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Famously Mundane, Fictionally Magical

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A sub-trope of Public Domain Artifact, this is the one where real-life objects of notable historical value (that indisputably exist or existed in real life) are given a magical makeover in a work of fiction. Think of it as the inanimate version of Beethoven Was an Alien Spy or a Historical Object Upgrade. Can be related to Clap Your Hands If You Believe, Weaponized Landmark or Real Event, Fictional Cause.

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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In part 7 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Golden Proportion has weird, almost magic powers. If you manage to make an ordinary steel ball to spin forming a Golden Spiral it will carry an inmense power, which can be applied for enhancing your strength and resistance, healing, killing painlessly, making paralytics walk again, and disintegrating an object by passing the endless rotation of the ball to its molecules and atoms to the point that the force of the rotation overrides the forces that make them form an object.

    Comic Books 
  • Stormwatch PHD had a villain seeking to mystically weaponize the Nuclear Doomsday Clock.
  • Drawing on fringe occult theories, From Hell suggests that Christopher Wren's churches are examples of occult architecture.
  • The Golden Age DC Comics heroine Liberty Belle somehow derived her powers from the "mystic vibrations" of the Liberty Bell.
  • In Vertigo Comics series like Hellblazer, The Sandman, Shade, the Changing Man, and Doom Patrol, this is an Invoked Trope: well-known artifacts and items often possess mystical properties because so many people know of them, investing them with spiritual significance.
  • One Gentleman Ghost story involves a summoning ritual done with the rope that was used to hang a famous criminal in Victorian England. It was a common folk belief until the 19th century that a (used) hangman's rope had special, magical powers.
  • The Umbrella Academy shows the Eiffel Tower being a spacecraft/weapon piloted by Zombie Robot Gustav Eiffel.
  • In Doctor Strange: The Oath, Strange is nearly killed by an assassin wielding Adolf Hitler's personal weapon. The combination of that firearm plus a silver bullet has enough negative mojo to get through his shields.
  • One character in Requiem Vampire Knight collects historically significant weapons (the guns that killed Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, the sword that killed Julius Caesar, etc.). On Résurrection, the more evil you did in life, the more powerful you are here (to the point where Hitler is a Fantastic Nuke, along with two other, unnamed persons).

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Live-Action 

    Folklore 
  • The Hope Diamond.
  • Tutankhamun's tomb and its contents.
  • The Porsche, nicknamed "Little Bastard", in which James Dean suffered a fatal car accident, as well as many other supposed "death cars".
  • Artifacts and concentration camp sites from The Holocaust have been described in stories as having dark power from the suffering that was associated with them.
  • Though it has been illegal to take pieces of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona since it was designated a National Monument in 1906, visitors have ignored the prohibition and made off with samples every year since. But there's allegedly a curse on the wood, and anyone who removes it from the park will suffer the consequences. There have been thousands of tales of woe and misfortune (dating back to the 1930's) from people who have stolen petrified wood and been afflicted by the so-called curse, who returned their ill-gotten souvenirs anonymously in the hopes that putting the wood back will break the curse.

