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Gypsy Curse

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"Memo to self: never refuse to kiss the Queen of the Gypsies!"
Jimmy Olsen, All-Star Superman

A common occurrence in the horror movie is a curse laid down by a stereotypical Romani, often an old woman.

These curses come as a unique brand. They'll be done out of vengeance (usually seen by the victim as Disproportionate Retribution) but also as some Laser-Guided Karma that's being used as a morality tale. Hey kids, don't do that nasty deed because otherwise, one day, you might do it to someone who'll go totally apeshit and curse you! And the only way to get rid of the curse might be to pass it on to another person.

On the other hand, even when being used for that particular Space Whale Aesop, there seems to be a law of conservation of Gypsy Curses. The cursed person will find properly getting rid of the curse impossible but there will be some rule that allows them to transfer the curse onto somebody else like it's a forged banknote. As soon as the character finds this out, expect to have the next scene full of the most adorable, innocent looking people in the world for the character to try to pass the curse off onto.

This trope was often used to demonize the Romani, portraying them as revenge focused, not justice-focused, uncaring of collateral damage and inspiring selfishness in others. In other words, like a lot of supernatural stereotypes surrounding the Romani, it carries some pretty Unfortunate Implications. Also, don't ask about why these Romani slinging out curses are always portrayed as impoverished and homeless despite possessing amazing magical powers.

Sub-Trope of Curse and Magical Romani. Compare Hollywood Voodoo and Indian Burial Ground, curse related tropes tied with comparable ethnic stereotypes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan "At the Confessional", the titular Kishibe Rohan listens in on a confession of a man who, in his youth, refused to share his lunch with a homeless man (though not really implied to be Romani) unless he did his job for him, untill the homeless man died of exhaustion. The homeless man, now a ghost, cursed the man that he would come for him during the best day of his life. Nothing happens for years, the man becomes successfull, rich, and has a family, and one day he's with his daughter and butler he thinks 'This is the best day of my life' and is decapitated. The chapter ends revealing that the man implanted his head onto his butler's body. The butler also cursed him, and the episode ends with the man exiting the church, vengeful ghost behind him.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield:
    • Back when he was in school, Jon annoyed a gypsy woman who cursed him, saying he'd never get a date to the prom. Garfield considered it "a waste of a perfectly good curse".
    • In another strip, Jon tells Garfield about how he put his gum on a fortune teller's crystal ball after she took one look at his palm and just laughed, and that she promptly cursed him. While telling this story, Jon's head has been shrunk to the size of an apple. Garfield barely notices.
      Garfield: So what's the curse?
    • Jon believes Garfield to be one.
  • The collection of The Far Side cartoons The Curse of Madame C includes a comic-book style short story where the first-person narrator (implied to be an Author Avatar of Gary Larson) claims he was cursed by a gypsy with a cow's head named Madame C while backpacking through Europe; it is implied this is why he had an urge to become a cartoonist. (It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context, but then, this is Gary Larson's brand of humor here...
  • Dilbert's mom once didn't have enough money to cover her visit to a gypsy, so her son was struck with the "Curse of Competence". Dilbert's mom didn't see why it was so bad, but twenty years later, Dilbert is screaming in wonder why he always got stuck with the projects.
  • Boot of The Perishers believes himself to be an 18th century Lord transformed into a dog by a vengeful gypsy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Wolf Man (1941) contains a sort of subversion. Larry Talbot is indeed cursed when he is bitten by the gypsy werewolf Bela, but the curse is unintentional, and in fact, Bela's mother Maleva proves to be the one character that believes and attempts to aid Larry once he sprouts his own fur and fangs.
  • Thinner:
    • The greedy and gluttonous lawyer Billy Halleck runs over a gypsy woman while receiving a hand-job from his wife while driving. When he uses his connections to avoid getting charged for the death, the victim's father curses Billy to waste away no matter what he eats, a curse to mock his greedy nature. However, these gypsies discover the problem with cursing someone who really is enough of a douche to deserve it, when he sics the mob on them to force them to remove it. The curse can't be erased, but the gypsies reluctantly transfer it into a pie, so that if Billy can get someone else to eat the pie, they'll die instead of Billy.
    • The judge who acquitted Halleck and the police chief who soft-pedaled the charges against him and kicked the gypsies out of the town are also cursed. The former has scales grow on his skin, the latter gets a horrifyingly extreme case of acne. They both commit suicide.
  • In Drag Me to Hell, an elderly Romani woman curses a loan officer who has refused to extend her mortgage for the third time to be haunted by a demon who will drag her to Hell after three days.
  • In Mystery Men The Spleen, to avoid fessing up to a fart, accuses an old gypsy woman of it. She curses him to forever be the one who "dealt it", and he is Blessed with Suck and KO capable farts. He actually considers it a positive thing all things considered.
  • A group of friends accidentally run over a Gypsy woman with their RV in Roadkill. Before she dies, the woman summons a giant bird to stalk and kill them all in order to avenge her death.
  • Instead of a gypsy, it is a Depraved Dwarf working at a burlesque show that curses the protagonist of The Devil Within Her who spurned his sexual advances and groping, by saying “You will have a baby, a monster, an evil monster conceived in your womb, as big as I am small, and possessed by the devil himself!” Nine months later she gives birth to a demonically possessed Enfant Terrible with The Strength of Ten Men.

