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C Is For Curses: Ten Famous Pop Culture Maledictions

On See You On The Other Side, we deal with all kinds of paranormal and unusual phenomena. While we love ghosts, UFOs, and cryptids, which are really the big three of the paranormal, we really just can’t resist a good curse. (and who can? That’s the scary part, right?) Here are some of our favorite curses we’ve covered on the podcast, with a link to each episode.

1. The Kennedy Curse

The Kennedys are America’s royalty. They are a fabulously wealthy and beautiful clan whose children have spent generations in powerful elected positions from the East Coast. With a President, multiple Senators and House Representatives, you would think that these guys have the world wrapped around their little finger. But tragedy has followed their family for generations, from the assassinations of the two most powerful brothers to the airplane crash of JFK Jr. to the failed lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy, somehow their incredible fotune seems tainted.

2. The Oscar Love Curse

Oh, Hollywood. Glamor, money, fame… and very little lasting love relationships. Big stars change spouses fast You’d think that if you win an Academy Award, the film industry’s biggest honor, that your loved one would want to stick by you more than ever, but it ain’t so. Best Actress winners particularly seem to have problems with their love life after winning the big award. Is the great esteem cursed somehow or might it be the jealousy of the entertainment industry causing the split (especially when the woman outshines the man)?

3. The Franklin Expedition Curse

In 1845, the British Navy launched their most ambitious mission to find the Northwest Passage to establish a trade route between the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. They sent their most technically advanced ships and two captains who were well-versed in Arctic exploration. Both ships became trapped in the ice and disappeared, prompting multiple searches for the Lost Franklin Expedition from Britain, America, and Canada over the years. Both ships were found in the late 2010s, but when the HMS Terror was discovered in 2016, the local Nunavut people felt that the spirits were disturbed on their island by bothering the sunken ship. Several untimely deaths occured in the community and they sent a team of guardians to perform a ritual to keep their community safe from the curse.

4. The Poltergeist Curse

No doubt about it, Poltergeist is a terrifying film. But the movie is fiction, what seemingly happened to the actors involved isn’t. Both of the actresses who played the daughters of the haunted family, Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke died way too young. Dunne was murdered by her ex-boyfriend and O’Rourke died of a freak bowel obstruction. Julian Beck and Will Sampson, the evil and good spirits from Poltergeist II: The Other Side, died shortly after the movie’s release, hadrly unexpectedly, but unlucky at least. Some people say it was because they used real human skeletons on the set of the film, but Craig T. Nelson is still doing just fine…

5. The 27 Club

Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. All immensely famous musicians who died at the peak of their fame and way before their time. But why did it all end for them before their 28th birthday?

6. Robert Johnson and the Curse of the Crossroads

Robert Johnson was one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time and was called the King of the Delta Blues. He also died at 27, but was never as famous in his lifetime as the other members of the club. His fame came after he died and has been called the best bluesman ever by the likes of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. His songs have been covered by everyone from Led Zeppelin to The Blues Brothers. Some of them can be dark with titles like “Hellhound on My Trail” and his most famous song, “Crossroads” people say is about how he sold his soul to the Devil at a road crossing in Rosedale, Mississippi. It gave him amazing musical talent, but it ended up taking his life early.

The Mothman Death Curse

If you haven’t heard of the Mothman of Point Pleasant, a dark winged humanoid with red glowing eyes who was seen in the late 60s in West Virginia, you might consider yourself lucky. No less than the man behind the International Cryptozoology Museum himself, the legendary Loren Coleman, wrote Mothman: Evil Incarnate, a book where he describes the Mothman Death Curse. He devotes an appendix to one hundred mysterious and untimely deaths of people who have been involved in the Mothman mythos in some way, from the original victims of the Silver Bridge Collapse to people who worked on the Richard Gere film.

The Curse of King Tut

There were supposedly nine victims of King Tut’s curse, people who were related to the excavation of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s tomb. Sir Arthutr Conan Doyle, the writer behind Sherlock Holmes, even toured that there was some kind of supernatural vengeance that was being wreaked on these Western interlopers. It was featured in all the newspapers at the time, but also Egypt was a very popular topic to write about, and the financier of the King Tut Expedition gave a single paper the exclusive rights to the story. So, was the curse blown out of proportion in the interest of paper sales or was there really a curse on the wall of the tomb of Egypt’s Boy King?

