Throughout the world there have been numerous cases of cursed objects, places, and even people, which have for one reason or another managed to pull about them some inscrutable dark force. But can a whole family be cursed over the course of generations? Does this mysterious and sinister force have the ability to seep out and spread like some sort of disease among a family, passed about from generation to generation? There have indeed been such families throughout history, who seem to have been stalked by ominous powers beyond our comprehension.
Some supposed family curses go way back, and one of the older of these is that of the Wadiyars of the Mysore Kingdom of India. In the early 1600s, Raja Wadiyar, the 9th ruler of the Wadiyar Dynasty, apparently fell on the wrong side of a woman named Alamelamma, who was the wife of a King Tirumalaraja, who ruled the rival Vijayanagar Empire. Wadiyar’s forces routed Tirumalaraja’s army at Srirangapatna, after which Wadiyar took power and the defeated couple retreated along with a set of priceless jewels to the nearby town of Talakadu. In the aftermath of the defeat, the couple was ruthlessly pursued by Wadiyar’s men before Alamelamma supposedly invoked a three-tiered curse against the victors upon their clan, after which she committed suicide by leaping to her death at the nearby Cauvery River. The specifics of the exact curse are not really known, but it is said that she wished for the surrounding areas to become desert, for the village of Malangi to be plagued by whirlpools, and for the Wadiyar’s to produce no offspring who could ever take over the throne.
When Wadiyar learned of the curse that had been cast upon him, he supposedly had a statue of her erected in her honor to appease her, but this seems to have done little good. It seems that the area has indeed in more modern times become a desert, and the village of Malangi is indeed known for its roving, spontaneous whirlpools in its part of the river. In addition, the Wadiyars have only managed to produce male progeny every other generation for the past 400 years, making the succession of the throne tricky, with the title invariably having to go to the closest male relative at the time. One historian by the name of Dr A. Veerappa has said of this and its relation to the supposed curse:
If we take a scientific view, there is no scope for a curse. But if you observe the Wadiyar family tree, six rulers since the 17th century have been adopted sons (nephews). The Wadiyars too acknowledge it as fact.
There is said to also be a rather old curse hanging over the ruling royal family of Monaco, which supposedly started in the 13th century, when Prince Rainer I raped a witch who then cursed the family by proclaiming that they would never find happiness in marriage. In 1982, the wife of Prince Rainier III, 52-year-old Princess Grace, known in the West as actress Grace Kelley, was killed in car crash. Her daughter, Princess Stephanie, was then accused of being the driver of the doomed vehicle, and whether this is true or not the curse seems to have been particularly drawn to her as she has been plagued with failed marriages and a failed career as a fashion designer and model ever since.
Princess Stephanie has been the source of many a scandal in Monaco, having 3 children out of wedlock and has had failed marriages with her own bodyguard, a circus acrobat, and an elephant trainer. Then there was sister Princess Caroline, who suffered a divorce from her first husband, then was widowed in her second marriage when her then-husband Stefano Casiraghi died in a speedboat accident, and whose 3rd marriage to Prince Ernst August of Hanover has also been purportedly haunted by various problems. These multiple marriages have brought shame to the royal family, and when Prince Rainer died in 2005 he left practically no inheritance to them. Was this all the result of a witch’s curse or just bad relationship decisions? Who knows?
Another supposed curse with origins in history allegedly surrounds the Hapsburg family, also called the House of Hapsburg and the House of Austria, who were at one time one of the most powerful families in Europe. The curse in this case originates in a legend that states that a man named Count von Altenbourg long ago erected a sanctuary for ravens at the site of the Hapsburg castle, which was later renovated by the Hapsburg family. The ravens then apparently did not take too kindly to this and revolted, upon which they were viciously exterminated. It was then that the family is said to have been befallen by a type of supernatural raven spirit called Turnfalken, which cursed and haunted them thereafter. It is said that every time one of the family dies or there is any other tragedy that hits them, ravens will congregate around the scene in glee. This is not even the only curse attributed to the family.
A countess named Karolyi supposedly placed a potent curse upon the then ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Francis Joseph, also a Hapsburg, after he had her son were executed after a rebellion. This supposed curse would see the ruthless murder of Francis’ wife, the suicide of his only son, and the assassination of his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which would serve as the ignition of World War I. Other family members also allegedly either went insane or met with myriad freak accidents, and while it might not all be because of a supernatural cause it is still spooky nevertheless.
In later years there was the supposed curse of the Guinness family, who are most recognizable from patriarch Arthur Guinness, who was born in Kildare, Ireland, in 1725, and who went on to make the famous Guinness brand of beer that made his dynasty rich. Beginning from his marriage in 1761, Guinness and his wife would attempt to have 21 offspring, 11 of which would not live past their childhood. After this, one of Guinness’s grandchildren became a hopeless alcoholic, and a further two grandchildren suffered severe mental problems to the point that they were sent to mental institutions.