  • A common legend in English football is that a group of gypsies, angry about being ejected from their land so that Derby County could build their ground, cursed the club never to win a trophy (at the time, the only two trophies that professional English clubs could compete for were the League and FA Cup). The club then went on to come agonizingly close to winning the FA Cup on several occasions, but lost either in the semifinal or the final (in one final, they lost 6-0). However, after the club reached the FA Cup final in 1946, an agreement between the club and the gypsies was reached and the curse was lifted. They won.
  • There's also the story that a woman claimed to have put a similar curse on Nottingham Forest (maybe she was a Derby fan...), but it clearly failed, since it was just before they won the European Cup two years in a row.

  • Holes had the Yelnats family subject to a gypsy curse / Hereditary Curse combo. However it was a condition of a promise between friends, and when the Yelnats family ancestor broke his promise, Madame Zeroni cursed him. As soon as it was inadvertently fulfilled by descendants of the participants in said deal, the entire family was showered with good luck and fortune. Oddly enough, in The Film of the Book, Madame Zeroni and her descendants are all portrayed as black, despite the backstory taking place in a fictionalized Latvia, where there would be a sizable population of actual Romani (especially in the late 19th century, before certain events cut the Latvian Romani population in half).
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's Short Story "The Cats of Ulthar", the curse of a mysterious travelling people causes the eponymous cats to take vengeance on an old couple that kills cats for fun. The mysterious travelers are implied to come from Egypt, making them literal "Gypsies".
  • Stephen King's book Thinner, as mentioned above in Film.
  • Stephen King's short story The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands has a man cursed by an Indian when the Indian's kid accidentally electrocutes himself on the man's early automobile. The curse is that anyone he shakes hands with soon dies.
  • The Ghosts of Fear Street novel Eye of the Fortuneteller is about a girl named Kelsey who insults the ghost of a powerful and evil gypsy named Madame Valda. The enraged Madame Valda proceeds to curse Kelsey, making it so that she will spend the rest of her days being tormented by illusions of her greatest fears unless she can find some way to break "The Fool Card Curse."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hey, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer example! Angel's soul is a result of him killing a very important girl in the gypsy hierarchy. It may seem like he's Cursed with Awesome — except that, before, he was a gleeful killer, but now he's wracked with guilt and a fear of ever being truly happy, since, if he is, he loses his soul and becomes the monster again. Of course, when that did happen, he ended up killing another couple of highly important gypsies, so maybe they regret that condition.
  • Played with on Top Gear when the presenters visit Romania.
    Jeremy Clarkson: [pointing at his much shorter co-presenter Richard Hammond] Did you shrink that man, gypsies?
  • Misfits: As punishment for his selfishness, a woman places a "gypsy curse" on Alex that causes him to spew up filthy water whenever he refuses to help another person.
  • The Saturday Night Live Digital Short "The Curse": A businessman (Andy Samberg) is cursed by a homeless gypsy (Fred Armisen) after he accidentally steps on his sacred talisman. The curse in question causes everything he does to be interrupted by a shirtless man called Sergio (Jon "Mr. Fanservice" Hamm) bursting through the wall while playing a sexy saxophone solo.
  • A Romani woman in Murdoch Mysteries puts a Gypsy Curse on Inspector Brackenreid when he arrests the men of the clan for a crime they didn't commit, although it's not clear how much she takes it seriously, and how much she's just playing into the stereotype. The curse is that he will never succeed in his political ambitions, and by the end of the episode he's abandoned his political ambitions, which surprises her when she offers to remove it.
