to replace her, but was sidelined for two weeks after sustaining neck injuries during an onstage battle scene.
Then, in the most dramatic and widely publicized accident, a cord snapped during an aerial stunt, causing Christopher Tierney to fall three stories and crash into the orchestra pit. His injuries were severe: The actor fractured his skull, scapula, and elbow, in addition to breaking four of his ribs and three vertebrae. This occurred during a live performance and the screams from one of the actresses still haunt the audience members.
The most recent injury occurred on August 16, 2013 and involved a dancer’s leg being mangled after getting caught in some machinery. To date, five actors have been hurt or maimed during the production. Thankfully, no one has died yet—unless you include Tony Adams, the original producer who suffered a stroke and died before the supposedly cursed show opened on Broadway.
6Muhammad Cursed An Orphan Girl (And Made Her Cry)
If you were to come across a little girl who smiled at you, what would be the natural reaction? Most people would probably smile back. Not the prophet Muhammad. According to the Sahih Muslim (Book 032, Number 6297), Muhammad looked down at the girl and said, “May you not advance in years!” The orphan girl ran away, crying hysterically.
Why would Allah’s prophet do such a thing? Well, when asked about the seemingly bizarre incident, Muhammad explained that he is a human being and, as such, can occasionally lose his temper. He reassured his followers that he had made a deal with Allah wherein anyone he wrongly cursed would be rewarded on the Day of Resurrection. So the curse was intended to teach Muslims a valuable lesson: Muhammad used it to demonstrate that if someone is cursed undeservedly—even by Allah’s prophet himself—then they needn’t worry. The earthly fate of the unnamed orphan girl remains unknown. It is also unclear whether Muhammad’s curse meant that the girl wouldn’t live to see her next birthday, or whether she would be forced to live out her existence on Earth as a child.
The event outlined above is recorded in the hadith, which are “sahih,” meaning authentic or genuine. In other words, Muhammad’s curse on the orphan girl is accepted by Sunni Muslims as fact.
5The Curse Of The Dead Man’s Chair
The Thirsk Museum in England is home to the infamous chair of Thomas Busby. The museum has mounted the chair on a wall to prevent anyone from sitting on it—not because the chair is particularly valuable, but because of a curse that dates back to the 18th century. Legend has it that anyone who dares sit on Busby’s stoop chair will die soon after.
It all started in North Yorkshire, back in 1702. Somehow, the town drunk, a man by the name of Thomas Busby, managed to marry the beautiful Elizabeth Auty. However, her father was vehemently opposed to the marriage, as he thought his daughter could do better. One day, Busby returned home to find his father-in-law sitting in his favorite chair. Auty announced he was there to take his daughter home. So Busby did what any totally reasonable man would do: He bludgeoned his father-in-law to death with a hammer and hid the body. As he was being led to his execution, he reportedly shouted that anyone who sat on his favorite chair would die. The inn where Busby lived with his wife was re-named the “Busby Stoop Inn,” and the chair has supposedly claimed an untold number of lives over the past 300 years.
In 1968, Tony Earnshaw took over the inn. Earnshaw was not a superstitious man; he initially dismissed the Busby curse as nonsense and the previous deaths associated with it as coincidences. But then people started dying on his watch. First, Earnshaw overheard two RAF airmen daring each other to sit on the chair. Both did, and both died in a car crash later that day. Then there was the group of builders who came into the pub at lunchtime and dared a young laborer to sit on the chair. The brave lad obliged, and that same day he fell off a roof and cracked his skull open on the concrete below.
That was the last straw for Tony Earnshaw. He begged the Thirsk museum to take the chair off his hands, but only if they agreed to never let anyone sit on it. For nearly 30 years, no one has been allowed to tempt the curse—despite many requests.
4The Curse That Plagued Hungary For 1,000 Years
If you believe in curses, you better hope your family tree doesn’t have Hungarian roots. Unfortunately for me, my grandparents came from Hungary, which is home to the Curse of Turáni átok. Supposedly, Hungary and all of its people have been dogged by a malevolent spell for a millennium. The curse’s origins trace all the way back to the year A.D. 1000, when King Stephen ruled over Magyaroszág (now known as Hungary) with an iron fist. Stephen intended to forcibly convert his people to Christianity, and the ancient Hungarian beliefs were subsequently cast aside.
But not all of the country’s inhabitants were pleased with their new god. Some resisted the Christian mission and insisted on their faith. Pagan sentiment erupted into a rebellion, followed by the country-wide slaughter of clergymen. King Stephen responded with force. Christian armies forced the “Black Magyars,” as they were called, to accept the sacrament of Baptism. Many of them were tortured and blinded first.