William Henry Harrison and the Tippecanoe Curse

Before he became President, William Henry Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory and was behind a shady deal that screwed the American Indians there out of a good deal of their land. A great battle was fought at Tippecanoe and Harrison’s forces emerged triumphant. The brother of defeated Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, was considered a great prophet and he supposedly cursed Harrison to die in office and the presidents that every twenty years after. And they did, Harrison was elected in 1840 and dies in 1841, Lincoln dies in 1865, Garfield in 1881, McKinley in 1901, Harding in 1923, Roosevelt in 1944, and Kennedy in 1963. Seems like being elected in a year that ends in a zero is bad luck until Reagan survives his assassination attempt in 1981.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

How ’bout them Cubbies, right? They’re the most famous Chicago sports institution and are beloved by celebrities from Bill Murray to Vince Vaughn. And years afer his death, most baseball fans can still hear Harry Carey’s famous call of “Holy Cow!” perfectly in their heads. But another Chicago institution is the Billy Goat Tavern (the inspiration behind the Saturday Night Live classic “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch) and then the owner was kicked out of a Cubs game in 1945 because his pet goat smelled too bad, the rumor is that he cursed the team to never win the National League Pennant again. They didn’t get in the World Series again for 71 years and coincidentally clinched the title on the 46th anniversary of the owner’s death.

237 – Curses: From Evil Eyes to Jinxed Buildings

Since the Academy Awards were this weekend, we thought we’d do a uick update to our Oscar Love Curse episode that we recorded the same time last year (and to quote another Academy Award nominee from this year, another one bites the dust… Sorry, Brie Larson, you’re the latest victim of the Oscar Love Curse!)

But celebrities are just one of the many things that people are superstitious about and we all do it to some extent. Have you ever called some piece of clothing like your tie or your hat or even your socks, “lucky”?

Do you ever perform a little ritual before doing something important? Maybe shave a certain way because the last time you did it that way, you had an amazing date? Or listen to a certain song because it gets you pumped up and you feel you need that confidence? That’s just basic human nature. We do things to try and convince our mind that success is on the way, it’s just a little bit of magical thinking in our lives, but sometimes it seems to help.

But what happens when something horrible happens to you while you’re wearing a certain t-shirt or a pair of shoes or while a song is playing in the background? Do those things become “unlucky”? Well, that’s the question we tackle today as we discuss curses!

In this episode, Wendy and I are joined by Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com, Allison Jornlin from HawaiiParacon.com, and paranormal author C.E. Martin (check out his Stranger Than Fiction book!) to talk about strange cases of cursed objects, people, and even bulidings!

You can give someone the Evil Eye and not even know it…

Allison has done some research into the Italian Evil Eye called Il Malocchio and it can curse you without the person even knowing it. Often the eye is caused when someone looks at you with envy or extreme jealousy.

Some families have special rituals to combat Il Malocchio but they are kept very secret and can only be passed on one night of the year. In Ronnie James Dio’s family, he was taught that throwing up your rock fist was actually a defense against the Evil Eye and that’s one of the reasons he chose it as his onstage symbol and it’s now been assimilated into the rest of heavy metal culture.

C.E. Martin (here’s his author page on Amazon) has had his own experiences with three curses in his life and he describes them here in his own words:

1. I was cursed at birth. My paternal grandmother, a member of the cultish “Eastern Star” organization, actually showed up at the hospital after I was born and proclaimed to everyone that she wished I’d been still-born. She hated my parents eloping, and took it out on my my entire life–until I was an adult and I realized I didn’t have to take her $%^T anymore. 

2. I’m fairly certain my ghost stories book is cursed (Mike’s note: he’s talking about Stranger Than Fiction, but don’t be scared, it’s a great book!) Writing it took more than two years, filled with bad luck: my daughter’s scoliosis diagnosis, the ensuing therapy and surgery, my wife being in a car wreck, my fall down the stairs at home, my dog unexpectedly dying, my title being stolen, and my recent banning online for mentioning it on paranormal forums (to name a few of the calamities in that period). Best of all, the other day, as I was leaving work, I was thinking about the book as I walked toward the exit from the law office. I was wondering how I could promote the book’s 2 free days online. My thoughts were interrupted when not one, but two large pigeons flew into/rammed the glass of a large picture window I was walking toward, one right after the other. (they bounced off, recovered and landed safely on some nearby power lines). Definitely an omen of the banning that was coming the next morning. 

3. A friend in the USAF removed a Nazi SS ceremonial dagger from a bunker in Italy that US forces opened up after the Italians had sealed it following WWII. The bunker had sat, sealed up for decades. US Forces were examining using it, and my pal was doing security on the site. He decided to stroll around inside and found it abandoned–as in, everything was there as if the Nazi’s had just teleported away or something. So he took a souveneir. Over the next few years, he had a whole string of terrible luck, including  his child getting some kind of strange fever that resulted in brain damage (the little boy was borderline mentally retarded after that and had lots of developmental problems). Eventually, my friend buried the dagger in the backyard of his base-housing quarters right before he and his family moved to their next base. The bad luck did not follow them. 