  • Married... with Children: Four centuries ago, in an English village named "Lower Uncton", a blacksmith named Shamus McBundy insulted a witch who, in Disproportionate Retribution, cursed the town into total darkness until Shamus and all of his male descendants died within the limits of the village. Shamus, being practically as polite to her as Al is with the fat ladies who enter Gary's shoe store, asked the witch if she'd float over the town to block sunlight. She cursed his feet into sweating for this. In present time, Al and Bud are (or so it's believed by the people of Lower Uncton) Shamus' last male descendants and they lure him into the village. Meanwhile, people from the neighboring village of Upper Uncton want the Bundys to be killed anywhere outside Lower Uncton so they'll continue prospering as a tourist attraction. The two villages eventually makes a deal: Al will duel against Igor (the witch's descendant) and they'll film it all. Al fights dirty and wins, which somehow ends the curse, much to the displeasure of the Upper Unctoners (no longer able to attract tourists) and even the Lower Unctoners (who dislike the fact everyone can now see they have no plantations). That's right, the very same people who spent practically a whole three-episode arc trying to get the Bundys killed within the limits of their town to break a curse don't like to see it broken. Also, they don't like the fact they can't sell the video of Al winning the fight.
  • How I Met Your Mother: According to Barney, this is the reason why he and his brother are so horny.
  • Captain Montgomery in Castle talked about how that during his first year in homicide, he and his partner chased a suspect through a gypsy fortuneteller's window. The gypsy cursed at the both of them and that the curse will remain until they fix her window. Two hours later, Montgomery's partner dropped dead of a heart attack. The next morning, Montgomery fixed the window.
  • Subverted on Hannah Montana when a fortuneteller puts a curse on Rico, which will give him bad luck until he learns to be nice. As soon as he becomes nice and races off, Jackson reveals it's a set-up and pays all the people who helped him. Rico, naturally, finds out and goes back to the way he was.
  • On Yes, Dear, Greg gets a call that a great aunt of his is about to pass away, and would like to see him one last time. Greg and Jimmy go alone to the hospital, and on the way there Greg reveals to Jimmy that he doesn't actually have a great aunt by that name and the call was a wrong number, but he decided to roll with it and use it as a convenient excuse to get the two of them out of whatever activity their wives were forcing them to do. Jimmy, however, feels bad for the dying old woman who won't get to see her great nephew because he never received the call, and makes Greg go visit her anyway. The woman can't see very well and mistakes Greg for her actual great nephew. After beckoning him to come closer, she calls him a no-good bum who has brought nothing but shame to the family, hands him some kind of amulet, and uses her last breath to give him a curse. In The Tag, Greg tracks down the great nephew and passes the curse on to its rightful recipient by giving him the medallion and repeating the curse verbatim.
  • In a Halloween episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the family visit a fortune teller to contact Hilary's dead fiancée Trevor. Will is dubious of the teller's authenticity and constantly mocks him. When he proclaims the man as a "fake", this is enough for the teller to place a curse on him and the family. Carlton's hair dye from his costume doesn't wash out, Phil is suddenly accused of bribery and loses his job as a Judge, Geoffrey is deported, Ashley's tennis machine goes haywire and breaks her racket before a big game, Hilary falls for Jazz of all people who actually throws Phil out of the house when he tries to do it to him. Eventually it gets too much that Vivian orders Will out of the house. Will tries to go the teller to break the curse but finds he's just some ordinary man now with no idea what Will is talking about. Just when all seems lost, Will wakes up finding that it was a dream. At least until the start of episode starts playing out again much to his horror.
  • In the miniseries The 10th Kingdom, after on of the heroes frees some talking birds a tribe of Gypsies were planning to sell as pets, the leader of the Gypsies her with Rapunzel-length hair, which naturally becomes problamatic.
  • In The Windsors, Pippa casts a gypsy curse on Kate that makes her unable to touch gold. As Kate does a lot of handing out gold trophies, it's a big problem for her.
  • The Painkiller Jane episode "The Beast of Bolnar" was about a monster that terrorized a small Hungarian village every night between 8:00pm and 9:00pm. One of the villagers at one point claims that the beast is the result of a curse that was put on the town by local gypsies that were persecuted during World War II.
  • The Haunting Hour episode "Wrong Number" had two mean girls be cursed by the main one's elderly Eastern European neighbor. When they seek aid from an acquaintance's occultist uncle, he rather bluntly states, "Adriana call me about you. She tell me you need protection. Old gypsy woman put curse on you, yes?"
  • The final episode of The Brittas Empire has an angry gypsy curse Gordon so that his cooking becomes lethal to anyone who eats it.

