Historical Families That Are Famously Cursed

The belief that ancestral curses exist isn't a new concept — they've even been a part of Judeo-Christian beliefs. According to Romans 5:18, "[Adam's] sin brought guilt to all people." So, what exactly does this mean? If one family member does something atrocious, have they cursed all of their future generations to come?

While it's easy to scoff at the idea, there might be some truth to it. As Psychology Today explains, "Our brains are pattern-detection machines that connect the dots, making it possible to uncover meaningful [reasons] among the barrage of sensory input we face. Without such meaning-making, we would be unable to make predictions about survival and reproduction." This sort of thought process is called "apophenia," or in even simpler terms, "patternicity," coined by science historian Michael Shermer, who claimed that "our brains do not include a 'baloney-detection network' that would allow us to distinguish between true and false patterns."

However, sometimes situations go from slightly suspicious to downright creepy, and chalking things up to patternicity just doesn't seem right. In fact, there have even been a number of historical families throughout history that have allegedly been cursed. Throughout all the freak accidents, bizarre deaths, and hexes that have plagued various clans, let's dig up some roots of these famous family trees — and hope we don't uncover too many skeletons along the way.

The Rockefeller family suffered '150 years of turmoil'

Does the name Rockefeller ring a bell? It should, as the family is known to be one of the richest in America. Unfortunately for these economic heavyweights, being one of the most prominent families in the US comes with its own misfortunes. The clan's troubles began as John D. Rockefeller (a.k.a. the world's first billionaire) rose to the top of the oil business. As Smithsonian Magazine writes, "he was himself ruthless [...] People hated Rockefeller's guts." So, did he cross anyone to the point of a curse? Some people seem to think so.

In 1951, Winifred Rockefeller, the great-niece of John D. Sr., committed suicide by "leaving two cars running in her Greenwich garage" — with her two children found inside one (via Lohud). Exactly a decade later, in 1961, Michael Rockefeller, great-grandson and heir to the fortune, was visiting New Guinea, working on gathering indigenous art. One day, his boat overturned, capsizing, with the 23-year-old vanishing without a trace. According to Savage Harvest (via Smithsonian Magazine), some believe Michael was eaten by cannibals. Less than two decades later, in 1978, John D. Rockefeller III was killed "in a three-car crash" (via Lohud).

As The Rake writes, "Add to the above bouts of depression, alleged affairs, and divorces citing mental cruelty [...] the 150 years of turmoil suffered by [the Rockefeller] family" gives us the obvious conclusion that maybe something more sinister has been at play all this time.

The most famous curse of them all belongs to the Kennedy family

The Kennedy family curse has become something of pop culture lore throughout the years. Although the political juggernauts have had careers as ambassadors, senators, chairmen, and even one president, the tragedies that have plagued this influential clan are eerie — to say the least.

The most obvious is the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November of 1963, while he was in a Dallas parade with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. According to Biography, two shots were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. "One hit her husband's back and exited via his throat. Another tore through JFK's head." While the 35th president's assassination is arguably the most horrific of the Kennedy tragedies, his younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was met with a similar fate only five years later. As detailed by Britannica, "while campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination," Robert was fatally shot at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel by a man named Sirhan Sirhan.

Assassinations aside, the Kennedy family curse also reared its ugly head yet again in 1969 when Ted Kennedy was involved in a car accident which killed his passenger, a drug overdose in 1984 which killed Robert's son, David Kennedy, and a ski incident that killed another one of Robert's sons, Michael Kennedy (via CNN). Finally, Michael Skakel, nephew of Robert's widow, Ethel Kennedy, was convicted of murder in 2002 after "bludgeoning his neighbor" to death. Do you believe the curse now?

Did Jacqueline Kennedy bring her own curse to the Onassis family?

If you thought being a part of one familial curse is already traumatic enough, try suffering through two. President John F. Kennedy's widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, found herself in yet another ill-fated clan, this time by way of marrying Aristotle Onassis. With the world still grieving over the loss of JFK from his 1963 assassination, Jackie's marriage to the Greek shipping magnate in 1968 enraged America, with The New York Times declaring, "The reaction here is anger, shock and dismay." Considering she sent the public into a fit, was some sort of spooky hex ever cast?

Onassis certainly thought so. According to The New York Times, in 1973, the businessman's son, 24-year-old Alexander, died in a hospital in Athens after a tragic plane crash. Aristotle went from calling his wife "the widow," to "the witch." Per Time, "Deeply superstitious, he blamed her for the loss that broke his heart."

After Alexander's death, the Onassis family spiraled. In 1974, still wracked with grief over her son's death, Aristotle's ex-wife, Athina "Tina" Livanos, "died of a suspected overdose of barbiturates" (via Vanity Fair). Only a year later, Aristotle passed away from pneumonia. "Both lost the will to live after Alexander died," recalled an Onassis relative, Marilena Patronikola, to Vanity Fair. At the time of this writing, only one Onassis heir remains, Athina Onassis Roussel, after her mother, Christina, died from a sudden heart attack at 37.

