Fame and Fortune Led to Bad Luck for These Cursed Families
We all know what happened to the feuding houses of Capulet and Montague when Mercutio exclaimed his famous last words, “a plague on both your houses.” But cursed families and tainted bloodlines existed long before Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Legends of curses weaved their way into almost every culture throughout history in the form of mysterious losses, horrifying coincidences and misfortune that plagued all kinds of families, from royal dynasties to industry moguls.
These family curses show that, while fame and money go hand-in-hand, they can also lead to a high susceptibility of bad luck. Check out these famous family curses that caused a crazy amount of misfortune — making you feel like your whacky family may have it easy after all.
A famous wrestling family in Texas in the 1980s, the Von Erichs had a fair share of tragedy and misfortune in their bloodline. Patriarch Fritz Von Erich (real name Jack Adkisson) was a legendary wrestler with more than 40 titles in the ’70s. The family experienced its first loss when his eldest son — 6-year-old Jack Jr. — died in 1959 after he was accidentally electrocuted and drowned in a puddle outside the family’s Niagara Falls home in New York.
Afterward, a chain of catastrophes followed. Fritz’s third child, David, died while working in Japan, and his death was highly speculative. It was originally reported that he died from a move gone wrong — a kick to the stomach. But it was also rumored that David’s death was actually the result of a drug overdose. Kerry (fourth child), Michael (fifth) and Chris (sixth) died from drug overdoses. Fritz’s second son, Kevin, was the only Von Erich who continued the family business of wrestling before retiring in 1993.
Giovanni Agnelli, head of Italy’s uncrowned royal Agnelli family, became the president of Fiat in 1968, a dynasty worth more than $2 billion at the time. His son, Edoardo, had no interest in the family business and went on a spiritual journey in India. He was arrested for drug trafficking at a beach resort in Kenya in the ’90s, and in 2000, he took his life by jumping off a bridge.
Then Giovanni’s nephew, Giovanni Agnelli Jr., who was being groomed to take over the company, died in 1997 at the ripe age of 33, from a rare form of cancer. Ever since Giovanni Sr.’s death in 2003, his heirs have been fighting over his fortune.
American literature wouldn’t be what it is today without Ernest Hemingway, but depression deeply plagued the Hemingway family. At 29, when Hemingway’s career was taking off, his father shot himself before witnessing his son earn a Nobel Prize, Pulitzers and international fame.
Although Ernest was successful, he also killed himself with a shotgun at age 61 in 1961. His sister, Ursula, who also struggled with depression and cancer, overdosed five years after the famous author. Sixteen years later, Leicester, Ernest’s brother, shot himself when he learned he’d lose both his legs from diabetes. Then, in 1996, Margaux, Ernest’s granddaughter, overdosed on barbiturates (central nervous system depressants) on the 35th anniversary of Hemingway’s death.
The eerie and untimely deaths of martial arts legend Bruce Lee and his son have been feeding conspiracy theories for decades. “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” is an American biographical drama that follows the martial arts expert as he faces a metaphorical demon that haunted him ever since he was born. In one scene, the demon shows Lee his own tombstone. What’s more unusual is that the demon moves on to his son, Brandon. When the film was finally released in 1993, both Bruce and Brandon Lee were dead.
In 1973, Bruce Lee took prescription medication for a headache, took a nap on a sofa and never woke up. The Chinese triads and Italian mafia were both blamed for Lee’s untimely death; however, the coroner concluded that Lee had cannabis in his system, which caused an allergic reaction with the painkiller. Twenty years later, his son Brandon ended up on the wrong end of a faulty prop gun during the filming of “The Crow.” A live round was accidentally placed in the gun, and Brandon was shot in the abdomen. There are several reasons why the gun — which was said to never have been loaded before — went off. Many people still believe the Chinese mafia killed both father and son for exposing martial arts secrets.
House of Habsburg
One of the most important royal houses in all of Europe, the House of Habsburg was a 600-year European aristocracy. These years were filled with misfortune, tragedy and inbreeding descendants. Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I married his cousin Elisabeth of Bavaria, and her side of the family was plagued by mental illness, which most likely caused the untimely death of her only son and heir to the throne, Rudolph.
In 1889, Rudolph and his 17-year-old mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera died in a murder-suicide at the prince’s hunting lodge. Because of Rudolph’s death, Franz Ferdinand, the emperor’s nephew, became heir to the throne. And the rest is history — the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 led to a chain of events that was believed to trigger World War I.
The most recent tragedy to hit the musical Osmond family is when Marie’s 18-year-old son Michael took his life in 2010. Four years before that, Marie admitted to attempting suicide after suffering from postpartum depression. In the book “Behind the Smile,” she revealed that she was sexually abused by an unnamed family member when she was a teen idol in the ’70s.
Donny, the most famous out of the Osmond brothers, suffered from debilitating depression after his career failed. Another brother went bankrupt; one fought a brain tumor; and a third is stricken with multiple sclerosis. The eldest sons, Virl and Tom, were both born deaf.