  • British folk-rockers Steeleye Span revived an old Yorkshire ballad about the ugliest witch on the borders, who one day tries to seduce a passing man who is having none of it, and rebuffs her with scorn. She offers gifts and riches, but he gets even more insulting. Humiliated and vengeful, she takes his good looks away and turns him into an ugly wriggling worm, to see how he likes it.
    Alison Grose, she must be, the ugliest witch in the north country!note 
  • "Break The Spell" from The Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels.
    There's a gypsy all dressed in white
    Put my hand out, ask the question
    Here's the silver, do you have the gift of sight?
    Can you break the spell?
  • The song "Love Potion No. 9" by The Clovers (famously covered by The Searchers) has the voice of the song being cursed with a magic potion from Madame Ruth the gypsy, which turns them into a serial kisser, until a policeman destroys the potion's container.

    Puppet Show 


  • In Survival of the Fittest Spin-Off The Program, Durriken Lovel comes from a Romani family. The family legend is that the youngest born child of each generation is cursed to have horrible luck. Durriken is the youngest of his siblings, and then his name gets called out on Announcement Day...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ravenloft: Truth be told, this happens a lot in the setting. A good rule of thumb while you're there is, don't make the Vistani angry at you. The most famous example is likely Dr. Rudolph van Richten. He was cursed by the Vistani "to live forever among monsters and see all whom you love die by them." But then himself cursed this whole tribe to be targeted by The Undead... and he kind of had a valid excuse (they had kidnapped his son to sell to a vampire... and he didn't know about either curse until many years later when the Sole Survivor told him so. It turned out that curses invoked by Vistani aren't so special, but they have some traditional guidelines and a better chance that the curse will work.
    • The vistani are also pretty terrible judges of character, which often results in them handing out curses that the recipients will either enjoy very much, or that will just cause more suffering by extension. Toben the Many, an insane serial killer that absorbs his victims into a Hive Mind, is theorized to be the result of a vistani curse gone wrong. Jacqueline Montarri does suffer from her curse, but so does everyone around her, since she has to kill people and use their heads (with the souls still inside) in place of her own.

