Throughout history, there have been stories of curses within certain cultures, but the ancient Greeks set the standard for cursed bloodlines: Oedipus emerged from the mythical House of Thebes with what should have been a familiar-looking woman awaiting him at the altar. But when it became clear that he had married his mother after killing his father, Oedipus blinded himself, and his mother committed suicide.
There have been tales of cursed families that experience an eerie, looming darkness for generations. Strange events and coincidences have been documented within family trees that suggest a greater evil at work. All told, wealth, notoriety, impropriety, genetics, hubris and even self-fulfilling prophecies play their part in tainting the bloodline.
10The Grimaldi Curse
The Grimaldi family was one of the most powerful names in Genoa. They eventually became the foundation and royal family for Monaco by the end of the 12th century. The sad string of “unhappily-ever-afters” for the present members of this royal family can be attributed to two of their ancestors being total creeps.
The first, Francesco Grimaldi, was said to begin the family’s eventual domination of the tiny city-state after he and his forces captured the fortress from rival claimants. He dressed himself up as a monk and successfully tricked the guards into opening the gates of the fortress.
The second curse came after Lord Rainier I – raped a young woman who later learned the ways of witchcraft. She used her knowledge of the dark arts to make sure that a Grimaldi would never find happiness in marriage.
The curse has rung true since Prince Rainier III’s wife—the American actress Grace Kelly—died in a car accident. Their three children soon became embroiled in their own scandals and misfortunes. The eldest daughter, Princess Caroline, divorced her first husband, was widowed by her second husband, and there are allegations that her third marriage is on the rocks as well. At the same time, her younger sister, Princess Stephanie, went through a potpourri of men that included her bodyguard, an elephant trainer, and a circus acrobat, leading to three children born out of wedlock.
Their brother, Prince Albert II, has so far dodged the proverbial bullet and is still married to former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock—although their union has had its fair share of controversies, from the prince’s playboy past to Wittstock nearly calling off the wedding.
9The Lee Family
The untimely and eerily mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of martial arts legend Bruce Lee and his son Brandon have been timeless fodder for a number of conspiracy theories that refuse to die. One evening Bruce Lee took some medication for a headache and an allergic reaction caused his brain to swell and he died of cerebral edema at age 32 and on the verge of super-stardom.
Twenty years on, his only son Brandon was on the wrong end of a decidedly more complicated sequence of events. Like his father, he died young, and on the verge of stardom. In addition to the theory about the Chinese Mafia/Kung Fu masters plotting to kill them, we have the more supernatural premise that Bruce and his son were the victims of a family curse brought on by Bruce’s father, Lee Hoi Chuen.
According to a family legend, one day Lee Hoi Chuen angered a group of Chinese merchants. They placed a curse on him, saying that all the males of his family would die young. True or not, the elder Lee and his wife took this curse very seriously—after the death of their firstborn son (who would have been Bruce’s older brother). They constantly addressed Bruce with the feminine name of Sai Fon (Small Phoenix) at home in order to confuse the evil spirits. The so-called curse theory eventually gained even more steam after the movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story came out, which depicted a Bruce Lee lookalike fighting a physical manifestation of the demon, who haunted the family. The movie itself was released a mere two months after Brandon’s own death, another creepy coincidence.
8Nepalese Royal Family
Back in 2001, the entire world was shocked when Nepalese Crown Prince Dipendra shot and killed his father, mother, and seven other members of the royal family before turning the gun on himself.
It had been speculated that he was distraught over his family’s refusal to accept his bride and had been drinking heavily before the massacre took place. The prince lapsed into a three-day coma, during which he was proclaimed king before passing away. His uncle Gyanendra became king and ruled for a number of years in a period marked by turbulence and conflict before the monarchy was finally abolished in favor of a democratic republic in 2008.
Some superstitious citizens, however, were less than surprised by the outcome, since the end of the monarchy had already been predicted a long time ago. Gorakhnath was a yogi in the 11th century who supposedly had supernatural powers. He was said to have been the protector of Gorkha, which is where King Gyanendra’s forefathers came from.