And so, the vanquished adherents of the old Hungarian religion called upon a powerful shaman to come to their aid. The shaman cast a 1,000-year curse upon the newly Christian country. While the specifics of the curse are unknown, a pall of gloom and doom has been said to hang over Hungary ever since. As proof, some point to the fact that Hungary had the highest suicide rate in the world during much of the 20th century. Not only that, but depression persisted as a nationwide problem and Hungarians had a tendency to die much earlier than most European peoples. The pagan shaman’s curse was supposed to have expired in the year 2000, but the situation in Hungary hasn’t really improved since. Some speculate that the curse of Turáni átok will be a never-ending source of woe for Hungary.
3The Curse That Killed The Russian Royal Family
A century ago, there lived a man named Grigori Rasputin. Born in Siberia, Rasputin came from a poor family and, as such, his prospects were dim. Yet, over the course of his life, he managed to worm his way into the palace of the Romanovs, where he became the personal adviser of the Tsarina Aleksandra. How did he manage such an impressive feat? Rasputin, a self-proclaimed magician, claimed to be able to use his mystic healing powers to alleviate the condition of Aleksandra’s ailing son, who suffered from hemophilia. If only the tsarina had known that Rasputin would one day use his powers to place a curse on her family, she might never have invited him into the palace.
The aristocrats in Saint Petersburg were fascinated by the mysterious mystic, but the thought of a peasant like Rasputin advising the tsarina was both distasteful and unacceptable. A group of nobles tried to assassinate him, but he proved to be exceptionally difficult to kill. Reportedly, Rasputin survived an attempted poisoning, a brutal beating, multiple gunshot wounds, and the removal of his penis. It wasn’t until the assassins tied him up and dumped his body in an icy river that he finally succumbed to death.
Russia had rid itself of Rasputin, but not his dark influence. Before he died, he sent the tsar
a prophetic letter, outlining what would happen to the Russian royal family if he were to be assassinated by the nobles. Basically, Rasputin warned the tsar that he and his family wouldn’t live to see another year, which some interpreted to mean that he had placed a curse on them. Less than a year later, the Romanovs, including the tsar, his wife, and their five young children, were brutally murdered in a mass execution.
2Jesus Cursed A Fig Tree (And All Of Israel)
Imagine you’re walking outside and you see a fig tree off in the distance. Feeling hungry, you approach it only to find that the tree—despite having leaves—is fruitless. Most people would shrug their shoulders and move on. Not Jesus. According to one of the most bizarre passages in the gospels, Jesus pointed to the fig tree and said, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” The tree instantly withered and died.
At first glance, one might think Jesus acted like a petulant child who stomps his foot when he doesn’t get his way. But the curse was neither an impulsive act nor a purposeless gesture of annoyance. The fig tree and its fruit are symbolic, representing the nation of Israel and its people’s faith, respectively. The fig tree (Israel) failed to bear fruit (faith) even though its leaves indicated it was the appropriate season for figs (which is a metaphor for the arrival of the Messiah).
So when Jesus seemingly placed a curse on the fig tree out of spite, he was really demonstrating his power to carry out the coming judgment of Israel. The nation of Israel had become a worthless mechanism in the sacred scheme of things and deserved to be destroyed—just like a fruitless, withered tree is worthy of nothing more than to be cut down. And so, because of Israel’s lack of faith when presented with the Messiah, it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.
1The Ancient Jewish Curse That Killed The Israeli Prime Minister
On July 26, 2005, a group of Jewish extremists led by Rabbi Yosef Dayan gathered at a cemetery to conduct an ancient ceremony. Their intention was to cast a death curse on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Upset with the fact that Sharon had advocated Israeli withdrawal from certain areas considered to be part of the Promised Land, the Jewish ultra-nationals requested divine retribution. Called a “pulsa denura” (meaning “whip of fire” in Aramaic), the curse calls upon the Angels of Destruction to strike down their foes within a year.
Less than six months later, Prime Minister Sharon collapsed in his bathroom. He had suffered from a massive cerebral hemorrhage—a serious stroke that destroyed his cognitive abilities. Kept alive on a ventilator, Sharon was not expected to ever regain consciousness. Doctors urged family members to allow him to die in peace, but his son insisted they do everything they can. The former prime minister has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since. Even though the “pulsa denura” didn’t kill him, some argued that it was successful. The intention of the curse, after all, was to depose Ariel Sharon. Death was seen as a permanent solution, but so is a coma.
But we can still find a curse that killed an Israeli Prime Minister. Let’s go back to 1995, when Jewish ultra-nationals held a ceremony to pray for the death of Yitzhak Rabin, who was the prime minister at the time. Angry with the fact he was trying to make peace with the Palestinians, the far-right extremists, again led by Rabbi Yosef Dayan, cast a pulsa denura on the prime minister. A few days later, Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down at a peace rally.
Derek is an aspiring novelist. He hopes to finish his science-fiction story before he turns 100. He once cursed God after his prayers to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry went unanswered. He is sincerely sorry about that.