    Video Games 
  • In Psychonauts, the main protagonist Raz's circus family is said to have been cursed by psychic gypsies to die in water. This is used to explain why Raz's dad hates psychics and is used to justify the Super Drowning Skills enacted by the Hand of Galochio. This is also an extremely rare example of a gypsy curse applied to other gypsies, because the Aquato family are themselves Roma (or at least half, as the sequel establishes them being from Grulovia). Psychonauts 2 reveals the truth behind the "Curse", specifically that it was a form of hydrophobia psionically implanted by Ford Cruller into his grandmother (actually great-aunt) Nona as a way of making sure she doesn't reawaken her Hydrokinesis abilities (and more importantly, her "Maligula" personality) that she proceeded to pass onto the rest of her family. By the end of the game, by defeating Maligula the Aquatos conquer their fear of water and falling into water no longer damages Raz.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, a gypsy is captured by the superstitious townsfolk and accused of being a werewolf and killing a town member. If you don't save him from being burned at the stake, he will curse you and everyone in the town with his last breath, resulting in game over. After clearing his name, you find out that he really was a werewolf.
  • In Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within, Grace discovers that the source of the werewolf curse that Gabriel is investigating stems from a gypsy curse. After Baron von Ralick rapes a young gypsy girl, an old woman of the tribe curses him with lycanthropy.
  • Killing Madame Toussaud in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura will permanently penalize your character's charisma.
  • Invoked in one of the missions of Assassin's Creed: Revelations, in which Ezio must discreetly assassinate (specifically, with poison) Templars who try to take the local Romanies' money chest so that they'll think the chest itself is "cursed" and be too scared to try to steal it.
  • Played with in a Lance and Janice radio soap in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
    Lance: I don't have the capacity for love, Janice. I was... cursed by a tribe of Gypsys.
    Janice: I know, Lance. I was in that tribe.
  • Waxworks (1992): The player character's family was cursed by a witch because they cut off her hand when they caught her trying to steal an apple. The curse causes every member of the family to have twins but one will always turn out evil (for example, one of your ancestors is Jack the Ripper). The goal of the game is to travel back in time via the wax exhibits, deal with the evil twins in those timelines while surviving all the ordeals and hopefully stop the witch from enacting the curse.

    Web Comics 
  • Near the end of the "Gigantic!" arc of The Blonde Marvel, it was revealed that the giant invader was actually a wealthy playboy, whom a gypsy had cursed as punishment for his philandering.
  • Sam & Lilah: Lilah was cursed (as a newborn) by an old Gypsy woman her parents accidentally ran down on a rain-slicked country road (on their way home from the hospital with baby Lilah). She cursed Lilah to have any man who falls for her suffer the same fate as the most prominent man who also bore the name. Her parents saw no need to tell Lilah about this... until she started dating a boy named "Jesus". Oh, and Sam (the other half to the title)? His name is short for "Samson". Lilah is short for "Delilah". This is turning out (so far) to be Cursed with Awesome for those effected by Lilah's curse. Sam gains Super Strength and Super Toughness (enough to get hit by a speeding car with nothing more than light bruising). We're not told explicitly what happened to Jesus; only that he rose from the dead three days later and is now a Physical God.
  • Ozy from Ozy and Millie has a gypsy curse running in his family that makes his hair fall out every year. (Or not. Maybe it's just his father inventing this.) Being a fox adopted by a dragon, he is the first family member to have hair, so the curse hadn't had effect before.
  • The trope is inverted in Rasputin Barxotka when a Russian witch pretending to be a gypsy, puts a bloodline extinguishing curse on Gurkha Basma and his Romani family, to retaliate against the murder of her husband.
  • In Girls with Slingshots, Jamie's entrancing bustline, shared by her female relatives, is apparently the result of a grateful Gypsy's blessing on the family for an unspecified good deed in the past.
  • Noah initially blames one for his crossdressing compulsion in Material Girl, which began after he knocked over a young Gypsy girl and she swore he would regret it. When he finds and confronts her, she has no idea what he's talking about, and tells him that she can't actually curse people, that's just a rude stereotype. The source of Noah's compulsion is left Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, but he and Mars are seen helping the Gypsy girl out in the epilogue, implying they've become friends with her.