Legend has it that the first king of a unified Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah, once came into contact with the yogi in the forest and offered him some food. The yogi accepted the food, chewed it up, and then spit it out. Gorakhnath told the king to eat it, but the king refused. The food ended up dropping to the ground and, because of this disrespectful action, the yogi concluded that the kingdom would cease to exist after ten generations. As foretold, Dipendra (tenth generation) and Gyanendra (ninth generation) actually became the last kings of Nepal.
7The Guinness Family
The Guinnesses—one of Ireland’s most accomplished clans and famous brewers of the Guinness beer brand—have had their share of bad luck throughout history.
Arthur Guinness was born in Kildare, Ireland, in 1725 and he crafted the beer that made him rich in 1759. After he married in 1761, Guinness and his wife had 21 children, 11 of whom died before they even reached adulthood. However, this isn’t considered the beginning of the curse because life expectancies were quite low in the 16th century. Whispers of a curse surrounding the Guinness family began when his family started suffering from unnatural deaths, suicides, and alcoholism.
One of Guinness’s grandchildren fell into alcoholism and two more were committed to mental institutions. In the mid-1950s, his descendant Lord Moyne was killed by terrorists and his son’s wife, Diana Mitford, left him and their children. In 1966, Patrick Browne ran a red light and died as he struck a van. In 1978, Henrietta Guinness was injured in a car crash with her boyfriend. She then went to Italy in her mid-thirties and jumped off a bridge.
In the ’70s, Dennys Guinness was arrested and charged for waving a firearm at someone but was found dead soon after he returned to his home on bail. That same year, John Guinness was in a car accident and one of his sons was killed while another was injured. Paul Channon’s daughter, Olivia, died from a drug overdose in 1986. Robert Hesketh also died of an overdose in ’04, followed by Count Gottfried in ’07.
6The Hemingway Family
Even a brief glance into this bloodline showcases one clinical curse: severe depression. Clarence Edmonds Hemingway was born in 1871 and died by his own hand at his home in 1928. This suicide was the first of a series of suicides within the family tree.
At 29, his son Ernest Hemingway’s literary career was just taking off when Clarence died. Ernest went on to earn a Nobel Prize, Pulitzers, wealth, and international fame. However, these accolades were not enough to keep him from attempting to walk into the spinning blades of a twin-engine plane before eventually killing himself with a shotgun at age 62. Ernest’s younger brother, Leicester, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1982. Five years later, his sister Ursula, who struggled with cancer and depression, committed suicide with an overdose.
The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, Mariel Hemingway, was born after Ernest’s notable suicide. Mariel grew up with alcoholic parents, yet managed to make a name for herself as an actress. She explored her family’s grim legacy in two novels and is also plagued by the family’s curse of mental illness.
Mariel’s mother, Byra, died of cancer in 1988 and her father, Jack, died in late 2000 after heart surgery. Her older sister, Margaux, battled depression and addiction throughout her life and her drug dependence ultimately led to an overdose of barbiturates in her early 40s. Mariel’s younger sister, Muffet, was a schizophrenic and heavy drug user in her teen years.
5The Wadiyar Royal Family
The Wadiyar curse was placed on Raja Wadiyar of the Mysore Kingdom by Alamelamma in the early 15th century. She is said to have cursed him not once, but three times. Alamelamma was the wife of King Tirumalaraja, who ruled the Vijayanagar Empire before Wadiyar came into power.
At that time the Raja—the ninth ruler of the Wodeyar dynasty—and his forces had routed her husband’s army and forced them to abandon their base in Srirangapatna. The defeated couple fled to Talakad, a temple town near Mysore, where Alamelamma brought a set of precious jewels that she used to regularly adorn a statue of her patron deity. The Raja sent his men to pursue her with the intent of confiscating the precious jewels. To avoid capture, she took the jewels and committed suicide by jumping into the Cauvery River.