There were numerous freak accidents and deaths that hung over the Guinness family as well. After World War II, Guinness descendant Lord Moyne was killed by terrorists, and another descendant was killed in battle just before the war ended. Yet another family member fell to hit her head on a bathtub and drown, while in 1966 another named Patrick Browne was killed when he was struck by a truck after running a red light. The family seems to have been absolutely haunted by various suicides, deaths, mental illness, and lost fortunes.
In the 1970s, John Guinness got in a car accident that killed one of his sons and injured another, and Dennys Guinness also died under mysterious circumstances. In 1978 Henrietta Guinness jumped to her death from a bridge at Spoleto, in Umbria, Italy, and in the following years numerous Guinness family members would die from drug overdoses, including Paul Channon’s daughter, Olivia, Robert Hesketh, and Count Gottfried. On top of all of this, one famed and prized racehorse of one of the Guinness’ was abducted by the IRA and vanished without a trace. If the Guinness family wasn’t cursed, then they were certainly at least very unlucky.
Probably one of the most well-known family curses is that if the eminent Kennedy family. Since at least the 1940s the family was beset by numerous woes, misfortune, and death. In 1944, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Was killed in World War II when his plane went down over East Suffolk, England, and in 1948 a separate plane crash would claim the life of his daughter Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington. The parents of his daughter-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, would also die in a plane crash in 1955 near Union City, Oklahoma. Plane crashes would indeed plague the family into the future, when U.S. Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy was in a plane crash that killed one of his aides and the pilot, and left him with serious injuries. Former president John F. Kennedy’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., would also be killed in the same way in 1999 off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, and his wife and sister-in-law also tragically died in the same crash.
Plane crashes are not the only strife to haunt the Kennedy family by a long shot, and the list of tragedies to befall the family is long. In 1956 John F. Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy gave birth to a still born baby, and another child, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, would die just a couple of days after being born in 1963. Then of course John F. Kennedy himself was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and in fact Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated while in political office, when he was gunned down by lone gunman Sirhan Bishara Sirhan in Los Angeles in 1968. In 1969 it seemed that death had caught up to Ted Kennedy after escaping his previous near-fatal plane crash, because he drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in an accident that would kill his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, but which would leave him remarkably intact, foiling death's cold grip once again.
The Kennedy “curse” continued on right up into the 1970s and beyond. In 1973 Joseph P. Kennedy II was in a horrific car crash which he managed to survive but would leave a passenger, Pam Kelley, horribly injured and paralyzed. Robert Kennedy’s widowed wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy, had a nephew named Michael Skakel who attacked and beat to death 15-year-old Martha Moxley with a golf club of all things in 1975, and in 1984 his son David Kennedy died in a hotel at Palm Beach, Florida after overdosing during an epic cocaine binge. Robert Kennedy’s other son, Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, died in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado, and in 2005 John F Kennedy’s sister, Rosemarie died after having long been institutionalized and brain damaged from having had a lobotomy performed on her in the 60s. In 2012 Mary Richardson Kennedy killed herself by hanging at her home in Bedford, New York.
So much death and misfortune clinging to the Kennedy dynasty have long sparked whispers that there is a curse attached to them, and there are even rumors of how this cruse came about. One tale is that John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather, Thomas Fitzgerald, found a mysterious chest of gold coins in Ireland in 1872. The story goes that this was discarded, abandoned cursed treasure responsible for the destruction of several villages, and it was with these cursed coins that he came to the United States to start his dynasty and empire. Another tale is that John F. Kennedy’s father had once been aboard a passenger ship and told a rabbi to stop praying, after which the rabbi had cursed him, and yet another rumor is that he was cursed by an entire Jewish village for dealing weapons to the Nazis. Whatever the origins of the supposed curse and whether it really even exists or not, the Kennedy’s surely did have some hardships following them around.
Related to the Kennedy family curse is the one that seems to have followed JFK’s widow, Jackie Kennedy, over to her new family when she married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968. Upon marrying the Kennedy, the Onassis family too became seemingly targeted by dark, evil forces, beginning with the death of Aristotle’s only son, Alexander, who died in a plane crash in 1973. This sudden tragedy would end up driving Aristotle’s first wife and Alexander’s mother, Athina Mary Livanos, to kill herself the following year. Aristotle himself would die the year after that of respiratory failure, and his sister Christina also died of a heart attack in 1988. On top of all of these successive tragedies was the steady disintegration of the Onassis empire, with the ruins of it ultimately inherited by Christina’s daughter and only surviving Onassis, Athina, who has since lived in obscurity in Brazil. Was this the famous Kennedy curse carrying over and pouncing from family to family?
