15 Eerie Pop Culture Curses
It’s an unfortunate fact that bad things tend to happen to famous people simply because, well, the risk-averse don’t usually go into the entertainment industry. When a series of unfortunate events all cluster around one event, however, even the most skeptical start rationalizing that it’s not like throwing a little salt over your shoulder will hurt anything.
The Incomparable Atuk
For 20 years, Hollywood tried to adapt the 1963 novel The Incomparable Atuk, but every actor that was attached to it at some point -- including John Belushi, Sam Kinison, John Candy, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman -- kept dying horribly before production could begin. Eventually, they shelved the script for fear that God would get exasperated and start raining down actual hellfire.
The Exorcist was plagued by numerous disasters both during and after production, including several actors suffering severe injuries, a mysterious fire that burned down almost the entire set while leaving Regan’s bedroom eerily untouched, and an actor who played a small part committing a murder he couldn’t explain. They eventually brought in an actual priest to bless the set, just in case.
Leo and Me
The cast and crew of this forgotten Canadian sitcom, which most notably included Michael J. Fox, was somehow 10 times more likely than the general population to develop Parkinson’s disease, with four of its 125 members being diagnosed before the age of 40. One Canadian neurologist theorized that they may have been exposed to something, like the cast and crew of The Conqueror, but otherwise, the medical community’s explanation has been a big ol’ shrug.
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The John Connor Curse
All of the first three actors to play John Connor in the Terminator series of movies and TV shows -- Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, and Thomas Dekker -- have subsequently suffered strings of drug overdoses, arrests, and direct-to-DVD movies. Christian Bale seems to be doing okay, but maybe someone should keep an eye on him.
The Superman Curse
Appearing in a Superman movie seems to be a one-way ticket to misfortune, especially if you play the Man of Steel himself. Most notably, George Reeves died of a mysterious “suicide” a few years after his turn, Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident, and Dean Cain, well, became Dean Cain.
During and after filming the story of the O.G. cursed child, Gregory Peck and screenwriter David Seltzer flew in separate planes that were both hit by lightning, cast and crew members kept narrowly avoiding exploding buildings, and the special effects artists who designed the film’s decapitation scene was in a car accident that decapitated his wife. Thankfully, the movie was finished by then, or everyone would have quit.
Four actors died during or shortly after production of the series, including little Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunne. Many have blamed Spielberg’s alleged decision to use real skeletons as props, which would suggest a complete misunderstanding of his own movie.
The “Gloomy Sunday” Curse
Also known as the “Hungarian suicide song,” “Gloomy Sunday” was connected to, well, a bunch of Hungarian suicides in the ‘30s when it became popular two years after Rezso Seress wrote it. Some morbid Tin Pan Alley trolls then clamored to translate it for English-speaking audiences, allegedly causing even more suicides in the U.S. and England, the latter of which banned the song from the radio until 2002. Seress himself died by suicide in the ‘60s, having gone on record about his guilt over writing music history’s biggest bummer.
The Fleetwood Mac Guitarist Curse
You could say Fleetwood Mac has trouble holding onto guitarists, and not just the multiple ones they need to replace Lindsey Buckingham every time he throws a fit. Before Buckingham joined the band, they went through several guitarists, all of whom either left after developing mental health issues or battled them later in life. In light of all that, maybe we should cut Buckingham a break.
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The “Crossroads” Curse
Legend has it that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil because white people refused to believe anyone could be that good at guitar, and subsequently, several prominent musicians who recorded his “Cross Roads Blues” -- Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Lynyrd Skynyrd -- have suffered terrible tragedies or died horribly. Of course, plenty of others who have played the song are fine, but maybe leave it out of the karaoke book, just in case.
The Little Rascals Curse
Several actors in the Our Gang series of films died violently or in accidents before they were 40. Even Petey the dog was poisoned.
James Dean’s Car
James Dean famously died young (along with his two Rebel Without a Cause costars, which is a whole other thing), but the car he was driving when he crashed went on to kill at least once more. Parts of the car were used by two racecar drivers, both of whom soon crashed, one fatally. Since then, legends have sprung up around parts of the car catching fire, falling, and killing others, and while they’re difficult to prove, the car’s transaxle recently sold for hundreds of thousands to someone with a serious death wish.
The Best New Artist Grammy Curse
As an award weighted more heavily toward one-hit wonders, it was said for nearly 20 years that winning the Best New Artist Grammy was career poison. Thankfully, it seems to have been broken for good in 1994, ironically by Toni Braxton, famed un-breaker of things.
The SNL Stage Sound Curse
The Saturday Night Live sound system is notoriously shitty for its musical guests, which could be chalked up to TV studios being generally ill-suited to musical performances, but we prefer to attribute it, as others have, to Sinead O’Connor’s live mutilation of a photo of the Pope, suggesting he has even more power than we thought. The Pope’s meddling has caused disaster for multiple guests, including Ashlee Simpson, Lana Del Rey, and Iggy Azalea.
The Oscar Divorce Curse
At some point, people started noticing that actors tended to get divorced shortly after winning an Oscar, so one Cornell scientist decided to run the numbers and found that’s actually true -- with one caveat: Women who won acting Oscars usually only suffered consequences if their spouse was also an actor. In other words, men’s marriages presumably broke down just because they started working more, while women’s did because their husbands became jealous little babies. We’re not singling anyone out, we’re just going to cough “Schryan Schrillippe” a few times.
Top image: Warner Bros. Records/Wikimedia Commons