    Western Animation 
  • In a Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons, Homer receives a stereotypical gypsy curse that brings misery on all those around him after trashing a fortune teller's office. He gets rid of it by attacking her with a leprechaun. The gypsy and the leprechaun then proceed to have sex in front of Homer. The episode ends with them getting married by Yoda, where they proceed to have sex on the altar... It was a "Treehouse of Horror" episode, okay? WEIRD shit happens during those.
    Homer: Well, I guess everything's back to normal.
    Marge: May I remind you that Bart is dead?
    Homer: Well, saying sorry won't bring him back.
    Marge: The gypsy said it would.
    Homer: She's not the boss of me!
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog has Shirley the Medium, who repeatedly curses Eustace for being Eustace. She's even shown to be monitoring several curses she's put on people who offended her in another episode. Despite this, she's also shown saving Eustace and Muriel in several episodes, including her introduction. She also shows herself willing to just remove the curse if her victim learned their lesson.
  • Happens in Action League NOW! in a parody of Thinner. Basically, a gypsy curses the Chief by muttering the word "fatter". He gains an uncontrollable appetite until he basically becomes a bowling ball with a head and limbs. Eventually, he explodes and turns back to normal.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, a hagfish curses the Krusty Krab after being refused service. Mr. Krabs dismisses it at first, but then no-one comes into the Krusty Krab and he starts losing money. He and SpongeBob eventually convince the hagfish to remove the curse... which she does by taking down a "Closed" sign she had posted in front.
    Mr. Krabs: That's it? That's the curse?
    Hagfish: I don't waste good curses on bottom feeders like you.
  • In Dave the Barbarian, "the Nomads", known for being extremely touchy, curse the main character's homeland with a heatwave after Dave asks if their fishcakes are fresh. Then at the end of the episode, Dave accidentally smacks them with the door and they cast another curse that ends the show.
  • Johnny Bravo: Johnny is cursed to shrink in size by a gypsy he angered. In another episode, Johnny's attempts to flirt with a gypsy fortune teller get him cursed to spend a day as a woman.
  • In Archer, Cheryl frequently mentions an old gypsy woman who curses her and possibly her coworkers with various unfortunate fates that may or may not resemble their actual mishaps. Either that or she predicts the mishaps.
    Oh my God! I'm gonna die in a toilet stall! Just like the gypsy said!
  • One episode of Timon & Pumbaa has a gypsy put a curse on Timon after he tried to eat her (she was a bug). While Pumbaa was worried, Timon didn't believe in the curse...until the next day when he woke up as a bug.
  • Garfield and Friends: When Garfield destroyed a gypsy's gig, she cursed him into becoming a wolf under the full moon. Even the gypsy didn't believe it would work until Jon confirmed it. She eventually ended the curse, but then Garfield retaliated by turning her into something even more horrifying: a mime.
  • Family Guy once parodied Thinner in a cutaway gag called "Thicker!" that involved Britney Spears.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012): in "The Very Littlest Pet Shop," the pets infuriate a slow loris who shrinks the shop. Though at the end, turns out it was just part of her imagination.
  • An episode of Tripping the Rift has Chode cursed into becoming invisible by a Gypsy. Chode initially treats it as Cursed with Awesome, until he learns that the curse will leave him Erased From Existance. Fortunately, the crew are able to con the Gypsy into undoing the curse by claiming they cursed her with ugliness (the "mirror" they show her is really a video tablet showing T'Nuk in the Gypsies outfit, miming her).


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Witch Curse


Hand of Galachio

The Hand of Galachio is a manifestation of a curse on Raz's family that they all will "die in water."

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