A work of imaginative fiction which is beset with a cluster of inexplicable problems almost from the start. The production could be in any medium, but, especially if it has a supernatural dimension, its production difficulties
lead observers to speculate that it has somehow attracted a curse. In its most extreme form, a series of tragedies and disasters start afflicting the cast and production crew, up to and including serious injury and death.
Even though the tragedies, viewed objectively, are randomly clustered and coincidental, it doesn't take much for them to become "evidence" of a curse or supernatural activity.
A classic example might be the Exorcist
franchise of horror movies: news coverage and popular legend (possibly assisted by shrewd press releases) points to inexplicable deaths, tragedies, and ill-fortune coming to people associated with the production. Then there is the Superman
movie series - think Christopher Reeve's personal tragedy, of falling off his horse and becoming paraplegic; or Margot Kidder lapsing into extreme mental distress and requiring confinement to a secure facility for treatment.
Tragedies happen, and no causal link or actual curse is presumed. But popular imagination, aided by sensational news reporting
, can be relied upon to attribute a "curse", and to make it a trope. And in Real Life
, businesses or individuals who associate to a "cursed" production, or to a celebrity who died a tragic premature death, can also suffer inexplicable ill fortune.
Such incidences are often seen as having a Fortean
dimension, belonging in the twilight zone between the completely explicable and the putative area of the supernatural.
This would appear to be largely a Real Life
trope; a seperate section has been opened for In-Universe
examples occuring in works of fiction.
It has been suggested that this is a Trivia trope: please append any instances (if this makes it out of YKTTW
)to a work's Trivia tab.
Live Action Television
- Scatological satirical adult comic Viz subverted this concept by inventing a completely spurious curse on long-running TV comedy Dad's Army. It excitedly reported that twenty years on from the final episode, all but one of the core cast had died in unexplained circumstances that the BBC was concealing from the public. It even listed them: Clive Dunn, died age 82; John leMesurier, died age 71; Arthur Lowe, died age 77; Arnold Ridley (died age 98); John Laurie (died age 83). Viz observed that the last surviving cast member, Ian Lavender (then around 45)must be quaking in his boots waiting for the inevitable moment the curse claimed him.
- A really tenuous link, but worth noting: The Other Wiki says "In 1963 John F. Kennedy's staff approved of a Superman story in which the hero touts the president's physical fitness initiatives, scheduled to be published with an April 1964 cover date. On November 22, Kennedy was shot and killed." Yes, Superman has been implied to be the other gunman in Dallas.
- George Reeves, the original TV incarnation of Superman in The Adventures of Superman, was found dead in suspicious circumstances, shot in the head with a loaded pistol near his hand. This was put down to suicide but it has been pointed out that the corpse must have remained alive for just long enough to clean any fingerprints off the weapon.
- Weird things reportage magazine Fortean Times loves things like this and reports on new cases as they arise; interested students are directed to the magazine and its extensive archives.
- The mystique that has developed concerning Shakespeare's Macbeth. Macbeth universally is thought of as this trope embodied. For that reason it's usually referred to as The Scottish Play by superstitious actors.
- When Lawrence Wright put his thirteenth play on the stage in 1938 titled On With The Show, he avoided prompting fear among traditionally superstitious actors by saying that it was actually his fourteenth. The fates now thwarted, he went ahead. First, the theatre burnt down and all the props were destroyed. On the replacement smaller pavilion one musician slipped and sprained his wrist while two others were rushed away with gastric troubles. A main character lost his voice while another had to have all his teeth pulled out, leaving him helpless throughout the run. A dancer was ordered to take complete rest, two members of the chorus suffered from sprained ankles and a separate dancer fell upstairs and hurt her leg. The manager collapsed one day while the wardrobe organiser fell and sprained her arm. It was then discovered that there were thirteen people in the cast, thirteen musicians in the band and thirteen songs in the show.
- The Conqueror.
- Years after the making of this film, members of the cast and crew, most notably the superbly mis-cast John Wayne, were diagnosed with cancers and leukemia. Until somebody pointed it out, the common link to the film was never realized. It turned out to have been shot in a North American desert in Nevada, not far away from a nuclear test site. The cluster of cancers was due to having lived and worked on the film set, where the fall-out was densest... this is unique and belongs in Real Life, as the cause of the "curse" - thirty years on - was so unmistakeably clear- with ample evidence to back it.
- Even worse, they trucked the hot (radioactive) dirt from the desert back to Hollywood to finish off the sets they were building for verisimilitude. Ridiculously sad all the way round.
- According to the magazine Fortean Times, the clothes and personal possessions of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, have brought misfortune to those who have bought or otherwise acquired them. FT has accumulated quite a few examples of this:
- At least two American entrepreneurs who intended to tour Diana exhibitions around the USA, centred on the clothes and her personal style, have become ruinously bankrupt. One, Kate McEnroe, even lost her main job as a TV executive amid allegations of financial embezzlement and misrepresentation. Maureen R. Dunkel, a similarly motivated entepreneur, crashed owing over $1,500,000 dollars.
- Diana dresses
- Caterer Tomasso Butti paid $120,000 for Diana dresses, with the hope of opening a chain of Diana-themed eateries. He is now bankrupt and legal proceedings drag on.
- One buyer of a Diana dress died suddenly a year later.
- One man bought a Diana dress for $240,000 - which had already passed through the hands of McEnroe, Dunkel, Butti and others - as "a surprise for his wife." Let us hope she appreciated the gift.
- The nominated charity, the Diana Trust, was embroiled in a long and mutually ruinous lawsuit with the noticeably mercenary Franklin Mint, who were producing Diana tat for money and even though their business flourished in the wake of her death, had reneged on a promise to donate to the charity. The charity suffered big losses, and the bad publicity nearly killed the Franklin Mint. Franklin Mint had paid $150,000 dollars for a particular dress, so as to have exclusive use of it for their Diana dolls.
- Diana's former butler, Mr Borrell, appears to have become a recluse surrounded by his memories and mementos of her.
- And of course, there is the meltdown suffered by Egyptian multimillionaire Mohammed-Al-Fayed (who lost his son in the crash) who in his grief blamed the deaths on a British establishment conspiracy, and still does today. The fact a drunken or otherwise intoxicated driver in his employment might have been the cause of death is something he vehemently denies.
Establishing a difference between events in Real Life
and fictionalised variants
- A Cock And Bull Story, in which Steve Coogan, playing himself, faces all sorts of problems while trying to make a film of Tristram Shandy - itself a book about the problems the author encounters trying to write the book.
- Inland Empire has, among its other myriad plots, a theme of the remake of an atmospheric European thriller that is taking place on an unhappy set, beset with calamities and inexplicable accident.
- In Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, author James Joyce is inflicted with blindness by the evil Illuminati, because he just will not quit writing books that reveal crucial occult secrets that the secret society do not want to see out in the open, in any form. It is also hinted that Ludwig van Beethoven was given the deafness treatment for encoding Freemasonic secrets in his Fifth Symphony. The curse, in both cases, attends the work of art they created. Of course, we only have Hagbard Celine's word for this...