Just before her death, she pronounced a three-part curse wherein Talakad would become a desert and the nearby town of and Malangi would become a whirlpool area, while the Wodeyars would have no offspring. While the curse has not played out exactly as Alamelamma detailed before her death, it has come eerily close to complete fruition. Talakadu has become a desert, the river near Malangi commonly sees whirlpools, and the Wadiyar family has only birthed male children in alternate generations, leading to very problematic issues regarding succession to the throne.
4The House of Habsburg
The House of Habsburg seriously suffered. Historically, the family has been on the wrong end of not one, but two curses. One curse actually originated with a gift in the 11th century. A man named Count von Altenburg built a sanctuary for ravens called Vulture Mountain. About 100 years later, some Habsburg family members made some renovations to the tower that the ravens were not too fond of. The ravens began attacking members of the Habsburg family and so the family killed the birds.
From then on, ravens were always spotted at the tragedies that befell the Habsburg family members, such as Marie Antoinette, Duchess d’Alencon, Archduchess Charlotte, and her husband Maximillian.
The second curse was placed on the Habsburg family by Countess Karolyi in 1848 when Francis Joseph of Austria was violently quelling the Hungarian rebellion. The Countess’ son was part of a group of Hungarian rebels that was captured and held hostage. The rebels promised that the prisoners’ lives would be spared at the cost of their freedom. However, the prisoners were executed despite this promise. The Countess then placed a curse on Francis Joseph that came to fruition in time. His wife and son were murdered, his nephew was assassinated, and the empire was consumed by conflict.
3The Kennedy Family
The Kennedy family was wrought with heartaches and mysterious deaths for many generations.
In the late ’40s, Joseph Kennedy Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish both died in plane crashes. Rosemary Kennedy, born in 1941, died in 2005 after years of psychiatric struggles. She received a lobotomy as an attempt to cure her developmental disabilities.
John F. Kennedy was supposed to turn the family’s luck around and things were looking up when he was elected president. However, his presidency ended in tragedy when he was assassinated in 1963.
Five years following JFK’s assassination, his younger brother, Robert Kennedy, was murdered in Los Angeles by a lone gunman named Sirhan Sirhan. Two of Robert Kennedy’s children would die in tragic incidents, one in the ’80s of cocaine overdose and one in the ’90s in a skiing accident. The curse continued through 1999, when JFK’s son, JFK Jr., died in a plane crash. Onboard with JFK Jr. was his wife and his wife’s sister, who also perished.
2The Onassis Family
Is it really possible for a curse to transfer from one family to another? According to some Greeks, that’s essentially what happened when JFK’s widow, Jackie Kennedy, brought the infamous Kennedy Curse with her when she married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
According to them, that curse brought about the untimely death of Aristotle’s only son Alexander—he was killed in a plane crash in 1973. From there it went downhill for the rest of the Onassis family. Aristotle’s first wife (Alexander’s mother) killed herself a year after learning of her son’s death. She was followed a year later by Aristotle, who died a sick and broken man. Alexander’s sister Christina also died in 1988 of a heart attack due to depression. As for the once magnificent Onassis financial empire, that too crumbled away.
The remnants were given to the last surviving member of the family, Christina’s daughter Athina. The heiress has so far managed to avoid the infamous curse, living in relative obscurity with her husband Alvaro Affonso de Miranda Neto and her two stepchildren in Brazil.
1The Von Erich Family
Dubbed the Kennedys of the wrestling world in the 1980s, the Von Erichs and their patriarch Fritz (real name Jack Adkisson) experienced their first loss when the eldest of the six male children—six-year-old Jack Jr.—was accidentally electrocuted and drowned in a puddle of wet snow near their home. Afterward, a chain of disasters befell the family. Fritz’s third child, David, died from a serious case of gastroenteritis, while Kerry (fourth), Michael (fifth), and Chris (sixth) committed suicide via drug overdose.
Only Fritz’s second son Kevin lived on to continue wrestling before retiring in 1993. Now with the third generation of Von Erichs (Kevin’s two sons and Kerry’s daughter) currently following their grandfather’s footsteps, we can only hope that they avoid the curse that almost destroyed their bloodline.