6 Cursed Artifacts That Continue To Haunt Their Owners

The belief in supernatural phenomena related to cursed artifacts has always existed among humanity. Here are six cursed items that continue to haunt their viewers.

Jul 30, 2020By Jesus Santillan, BA Anthropology w/ Archaeology Concentration
Anguished Man painting and Ballista Balls
Anguished Man painting and Ballista Balls


Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of objects believed to carry spirits, demons or bad energy within them. For instance, in ancient Greece around the 5th century BC, artifacts called “Tablets of Curse” could be made. These tablets served to curse enemies and other undesirable people, asking the gods to intercede and affect the person in question. Read on for 6 cursed objects, artworks, and artifacts that are believed to have affected their creators or others who have been in contact with them.


cursed tablets athens
Part of the collection of ‘curse tablets’ found in Athens, via Haaretz


1. The Anguished Man: A Cursed Item Haunting A Family


The origin of The Anguished Man remains a mystery, as both its artist and date of creation are unknown. However, it is said that he used his own blood mixed with the oil paint, and at the end of this work, he committed suicide. 


anguished man cursed painting
The Anguished Man by an Unknown Artist, Private Collection


The supernatural history of this cursed artwork begins in North England when the grandmother of the current owner, Sean Robinson, took possession of the painting more than 30 years ago. It is said that a friend of the family gave it to Mrs. Robinson, but immediately she understood that something was wrong with this work of art. Sometime later, Mrs. Robinson gave the painting to her grandson Sean, who to date has it in his possession.


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Among the paranormal events that involve this work, the Robinson family says that at night this painting emits groans, screams, and tears the fabric of the portrait. Sean himself has repeatedly uploaded videos to YouTube, where he shows the alleged paranormal events related to the work.


As it always happens in these cases, some believe that the anguished man is just a hoax to gain fame and fortune. Other people truly believe that the curse is real and avoid at all cost the macabre image of the anguished man captured on the canvas. Whatever the case, this painting is a worthy representative of a cursed item. 


2. Ballista Balls: Stolen Artifacts And 20 Years Of Bad Luck


ballista balls cursed artifact
The Ballista Balls returned with a note apologizing for the act, via Live Science


Within Roman military history, the Greco-Roman ballista was a weapon similar to the crossbow but at a larger scale, which fired arrows or stones.


In 1989, archaeological works were being carried out in the Israeli-Syrian border. These Ballista Balls were found alongside what appeared to be the remains of a Ballista. Years later, in 1995, some ammunition of the Roman war artifact was subtracted from the site, but the theft wasn’t noticed.


Time passed and in 2015, several rock balls that matched the ones found in the diggings of 1989 appeared in the courtyard of a museum in Israel with a note. This note, supposedly written by the thief, stated that after stealing the Ballista Balls he had experienced profound bad luck and he believed them to be cursed items.


Unofficial reports claim that among the calamities the person describes in his note, he comments that ruin fell upon him, as he had a prosperous business that ended suddenly when those rocks came into his life. It is also said that sometime later his family abandoned him, and he was forced to get rid of many other possessions to settle debts and avoid bankruptcy until he realized the origin of his problems.


3. The Crying Children: Mysterious House Fires

toby crying boy cursed painting
Toby the Crying Boy by Bruno Amadeo/Giovanni Bragolin, Private Collection


This painting belongs to a series of finely crafted paintings in the style of Italian Futurism. However, they have historically been linked to disasters and tragedies for those who possess them and they are believed to be cursed items. 


They were painted by Bruno Amadio, an Italian artist born in Venice in 1911, who fought in World War II. The Horrors of warfare inspired this painter, as he witnessed the suffering of children during the conflict. This event created a scar that stayed with him to the grave.


Frustrated that the war stopped his aspirations for artistic fame, he moved to Spain, where under the pseudonym of Giovanni Bragolin, he decided to capture these negative feelings on canvas. The first of a series of 27 paintings with the theme of “crying children” would be created in the late 1940s when Amadio resided in Madrid.


It was in the 1980s that this painter would gain the much-awaited fame he desired, as a series of unexplained calamities linked to his paintings gained notoriety in Europe. The first tragedy was reported in the United Kingdom and published in The Sun newspaper on September 4, 1985.


This British newspaper reported a series of house fires at locations where paintings in the series were held. A Yorkshire firefighter then claimed that within these houses, the crying child portrait was always found intact, while everything around it was burned. Collective hysteria erupted immediately, and during the following months, several newspapers published articles about house fires whose owners possessed one of the paintings.