Legend has it that a 13th century marriage curse was placed upon the royal family of Monaco, the Grimaldi family. Prince Rainer I allegedly kidnapped and raped a young girl. For revenge, the girl became a witch and cursed the family, crying out: “Never will a Grimaldi find true happiness in marriage.” While the house of Grimaldi suffered one marital crisis after another, the curse runs deeper than terrible marriages. In 1982, American film actress Grace Kelly (Princess of Monaco) died in a mysterious car crash.
From then on, Monaco's royal family was plagued by a variety of scandals, including paternity suits and out-of-wedlock children. Princess Grace’s oldest daughter, Caroline, carried on the unlucky bloodline. Her second husband, Stephano Casiraghi, died in a speedboat accident in 1990 at the young age of 30, leaving her behind with three children.
Dysfunction and a cursed bloodline defined the fictional Corleone family, but “The Godfather” actor Marlon Brando’s heartbreak took place off-screen. Brando’s family suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction. And Brando’s first wife, Anna Kashfi, developed her own set of issues after giving birth to their son Christian, who she later kidnapped in 1972. She arranged to pay a group of hippies in Baja California, Mexico, $10,000 if they would hide him away. But when she refused to pay, they kidnapped him and went into hiding. Brando then hired a team of private detectives, who rescued Christian from a tent.
In 1990, Christian shot and killed his half-sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend, Dag Drollet. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served six years of a 10-year prison sentence. Cheyenne later took her life in 1995, and Christian died of pneumonia at just 49 years old in 2008.
The Getty family’s curse simply shows that money can’t buy happiness. Kidnappings, multiple affairs, premature deaths, grand wealth and misfortune — the story of the Getty family is the American Dream gone wrong. John Paul Getty, founder of Getty Oil Company, was America’s first oil billionaire and was named the richest man in America by “Forbes” in 1957.
A notorious womanizer, John Paul Getty had five wives. Timmy, Getty’s first son, died of a brain tumor at the young age of 12, and his eldest, George, died under circumstances that still remain a mystery. And we can’t forget that John Paul Getty III, the elder Getty grandson, was kidnapped by the Italian mafia in 1973. He was released for $2.4 million, but not before a chunk of his ear was sent to his mother. John Paul Getty III never fully recovered from his kidnapping. In 2011, he died after years of drug abuse left him partially blind and paralyzed.
One of the most famous and documented curses of them all, the Kennedy family curse is a doozy. It has taken the lives of the most powerful and celebrated members of the Kennedy family through a seemingly never-ending series of misfortunes and tragedies. The curse began with the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy in 1963 and continued with the assassination of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968.
Sen. Edward Kennedy is the only one of all four brothers to die from natural causes. But scandal surrounding his drunk-driving car crash on Chappaquiddick Island and the death of campaign aid Mary Jo Kopechne haunted him his entire life. Murder, suicide, alcoholism, rape, depression, a skiing accident, multiple plane crashes, overdoses, and a host other crimes and misdemeanors have continuously followed the Kennedys.
Nepalese Royal Family
In 2001, the world was shocked in awe when Nepalese Crown Prince Dipendra shot and killed his mother, father and seven other members of the royal family before killing himself. It was thought that he was distraught over his family’s refusal to fully accept his bride and had been drinking heavily before the killings occurred. The prince went into a three-day coma, during which he was named king, before passing away.
His uncle Gyanendra then became king and ruled for years during a period of turbulence and conflict before the monarchy was abolished in favor of a democratic republic in 2008.
One of America’s most famous dynasties is also the most tragic. In 1870, John D. Rockefeller co-founded Standard Oil Co. and brought affordable indoor lighting to America. Misfortune began haunting the family in 1951 when Rockefeller’s great niece, Winifred, took her life and the lives of two of her children at their family home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Years later, Michael Rockefeller died on a trip to New Guinea. Rumor has it, after nearly drowning when his canoe capsized in a river, Michael was attacked and eaten by cannibals.
Michael’s father, Nelson Rockefeller, died eight years later. He died suddenly at home with his 25-year-old assistant (and presumed mistress) by his side. The year before Nelson’s death, his brother was killed in a car crash close to the family estate in Pocantico Hills, New York. And in 2014, Richard Rockefeller, the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, died when his single-engine aircraft crashed near New York City.
Generations of this famous American acting family have been cursed with addiction, specifically alcohol and drugs. Drew Barrymore, who became a child star at 7 years old with her role in “E.T.” in 1982, starting drinking and doing drugs as early as 11 years old, as she wrote in her autobiography, “Little Girl Lost.” With a family history rooted in addiction, it was no surprise Barrymore developed a substance abuse problem at an early age.
Her grandfather, the legendary actor John Barrymore, died from his alcohol addiction at age 60. Barrymore’s half-sister, Jessica, was found dead near San Diego in her car from an overdose in 2014. Barrymore’s father, John, also battled addiction for a number of years, deteriorating his physical and mental health up until his death in 2004.
