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Curses, do they exist?

Published August 20. 2011 09:03AM

As I was doing some random surfing I came across some lists of famous and not-so-famous curses that people have attributed to families, events and items over the years. I have written about the infamous Curse of Tecumseh in the past which many know as the Zero Year curse which people claim President Ronald Reagan broke when he survived the shooting by John Hinckley Jr. in 1981. While many feel his survival is proof the curse was broken, I believe this is not necessarily the case. My argument is that Tecumseh's curse not only was fulfilled by Presidents being assassinated, but more have died of natural causes or diseases in office.

I think Reagan was the final victim of this curse simply because while he survived the shooting, he eventually died of Alzheimer's disease, a terminal condition which many now believe afflicted him while he was serving as President. Including Reagan's eventual death in 2004 from this debilitating disease a total of eight Presidents succumbed to the Zero Year Curse. While the idea that Indian leader Tecumseh placed this curse on William Henry Harrison for the unethical way he treated Tecumseh's people, the first mention that he was involved in this curse did not occur for almost sixty or more years after the fact.

There are other curses that are less known, but just as interesting. For those in music circles the 27 Club brings to mind a circle of talent who left this world way before their time all coincidentally at the age of 27.

While seven famous musicians are formally noted as "members" of this sad club, a search of the Internet's Wikipedia turns up the names of 40 other musicians who died. The famous septet includes blues great Robert Johnson, Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones, pioneer Jimi Hendrix, folk singer Janis Joplin, Doors legend Jim Morrison, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and finally Amy Winehouse whose official cause of death has not yet been announced.

Many folks are familiar as well with the so-called Kennedy curse, but no one knows for sure what the origin of this supposed curse is. What is known is that an unusual amount of tragedy surrounds this power family of the late Joe Kennedy. First to come to mind are the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy both of which are tied to various conspiracy theories which place the CIA, the Mafia and even Lyndon Johnson as possible masterminds behind their deaths. Besides these unfortunate deaths of a president and a presidential hopeful, unsubstantiated rumors abounded that Ted Kennedy was told at some point that he would join his brothers if he ran for President. He did challenge Jimmy Carter for the nomination in 1980 but lost the nomination to Carter who went on to lose to Reagan.

Besides the pair of deaths, Ted also escaped a plane crash which killed an aide and the pilot in 1964 and the infamous Chappaquiddick crash which killed Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969. That night he speculated a curse hung over the Kennedy's according to some sources. Since that night two other Kennedy offspring have died in accidents and one of an overdose.

While these curses are quite well-known one rumored curse that I just learned about through random surfing is the Curse of Atuk. "Atuk" is the Inuit word for grandfather according to the Wikipedia, but it also is the working name for a screenplay that has floated around Hollywood for the last 30 years, yet has never been filmed. Many believe it is because the screenplay has been cursed. The movie is about a great hunter Eskimo who finds himself out of place in New York City.

The alleged curse is that every actor who has read the script to play the leading male role has died. The first actor to be offered the role was John Belushi who died in 1982 supposedly shortly after reading the script.

Next to not only be offered the role but also filmed some scenes was Sam Kinison who left after creative differences and later during negotiations for restarting the movie, he was killed in a 1992 car crash. Supposedly John Candy was next to read the script for the movie and died in 1994 a day before the anniversary of Belushi's death. Tied to Belushi and Kinison was screenwriter Michael O'Donoghue who also died in 1994 of a hemorrhage. He recommended the film to both actors. Finally, Chris Farley also read for the role and died in 1997 along with Phil Hartman whom Farley wanted to be his co-star.

Besides a script being cursed some feel that actor Billy Bob Thornton carries a curse or more specifically his co-stars suffer from a curse. Since 1998, six of Thornton's co-stars have met with disaster or death. Four of the actors who died after co-starring with Thornton include J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Bernie Mac and Heath Ledger. Two others barely escaped car crashes with their lives. This lucky pair was Shia Labeouf and Morgan Freeman.

Ledger and Freeman are tied to another cursed movie, "The Dark Knight". The iconic Batman film saw the death of a stuntman in a car accident while testing a car, Ledger dying from a prescription drug overdose and Freeman losing control of his car. Coincidentally, lead actor Christian Bale was accused of physically abusing his mother and sisters soon after the movie's general release.

Do curses exist? Who knows. Many feel we make our own destinies, but just in case be wary of the evil eye and maybe the next time you walk down a sidewalk you may want to skip over the cracks. Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the details and verification of my memory.

Til next time …

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