These events skyrocketed the paintings to fame and they became some of Britain’s most recognized cursed artifacts, selling prints and copies worldwide.


4. Pompeiian Artifacts: Looting And Bad Luck

pompeii forum curse
View of the Forum in Pompeii, Italy by Raphael Gaillarde, 2004, via National Geographic


Pompeii was a city in Ancient Rome that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was located south of Naples and many senators and affluent members of Roman society bought a house in the city, mostly for their summer retreats. However, on August 24th in 79 AD, a volcanic eruption buried the entire city in volcanic ash.


During the 18th century, the first archaeological works in the area began at the hands of the Spanish engineer Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre. The excavation works remained constant and by the next century, the city was opened to the public.


According to curators, custodians, and other employees in the area, there are constant reports of looting every year. Tourists in their quest to obtain unique or special souvenirs take artifacts or fragments of monuments from the area, taking with them a piece of Pompeii and spreading it around the world.


This is where the supposed curse of Pompeii begins, as the Pompeii Archaeological Superintendence receives about 100 packages a year of pieces allegedly stolen from the city. Most are accompanied by explanatory letters about the bad luck suffered by their owners. 


There are so many returned objects that they are thinking of opening a museum only with these cursed artifacts.


5. The Ring Of Senicianus: Literary Inspiration

sing senicianus cursed object
The Ring of Secinianus, 350-450 AD, in The Vyne Estate Museum, Hampshire, via National Trust Collections UK


Magic rings have a prominent place in folklore, legend, and fiction. Here is an example of a real ring believed to be cursed. The ring of Senicianus was an artifact discovered in 1785 by a farmer plowing the land, a few miles away from Silchester in Hampshire. As the years passed, the discovery fell into oblivion until said artifact came into the hands of British archaeologists.


This Roman ring is made of 12g gold and bears the Latin inscription “Seniciane vivas in Deum.”


By 1929, new information brought relevance to the forgotten ring when a scholar was making an inventory of the artifacts under his charge, and by chance found some curious and sinister details. These data related the ring with the findings of an archaeological excavation.


These archaeological works were carried out in the early 1900s, just 80 miles away from where the ring was found, at a place called Lydney.


At the site, archaeologists found a tablet in which a Roman named Silvianus told Nodens, the Celtic God of healing and hunting, that his ring had been stolen. He also knew the person responsible for this act and asked the god to do justice. The inscribed curse stated: “May he who bears the name of Senicianus not have health until he brings the ring back to the temple of Nodens.”


As a side note, it is said that Tolkien found out about this case and investigated it, possibly using the cursed artifact as inspiration for his famous novels of The Lord of The Rings.


6. Portrait Of Bernardo De Galvez: A Cursed Artifact In A Very Haunted Hotel

bernardo de galvez cursed portrait
Portrait of Bernardo de Galvez in the Galvez Hotel, Galveston Texas, via The Connecticut Post


One of the most famous examples of haunted art is the cursed portrait of Spanish military leader Bernardo de Galvez. Possibly made by Salvador Maella, the painting appears like a typical portrait, but the way it was painted produces a certain discomfort for all those who end up appreciating the work of art. 


This cursed artifact depicts Bernardo de Gálvez, born in the city of Malaga, Spain, on July 23, 1746, who died in strange circumstances on November 30, 1786. This character was famous for helping the American colonies during the War of Independence of the United States.


It is located at the Gálvez Hotel in Galveston, Texas, a place whose fame is directly related to ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. A group of spirits is said to inhabit the hotel, and the most intriguing and terrifying stories take place around the portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez.


This painting is located at the end of a corridor inside the hotel, where the portrait’s eyes are said to follow passing guests. When people get too close to this work of art, they often feel freezing cold or uncomfortable. There are even those who affirm that Bernardo de Galvéz himself comes down from the cursed item and follows them around the hotel.


The haunted reputation of this portrait naturally represents an attraction for tourists trying to take a picture of the painting. However, it seems that the guests cannot obtain a clear image unless they request permission from Don Bernardo.

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By Jesus SantillanBA Anthropology w/ Archaeology ConcentrationJesus Santillan is a contributing writer and researcher with an emphasis on Mesoamerican civilizations. His studies include a Bachelor's in Anthropology with a focus on archaeology. In his free time he tutors students and writes independently. Jesus is from Zacatecas, and currently lives in San Luis Potosí, Mexico.