The Nepalese royal family soured

In June of 2001, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was crowned the new King of Nepal. According to DNA, the public was in shock, fearing "the new successor would not be able to wield the sceptre for long." What exactly happened? Why was Gyanendra, the late King Birendra's brother, assuming the throne, when the next in line should have been Prince Dipendra?

As the macabre tale goes, on June 1st, 2001, "Crown Prince Dipendra, drunk and high on cocaine, [amid] a bitter feud with his parents about his choice of bride, changed into military fatigues, took a submachine-gun and mowed down his family" (via Independent). The prince killed nine family members, before turning the gun on himself — miraculously surviving. He then lay in a coma until passing away on June 4th.

This is where things get spooky: Per DNA, according to an old Nepalese legend, "Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of the kingdom of Nepal," one day came across a holy man in a forest. "The king offered some curd to the meditating yogi who regurgitated it and asked the king to drink it." The ruler rejected the man, yet "as the white stream of curd dribbled on the king's 10 toes, the enraged holy man cursed the royal that his dynasty would be obliterated because of his pride after 10 generations." Fast-forward to 2001, where "Nepal remembered the old tale and the fact that the slain king was the ninth descendant."

Not even The Iron Claw could save the Von Erichs

There's no denying that wrestling is an intense sport. Throw into the mix the copious amounts of spandex and over-the-top showmanship, and it's easy to forget that these people are human beings — not muscle-clad caricatures. As it turns out, there are tons of wrestlers who have died under suspicious circumstances. Case in point? The Von Erich family.

A pro-wrestling family, the Von Erichs have suffered so many freak accidents resulting in death that it's widely believed they're cursed. First to go was Fritz Von Erich's son, Jack Jr., in 1959, who "died at the age of 6 years old after he was electrocuted, causing him to fall into a puddle and drown" (via True Crime Buzz). Next was David Von Erich, who, during the family's trip to Japan in 1984, "was found dead in his hotel room." While the exact events still remain a mystery, his death was ruled as an accident. David's brothers, Mike, Chris, and Kerry, committed suicide in 1987, 1991, and 1993, respectively, after suffering from depression.

According to The Squared Circle, it's believed that a ghost of a Holocaust survivor spoke to Fritz in Chicago one day, putting a curse on his entire family as revenge for choosing to diminish the gravity of Nazism during one of his elaborate wrestling matches.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The thick, black curse that engulfs the Guinness family

Guinness, the beer synonymous with stouts and the Irish, came by way of the brewery's founder, Arthur Guinness, in 1759. You can imagine that with their fame has come massive fortune, with The Irish Times writing that "the Guinness family [were] still 23rd on the world's 'rich list,'" in 1997. However, with all that money has come great tragedy.

According to the Independent, remarkably enough, Arthur fathered a whopping 21 children — yet only 10 survived. Misfortune kept plaguing this famous family throughout the years, such as Walter Edward Guinness, the 1st Baron Moyne, who "was murdered in Cairo by the Zionist terror group, the Stern Gang in 1944, leading to the legend of a Guinness Curse." Then the heir to the family fortune, Arthur Onslow Edward Guinness, was killed during World War II at the age of 33. Loss only continued with Lady Henrietta Guinness, who threw herself off a bridge in Italy, and Patrick Guinness, who ran a red light and smashed into a van, killing himself. And that's just scratching at the surface of these bizarre occurrences.

As the Independent so succinctly put it, "[Arthur Guinness] did not live to see many of his grandchildren turn to drink, and a couple end up in mental institutions." The question we're wondering is: who exactly did the founder enrage this much to subject the Guinness' to so many years of torture?

The Grimaldi '700-year' curse

When one mentions Monaco, thoughts of glitz, glamour, and sunshine overwhelm the mind. Commonly referred to as "a playground for the wealthy" (via Business Insider), the microstate certainly lives up to its reputation — as does its own royal family, the Grimaldis. Serving as Monaco's rulers since 1419, the family is a symbol of unimaginable wealth. However, while the family has all the money in the world, their history has been tainted with sadness.

According to ABC News, the family legend can be traced back to the 13th century, when "Prince Rainier I kidnapped and raped a beautiful maiden, who became a witch to get her revenge." As the story goes, she left a curse on the prince's entire family for countless generations, declaring, "Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage." Sure enough, as the Independent reveals, "Scandal, divorce and rumours of infidelity have dogged them for decades, with the result that they have been dubbed Europe's most dysfunctional family."

The most famous scandal came by way of the late Princess of Monaco, actress Grace Kelly. Per the Independent, it's "unlikely that Kelly found true happiness in Monaco" after her marriage to Prince Rainier III in 1956. She died in 1982 after her car took a tumble off a mountain road. Considering all of Kelly's children have been romantically unlucky as well, the curse suddenly sounds hauntingly real. As Express wrote in 2020, "love problems have torn through [the Grimaldi's] 700-year rule."