The Guinnesses are one of Ireland’s most accomplished families and one of the world’s most famous brewers. Arthur Guinness — the patriarch and founder of the brewery — lost 10 of his 21 children before his own death in 1803. After his death, the remaining family members were plagued by alcoholism, insanity or lost their wealth. It was during WWII that talk of a “Guinness Curse” really took off — two family members were killed, one by Jewish terrorists and one during a battle only weeks before the war ended.
After the war, a number of deaths — suicides, car crashes and freak accidents (one family member hit her head on the toilet seat and drowned in the bathtub while in the middle of a drug session) — provided more evidence of a family curse. Even animals that carried the Guinness name were cursed — one of Ireland’s most famous racehorses (the owner’s mother was a Guinness) — was abducted by the Irish Republican Army and was never seen again.
During the Industrial Age, the Vanderbilts were one of America’s richest families, building some of America’s most elegant homes while dominating the real estate market. Ten mansions on Fifth Avenue in New York are included in the family’s property portfolio. Cornelius Vanderbilt began his rags-to-riches journey after borrowing $100 from his mother. At the time of his death in 1877, he was worth $100 million.
His descendants took the family fortune and basically destroyed it. His children and grandchildren could never win his approval, so they competed against one another to see who could build the most extravagant home. They also threw the family money away by holding lavish parties, giving away small fortunes to celebrity charities, and buying yachts, sports cars and racehorses. And, of course, there were many rumors of drug problems.
Grigorio Rasputin, a self-proclaimed magician and cult leader, wiggled his way into the palace of the Romanovs, Russia's ruling family, in the early 1900s. He did this by telling elaborate stories to the heir to the throne, a young boy named Alexei, which kept him calm and relaxed. This was a big deal to the family because Alexei had hemophilia, which could have caused him to bleed to death if he were ever injured. However, Rasputin's power ultimately went to his head, and a few of the Romanovs allegedly decided to have him killed. Rumor has it, it took poison, a fall down a staircase, repeated gunshots and drowning before Rasputin was finally dead.
It's believed that Rasputin mumbled a curse while he was dying, assuring Russia’s ruling monarchs would all be dead within a year. And it came true — the Romanov family was brutally murdered in a mass execution less than a year later.
Many people believe the Kennedy curse crossed over to the Onassis family when Jackie Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968. One of the most famous and richest men in the world, Onassis’ world came crashing down when his only son, Alexander, died in a plane crash in 1973.
Yet, his daughter Christina was perhaps the one who received the most misfortune. Soon after her brother Alexander’s death, her mother committed suicide, which was followed by her father’s death a year later from respiratory failure. She inherited the family’s fortune, but pursued a lavish lifestyle, losing most of it. All four of her marriages ended in divorce, and she died of a heart attack due to depression, leaving the family fortune to her daughter, Athina. So far, Athina has managed to dodge the family’s curse.
Former British fashion model Honor Fraser is a member of one of Scotland's best-known dynasties and sister of Simon Fraser, the current and 16th Lord of Lovat. In 1995, the Frasers attended three funerals in less than a year. The first was for Andrew — the youngest son of the patriarch — who was killed by a buffalo in Tanzania, East Africa. The second was for Andrew's older brother, Simon — the heir to the title — who died from a heart attack while out hunting.
And the third was for the Lord himself. Before his death, he had dealt with misfortune much of his life after inheriting 7 million pounds in debt from his father, also Simon Fraser, 15th Lord of Lovat, when he was 18 years old. The misfortune forced him to sell Beaufort Castle, the family estate, in 1994.
Although inbreeding among the royal families of Europe started the spread of diseases like hemophilia, one prominent family at the time attributed the disease to a curse placed by a monk. Apparently, the monk was a Kohary who was left out of his inheritance after the object of his affection — a relative named Antoinette Kohary — married Ferdinand Coburg instead of him. The bride’s father was so overjoyed by their union that he left his wealth to the newlywed couple. This infuriated the monk, who then placed a curse on the family’s descendants.
Many members of the Coburg-Kohary line suffered from misfortune, whether it was from the curse or not. Many died young from hemophilia or other diseases, including typhoid. And those who went on to marry other European royalties spread the disease, with the most prominent victims being the Romanovs.
The Wadiyar family from India wasn’t only cursed once, but three times. Alamelamma, the wife of King Tirumalaraja, who ruled the Vijayanagar Empire before Wadiyar came into power, placed the Wadiyar curse on Raja Wadiyar of the Mysore Kingdom in the early 15th century. At the time, Raja Wadiyar and his forces routed King Tirumalaraja’s army and forced them to abandon their base in Srirangapatna. To avoid capture, Alamelamma fled and took her jewels to a nearby town, Talakadu.
Before jumping to her death in the Kaveri River, she told a three-part curse. The curse condemned Talakadu to become a “barren expanse of sand” and for the nearby town of Malangi to “turn into an unfathomed whirlpool.” The curse also condemned the kings of the Wadiyar family to have no offspring. While the events didn't play out exactly as Alamelamma proclaimed, they came eerily close. Talakadu did become an empty desert, the river near Malangi commonly has whirlpools and the Wadiyar family has only birthed male children in every other generation, which caused a lot of issues for the succession of the throne.