Another powerful and famous American family that was supposedly targeted by a curse is the Rockefeller family, headed by the oil tycoon and industrialist John D. Rockefeller. In 1951 Rockefeller lost his great-niece when she killed herself after first killing her two children in an apparent murder-suicide. Then his grandson, Michael Rockefeller went into the jungles of New Guinea to vanish off the face of the earth in a mystery I have covered here in depth at Mysterious Universe before. Michael’s uncle would then be killed in a car crash and his father, Nelson Rockefeller, would die at his home. This death caused a scandal at the time because Nelson, who also happened to be the governor of New York, had been with a young woman who was most certainly not his wife at the time. John D. Rockefeller’s great-grandson would years later die in a plane crash in 2014. It seems like no amount of money or power can stop such tragedies, and there have long been whispers of a curse hanging over the Rockefellers.
Of course no list of cursed families would be complete without mentioning the one rumored to hang over that of the legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. This spooky curse is often claimed to have begun when Lee’s father, Lee Hoi Chuen, crossed paths with some nefarious merchants in China, after which they placed a potent curse stating that all of his male ancestors would die young. The curse would then rear its head for the first time when Chuen and his wife lost their first child, which convinced them that the curse was real. In order to try and throw the dark magic off their trail they originally gave their second son, Bruce Lee, the girl’s name Sai Fon.
This seems to have worked for a time, but in 1973 Bruce began to suffer from mysterious health problems, most notably sudden seizures that he struggled with during the making of Enter the Dragon. Doctors would find that it had been caused by swelling of the brain. Then, on July 20th, 1973, Bruce died under mysterious circumstances when he allegedly collapsed while in Hong Kong talking with a producer about the film Game of Death. Bruce Lee was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The alleged curse wouldn’t stop there, and true to the promise went on to home in on Bruce’s son, Brandon Lee. On March 31, 1993, 29-year-old Brandon Lee was shooting a scene for the film The Crow in Wilmington, North Carolina. In the scene, Brandon was shot at by actor Michael Massee with a .44 Magnum that was supposed to be filled with harmless blanks. When Brandon Lee collapsed and the scene was cut, he did not get back up, and it was found that there had been a dummy shell still loaded into the gun for a previous close up scene. These dummy shells were basically real bullets without any gunpowder used for realism in close-ups, but when they had cleaned out the gun to put the blanks in for the actual shooting scene someone had apparently forgotten to dislodge one of the dummy cartridges from the gun or simply hadn't noticed one that was still in there. The gunpowder from the blank then propelled the dummy cartridge as if it were a real bullet, hitting and fatally injuring Brandon, who would later die at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Although the death of Brandon Lee was officially ruled an accident, the freak nature of it all has sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories, such as that it was orchestrated by the Chinese mafia and of course the idea that this was all part of the notorious Lee family curse. Adding further speculation to the idea that a curse was following the Lees was a scene in a film based on Bruce Lee’s life called Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. The film, which came out just 2 months after Brandon Lee’s death, has a scene in which Bruce Lee is depicted as doing battle with a shadowy demon meant to represent the dark force haunting his family, and the scene has been viewed as somewhat prophetic in a way, as it was filmed before the accident on the set of The Crow that had killed Lee. Did Bruce Lee carry a multi-generational curse? It is hard to say.
The great American writer and Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway is also said to have had a curse on his family. One of the manifestations of this “curse” is the unusual large number of suicides in the family. Hemingway’s father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, killed himself in 1928, and in 1966 his sister, Ursula Hemingway Jepson, would kill herself by overdosing on pills. Then his younger brother, Leicester, also ended his life with a gunshot wound in 1982, and even Ernest Hemingway himself died by suicide in 1961. Hemingway had at the time already narrowly dodged death twice, when he survived two successive harrowing plane crashes while on safari in Africa just after the publication of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952. The accidents did not leave him unscathed, and he would suffer from chronic pain and health problems for the rest of his life because of them.
Just as sinister was the death of one of Hemingway’s sons, Gregory, who was a transsexual and died of heart disease. Hemingway’s daughter-in-law, Byra, of cancer in 1988, and his granddaughter, the actress and model Margaux Hemingway, was plagued with depression her whole life to finally die of a drug overdose. Two other granddaughters, Mariel and Muffet, were also long haunted by spiraling mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and crippling depression. Again, it is hard to say if this is just coincidence or if there is some ominous energy that has it in for the family.
Indeed, this is the question with any case such as we have looked at here. Are these supposed curses just bad luck and the inevitable coming of death that have just been over exaggerated until hey have taken on a life as spooky legend? After all, sickness and death and woes happen to everyone, so is just because they have happened within one family enough to warrant talk of unexplainable supernatural forces? Or is there really something to the idea that there are powers lurking about on the periphery of our known world that for whatever reasons create this tragedy? We have no way of knowing for sure, and these are things that will likely be discussed and debated for quite some time. Yet whether curses are real or not, such stories are definitely sad, quite a bit mysterious, and show that at the very least these families have had a bad run of things.