Grigori Rasputin's curse on the Romanovs came true

The story of the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, has been told countless times. Even the 1997 animated flick, Anastasia, very loosely revolves around the brood, yet that tale is filled with hope — the complete opposite of the tragedy that engulfed the real-life family. Legend has it, the Romanovs fell victim to a curse in the early 1900s, by way of Grigori Rasputin, a "peasant-turned-wandering-holy-man" who had wiggled his way into the court of Czar Nicholas II (via Smithsonian Magazine).

The czar's son, Alexei, had hemophilia, and one day, Rasputin miraculously helped heal the sick child. As the mag notes, the man's "holy" power was most likely just luck, yet it solidified Rasputin's relationship with Nicholas. According to Cultura Colectiva, by the time WWI started, "Russia decided to participate against the Germans," with Nicholas gearing up to travel into war. Around this time, buzz began to spread that Rasputin was, in fact, a German spy. With Nicholas' relatives conspiring to try to fire the man, Rasputin took note of this, telling Nicholas, "If I am killed by one of your stock, within two years you and your family will be killed by the Russian people."

In 1916, a man named Felix Yusupov finally killed Rasputin with a bullet to the head. Disturbingly enough, as the alleged holy man predicted, the Bolsheviks took power in November of 1917, with the Romanovs imprisoned. By 1918, they were wiped out in a mass execution.

Is the Wodeyar family still cursed?

The Wodeyars are a royal family in India who "ruled the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947." Since then, the kingdom became a part of the Dominion of India "after its independence from British rule" (via History of Wadiyars). While the Wodeyars are still around to this day, they've been plagued with a curse that's lasted over a whopping 400 years.

The alleged curse dates back to 1612 when Raja Wodeyar dethroned King Tirumalaraja and gained power over Mysore. According to India Today, Tirumalaraja's wife, Alamelamma, attempted to escape, ultimately flinging herself into the Cauvery river, committing suicide. Right before she fell, Alamelamma uttered, "May Talakadu turn into a barren expanse of sand; may Malangi (a village on the banks of Cauvery) turn into an unfathomed whirlpool; may the Wadiyars of Mysore not have children for eternity."

As fate would have it, "Over the past century, Talakadu has been a renowned tourist spot where excavation of sand [...] has yielded many a temple. Malangi, on the other hand, is given a wide berth because of the killer whirlpools that form in its patch of the Cauvery." But that's not the most haunting aspect of the hex to come true. Per The New Indian Express, in 2017, "after more than six decades [...] a member of the royal family [gave] birth to a baby. The last time the family celebrated in a grand manner was the birth of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar in February 1953."

Money didn't buy the Getty family much happiness

The Getty family curse is an interesting one, as no grim tales of the occult plaguing the famous brood exist. Simply put, are their misfortunes karmic retribution? Per Forbes, founder of the Getty Oil Company, J. Paul Getty was once one of America's richest men in the late '50s. However, Getty's attitude towards his own family was cold, with Forbes adding that "he barely spent time with his family [...] communicating through sarcasm and irony."

Tragedy first struck Getty's son, J. Paul Getty, Jr., who had relocated to Italy "and was seen as a potential heir." His wife, Talitha Pol, died of a heroin overdose in 1971. As for J. Paul's second son, George Franklin Getty II, he spiraled into a great depression fueled by his father's lack of warmth, "[stabbing] himself superficially in the chest with a BBQ knife," only to die the following day in a Los Angeles hospital after swallowing a lethal dose of pills.

Out of all the Getty misfortunes, perhaps the most prominent is the abduction of J. Paul's grandson, J. Paul III, who in 1973 was kidnapped by Calabrian criminals. When the bandits asked for a ransom of $17 million, the family declined, with Grandfather Getty famously declaring, "I have 14 other grandchildren. If I pay one penny, I'll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren." The criminals proceeded to chop his ear off, and after six months, he was released when the family paid $3.2 million.

The Habsburg family curse led to the start of World War I

The famous Austrian royal family, the Habsburgs, have had centuries of turmoil as they haven't been cursed once — but twice. Per The Vintage News, around 1000 AD, ravens saved a Habsburg ancestor from a lethal vulture attack. As repayment, the man built a watchtower for the birds in the woods. Around 100 years later, "a Habsburg relative decided to turn the structure into an enormous castle," subsequently killing the ravens. As the legend goes, the "supernatural ravens called Turnfalken began haunting the family," appearing as death omens for centuries to come.

From then on, it's believed that the Turnfalken appeared at every battle where the Habsburgs lost — with a rumor circulating that even Queen Marie Antoinette (who was born a Habsburg), had the ominous ravens appear at her beheading.

As for the second curse? In 1848, during an uprising against the Habsburgs, Emperor Franz Joseph executed Hungarian rebels — among them an 18-year-old boy, the son of Countess Karolyi. According to The Life of the Emperor Francis Joseph (via Riverside Daily Press), Karolyi made her way towards the emperor, announcing, "May heaven and hell blast your happiness! May your family be exterminated! [...] May your children be brought to ruin, and may your life be wrecked." Almost immediately, "misfortunes followed [...] without interruption," perhaps most notably the assassination of Joseph's nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose 1914 death led to the start of WWI.