Monday, November 07, 2016

Famous Curses in History

If you're anywhere near the Midwest, you probably heard a lot of Cubs fans shrieking and setting off fireworks last week when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after a 108-year-drought. (I can personally attest to the fireworks going off when I was trying to sleep.) I'm not interested in sports, but the curse aspect intrigues me. The curse supposedly began when a fan and his goat were ejected from Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. The goat actually had a ticket, but it was deemed to be too smelly. The goat's owner then proclaimed, "The Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." Since then, numerous attempts were made to break the curse, including both goat sacrifices and bringing goats into Wrigley Field. I don't know if anything is being proclaimed as the curse-breaker other than the players themselves.

I don't believe curses are real; I think people are so good at finding patterns that they discover them even when they're not there. There are always going to be unusual streaks of incidents, but people remember what supports their belief and reject what doesn't (confirmation bias). Still, curses are interesting and can inspire story ideas, so here are a few other famous historical curses:

Curse of Tippecanoe: From 1840 to 1960, every president elected in a year ending in zero (which happens every twenty years) died in office. Four were assassinated, and three died of natural causes. This curse was supposedly cast by Tecumseh's brother  after the Battle of Tippecanoe. Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was shot during his term but survived, as did George W. Bush, elected in 2000.

The Hope Diamond is claimed to bring death to its owners, though it seems some of the stories told about the gem were invented to give it an aura of mystery and for publicity. So far, the Smithsonian doesn't seem to suffer from owning it.

Tutankhamun's Tomb: Anyone who disturbs the tomb of a mummy, particularly a pharaoh, is doomed to have bad luck. The opening of King Tut's tomb, which was found in 1922, is considered a prime example of the curse. Lord Carnarvon, who funded the discovery, died about four months after the tomb was opened. He had an infected mosquito bite that gave him blood poisoning. His death fueled rumors of the curse, and even Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, believed in tomb guardians that had caused Lord Carnarvon's death. However, 58 people were present when King Tut's tomb was opened, and only eight of them died within a dozen years. Even Howard Carter, who discovered the tomb, lived until 1939.

I was aware of the above curses before researching this blog post, but I hadn't heard of the Curse of Turan before. This is a curse on the entire country of Hungary in 1000 A.D. for converting to Christianity. The curse was supposed to last for 1,000 years, so it should be over by now. However, Hungarians still have short life expectancies compared to other European countries, and they have a high rate of suicide (ranked 9th worldwide).

Do you find curses interesting? Have you read any interesting stories about curses? If so, feel free to describe them in the comments.


PT Dilloway said...

I'm glad I'm not Hungarian.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't believe in curses either. It wasn't the goat's fault the Cubs just couldn't win a game. I think people just look for things like that. They want to believe.

PT Dilloway said...

BTW the Detroit Lions have the Curse of Bobby Layne a quarterback from the 50s. In theory the Curse should have ended after 50 years but the Lions still haven't won anything since Layne's time.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I hope I'm not Hungarian, Pat! Maybe the Lions need something else to break their curse.

Alex, I think it's easier for people to blame a goat than themselves. Even in ancient times, people had literal scapegoats.

Maria Zannini said...

The only thing I'm sad about is that Back to the Future got the year wrong. According to the movie, the Cubs were supposed to win last year. :)

I'm glad they won though. I'm not a sports fan, but I watched the game. It was intense! What was more telling were the looks on all the Cubs fans at the game. Half of them looked like they were praying.

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