    Literature 
  • Elizabeth Bear's The Promethean Age books use the Golden Spike as the lynchpin of a mystical anti-faerie enchantment. Railroads and iron, dontcha know. They also feature one of the lions in front of the New York City Public Library as a Genius Loci.
  • The Underworld Cycle has Wyatt Earp's handgun, which is capable of killing unquiet dead (ghosts and spookies that walk around in The Between.)
  • In The Dresden Files universe:
    • One short story features the musket ball that killed Nelson at Trafalgar. It is reused as a sorcerer-slaying weapon.
    • The Shroud of Turin also shows up, toying with this trope. Though many people in the real world believe it's by no means mundane, Harry mostly agrees with the theory that it was a medieval forgery. The thing is, in the Dresdenverse, tens of millions of people literally can't be wrong about something being mystically potent.
      • Later, he finds the actual Shroud, which not only proves the earlier one is fake and fueled by everybody's belief, but is also blindingly more powerful.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Pretty much every statue in New York city can be converted into an automaton thanks to the intervention of Daedalus (the one associated with the Labyrinth, yes).
  • In The Kane Chronicles, the Rosetta Stone is this.
    • Any pyramid or obelisk, as well. It doesn't have to be ancient, or even Egyptian in origin. The Washington memorial will do.
  • In The Science of Discworld, the Origin of Species is a major L-Space node. L-Space theory says that large amounts of books warp spacetime, but a single book that spawns an entire subject has the same "weight".
  • Discussed in The Journeyer. Marco, expecting the opulent empires as described in The Bible, is disappointed to realize that the largest cities from the Bible are little more than villages run by tribal chiefs. He also opines that the great leaders, such as King David and King Solomon, were probably also petty chiefs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Colt from Supernatural.
  • The entire raison d'etre of Warehouse 13 — in the series, "Artifacts" are objects that were used by famous people or that originated from historically significant locations tend to develop magical effects that range from humorous to helpful to dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands. Some examples include Abraham Lincoln's top hat (imbues wearers with the desire to "free" any nearby African-Americans), Sylvia Plath's typewriter (causes a deep depression in anyone who comes near to it), a shard of glass that had been part of the lens of the Lighthouse of Alexandria (acts like a powerful magnifying glass for any light that passes through it), and the Disco Ball from Studio 54 (broadcasts disco music and spontaneously generates a colorful light shows).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters has Memorabilia, extremely powerful items given their power by being associated with the deaths of the famous. Such examples include the ring Joe DiMaggio slipped on Marilyn Monroe at her funeral, JFK's death car, the pistol that killed Lee Harvey Oswald, and the National Enquirer's photo of Elvis Presley in repose.
  • The New World of Darkness also has the Reliquary book, which provides rules for building magic items from scratch, as well as a number of sample items. Among them are William Shakespeare's lost play, the Dendera lights, and the Baghdad batteries.
  • Deadlands is chock full of these: the list includes the muskets of the Conquistadors, Wild Bill Hickok's guns, etc. — all magical items.
    • One particularly mundane and non-unique item, "Hoyle's Book of Games", is the In-Universe spellbook for all Hucksters — the setting equivalent of wizards. The earlier editions are more powerful, since editors have messed up the coded secrets the book holds about contacting the Manitou.
  • GURPS Warehouse 23 has a Real Life artifact, the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull. It allows its owner to cast a powerful Divination spell, and has powerful telepathic abilities in its own right.
  • A Dragon article for epic-level 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons gave epic powers to Stonehenge, the Hope Diamond, the Stone of Scone, the crystal skulls, the First Folio, the Rosetta Stone, the British crown jewels, and the Taj Mahal.
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    Video Games 
  • In Broken Sword 3, the Voynich Manuscript contains the secret to extracting life energy from Ley Lines.
  • The World Ends with You turns the Shibuya River into an extradimensional nexus.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone (AKA "The Zone") as (even more of) a Death World packed with mutants, physics defying fields that appear and reappear in new locations over time and spawning Super Power at a Price giving items. It is the result of mad scientists operating within the conveniently abandoned area to escape prying eyes, not the disaster itself.
  • Assassin's Creed: Crystal Skulls, the Antikythera mechanism, the Voynich manuscript and many more. All ancient Precursor technology, all have seemingly magic powers.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-157-ARC, a bullet that, thanks to its mystical properties, apparently shifts shape to transform into the projectile used in virtually every major modern assassination.
    • Another SCP entry concerns the so-called Demon core, which is apparently sentient or close to it.
    • SCP-099 is the original version of René Magritte's "The Portrait", which has the memetic effect of inducing paranoid delusions.
    • A magma giant buried underground in Pennsylvania, whose very breath is toxic. Fotunately, the Foundation succesfully disguised its awakening as a mine fire.
    • SCP-668 is clearly the knife used in the real life murder of Kitty Genovese.
  • The Academy of Superheroes universe has the Worldmaze, a Portal Network created using the globally-scattered pieces of the Berlin Wall as foci.
    • The Great Pyramid at Giza was revealed to be a power accumulator that after five millennia had enough juice to make one a god.
    • Magellan's oceanbound route around the world is used by Q'Nos to summon Jorumngandr. Peregryn counters the summoning by tracing the path of the Lucky Lady II, the first airplane to circumnavigate the globe.
  • In France Five, the Eiffel Tower is a shamanic totem that generates a barrier around the Earth, protecting the planet from a large-scale alien invasion.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Historical Object Upgrade

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