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In Scott’s book, Voices From The Chicago Grave, he talks about the curse of ‘Cap’ Streeter. George Wellington Streeter was a boat captain who was ferrying passengers from Milwaukee to Chicago on Lake Michigan when a storm capsized his boat near where Superior Drive is in modern Chicago. At the time, however, it was just a sandbar on the edge of the lake. Cap decided to stay there, claim it as his own (even independent from the United States) and made a living by creating a shantytown and garbage heap there. Following scuffles with local law enforcement and some time in jail, Cap cursed the area and some very weird and sad things have happened in the locality since.

Elma Lockwood, George Cap Streeter, and Spot

We also discuss my trip to the Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, where you can see a variety of “cursed” objects from Ed Gein’s Cauldron to Jerry Lewis’ clown costume from a movie he thought was so bad that he never released it (and indeed said that he would not let it be shown until years after his death) The Day The Clown Cried.

Here’s the waiver that you sign at Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum

While we were waiting in line, my wife saw a girl with waist length brown hair and a blue/grey dress running across the parking lot, and then <poof> there was no little girl there. She said the girl looked 5 or 6 years old. I missed the entire thing because I was working on the waiver that you see above, but it was interesting because it was outside and not anywhere near the cursed objects.

Bagans does claim that the mansion is haunted, so maybe it was some kind of residual energy from the family that lived there for decades before it was turned into the museum. We looked for pictures (they talk about the family and the original house’s owner, Cyril S. Wengert, on the tour) and did find several photographs but none seemed to match up to the girl.

Either way, I was jealous! The weirdest thing I saw was a marionette that semed to move on its own and I had guides tell me conflicting stories about whether it was animatronic, or it had moved when the guide bumped the stage, or it was a ghost(!) So, that experience could be chalked up to whatever I choose to believe.

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And it seems that’s how curses live and die, by what we choose to believe. That seemed like a good message for a song, that we’re always struggling against our own heads. They say there are only seven different kinds of conflict in storytelling and while one of them might be “Man vs. Supernatural”, it seems like the battle that is most applicable when you’re fighting a curse is “Man Vs. Self”. Conquering your own fears and superstitions is what this week’s song is all about.

this is our jihad
our fight is a spiritual war
battling our basest instinct
it’s so hard to ignore
and we’ll take that to the morgue
The fortune tellers will predict
but your conviction is the trick
superstitious fiction
don’t let yourself be deceived
a curse as good as you believe

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
be more than the dice roll of your genes

Don’t believe everything you read
you don’t need everything you see
you’re more than your credit score
don’t buy in when you should drop out
don’t forget what it’s all about
These are the moments that define
these are the times that will go down
history to the victor
don’t you mess around
you better make your seconds count

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
you’re more than the dice roll of your genes

185 – The Oscar Love Curse: Legends and Lore of The Academy Awards

From Joan Crawford to Sandra Bullock, Bette Davis to Hilary Swank,  actresses who win Academy Awards are said to have been cursed in love shortly after. In fact, everyone from Forbes to National Public Radio to The Washington Post have talked about it.

For example, Emma Thompson wins Best Actress for Howard’s End in 1993 and by 1994, it’s revealed that Kenneth Branagh was fooling around with Helena Bonham-Carter on the set of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a year later. They’re divorced in 1995.

Reese Witherspoon wins for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line in 2006, five months later she is divorced from her husband Ryan Philippe.

Renee Zellweger is dating Jack White (from The White Stripes) in 2004 and she wins Best Supporting Actress for Cold Mountain, several months later, they split up.

And those are just a few of the more modern examples. Hollywood breakups have been happening to Oscar winners since the Academy Awards started, but is there any truth to the “Oscar Love Curse”? And is it always women who are unlucky? What about the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor winners?

Hollywood Ghost Tour guide and WhatsYourGhostStory.com founder Scott Markus joins Wendy and I to get the facts behind the Oscar Love Curse and we also dish some more fun paranormal facts about Hollywood’s biggest night, The Academy Awards.

oscar love curse
1999 Gwyneth sure seemed happy, two months before her breakup with fellow Oscar winner, Ben Affleck

This week’s song is all about relationships collapsing and the feelings afterwards, it’s Sunspot’s ode to bitter breakups, “Eat Out My Heart”.

I’ve been waiting so long for you to call,
but now you’re finally here and I’m a wreck.
Worked out a little, even did my hair,
but I’m not the man I used to be back there.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.

I dodged a bullet,
One or two since then,
You’re not the only one who still calls me up.
I’m still the jerkoff who listens to your problems,
I never told you all the times,
I’d wished you died in a car crash.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up, I hope your life sucks.

I’m eating out my heart.
I’m eating out my heart.

And I’m not happy for you,
That you’re a better person without me.
I’m so glad you decided to apologize,
When I’m too numb to care,
I’m just too numb to care.

I hope you have an ugly boyfriend,
I hope you’re working at a carwash,
I hope your life went down the drain and everything is not okay,
I hope your best years passed you up.