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10 Allegedly Cursed Objects

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China Photos/Getty Images

1. The Hope Diamond

Believed to have come to the surface 1.1 billion years ago, this gem is estimated to be worth $200-250 million. It has traveled the world but now resides in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and some believe it is cursed, with a whole mythology claiming that great misfortune and misery will befall any who dares to wear the 45.52 carat diamond. Rumored victims of the diamond have suffered disgrace, divorce, suicide, imprisonment, torture, financial ruin, lynching, or decapitation. One was even said to have been ripped apart by dogs, and another by a French mob. However, skeptics say this curse was a ploy to enhance the Hope Diamond's mystique and value.

2. The Busby Stoop Chair

English drunkard Thomas Busby sealed his fate when he murdered his father-in-law Daniel Auty in 1702. For his crimes, he was executed by hanging at a crossroads near a humble inn. But the story goes that this was not the end of Busby's killing. A chair that looked on to the site of his execution is believed to carry a curse—whoever sits upon it will supposedly die from a frightful accident. Still, the chair lingered in the inn until 1978, when the owner gifted it to the Thirsk Museum, where it now resides high on a wall, where no one need fear an accidental sitting.

3. The Crying Boy Painting

Another curse out of England comes from this popular 1950s reproduction of Bruno Amadio's "The Crying Boy" painting. The superstition goes that the pictures of this mournful child cause fires. Its source was an article in the tabloid The Sun from September 4th, 1985.  A couple’s house burned down, but the fire didn’t burn “The Crying Boy.” A local firefighter then noted that there were other fires that left only an undamaged "Crying Boy" painting.

4. The Hands Resist Him Painting

Another tale of cursed art surrounds this painting of a young boy and a female doll standing before a window. Painted by California artist Bill Stoneham in 1972, "The Hands Resist Him" belonged to actor John Marley before ending up on eBay in 2000 with claims it was cursed. The anonymous sellers said it was found abandoned behind an old brewery. Soon after taking it home, their young daughter claimed the figures in the painting moved at night, and even stepped out of their frame to cause chaos in the home. They posted photos as proof. As may be the case with the Hope Diamond, the curse story drove up the bid to $1,025.00.

5. The Terracotta Army

China Photos/Getty Images

In 1974, seven peasant farmers in China were digging a well for their village when they accidentally uncovered the 2,200-year-old Terracotta Army, an astonishingly detailed series of 8,000 sculptures that had been long buried as part of a grand tomb. The find has been a great one for China, bringing academics and busloads of tourists. But those who found it gained only misery. The Chinese government claimed their lands and destroyed their homes to properly unearth this army, financially ruining not just these men, but most of their village. Painful deaths followed for three of the seven, because as one of the survivors points out, they could not afford health care. Some have blamed government callousness for these men's fates. Others believe that this is a curse similar to that of Tut's Tomb.

6. Tut's Tomb

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Perhaps the most famous curse of all is the Tomb of Tutankhamun, the burial place of the 19-year-old pharaoh. All who enter—be they bandit or archaeologist—are said to be struck with bad luck, illness, or death because of the curse of the pharaohs. Belief in this curse predated the 1922 Howard Carter expedition to find Tut's tomb, but his discovery unleashed new life for this legend. The first to die was the canary that was rumored to have led Carter to the tomb's hidden location. Some say it was eaten by a cobra, a symbol of Egyptian royalty, while others insist it wasn't even killed, but rather given to a friend. Soon thereafter, Carter's financial backer Lord Carnavon died when a mosquito bite became infected. Twenty more deaths of people would get blamed on the curse by 1935. Still, skeptics suggest coincidence or a deadly fungus from the tomb are to blame.

7. Iceman

Another mummy believed to carry a terrible curse is Ötzi, also known as the Iceman. Discovered in September of 1991 in the Ötztal Alps in Italy, Ötzi is a mummy of a man who is believed to have lived around 3,300 BCE. A glacier surrounded him after he died of exposure, and preserved his body. But once unearthed, rumors of a curse surfaced too, and grew stronger as people linked to him began to die, often in violent accidents. All told, seven deaths have been tied to Ötzi's uprooting, including forensic pathologist Rainer Henn who was killed in a car accident en route to give a speech about the Iceman, mountaineer Kurt Fritz who died in an avalanche, and hiker Helmut Simon, who discovered the Iceman on a hike with his wife and later died after falling off a treacherous path.

8. James Dean's Little Bastard

"Little Bastard" was what Dean called his silver Porsche 550 Spyder, the car he died in following an accident in 1955. After that, the vehicle was purchased by hot rod designer George Barris, who planned to sell it for parts. The curse narrative was born when the car fell and crushed a mechanic's legs. As parts of the car sold, the curse is said to have spread. A doctor who bought the engine was killed in a car accident; another victim who bought the transmission was severely injured in a crash. The tires sold from Little Bastard blew out simultaneously, sending their buyer to the hospital. While the shell of the car was being transported, the truck carrying it crashed, and the driver was killed. From there, the shell was stolen and the curse of Little Bastard went quiet as its location became unknown.

9. The Phone Number +359 888 888 888

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You might think a cursed phone number sounds like the plot to an uninspired horror flick, but anyone who had the number listed above since its first issuing in the early 2000s has died. That includes the CEO of a Bulgarian mobile phone company who died of cancer at 48, as well as two crooks—one a mafia boss and the other a cocaine-dealing estate agent, both of whom were "gunned down." All three died within four years of one another. Since then, the telephone number has been suspended, and the company that owns it refuses to comment as to why.

10. The Basano Vase

Legend has it that this silver vase made in the 15th century was given to a bride on the eve of her wedding near Napoli, Italy. Sadly, she'd never make it to the altar as she was murdered that very night with the vase in her hands. From there, it was passed down her family line, but anyone who took possession of it is said to have perished soon thereafter. After untold deaths, the family boxed the vase away. It resurfaced in 1988 with a note that is said to have read, “Beware…This vase brings death.” However, when the Basano Vase was auctioned off for about $2,250, the note had been excluded from the item description. The pharmacist who bought it died within three months. Three more deaths of new owners followed until finally the curse seemed to go dormant when a desperate family demanded the police take it away. It has not been seen since.

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Pop Culture
Why Are We So Scared of Clowns?
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Warner Bros.

With the box office-smashing success of the new adaptation of Stephen King's It, it’s safe to say that coulrophobia (fear of clowns) isn’t a fringe phenomenon. The colorful circus performers are right up there with vampires and werewolves on the list of iconic horror villains. But unlike other movie monsters, clowns were originally meant to make kids laugh, not hide under their beds in terror. So what is it about clowns that taps into our deepest fears?

According to Yale doctoral candidate Danielle Bainbridge, the unsettling clown stereotype goes back centuries. In the inaugural episode of the new PBS digital series Origin of Everything, Bainbridge explains the long history of this pervasive part of our culture.

Before clowns wore floppy shoes and threw pies at each other’s faces, early versions of the performers could be found in royal courts. The court jester wasn’t evil, but he was the only person in the kingdom who could poke fun at the monarch without fear of (literally) losing his head. The fact that fools didn’t fall within the normal social hierarchy may have contributed to the future role clowns would play as untrustworthy outsiders.

From the medieval era, clowns evolved into the harlequins of 16th-century Italian theater. Again, these weren’t bloodthirsty monsters, but they weren’t exactly kid-friendly either. The characters were often mischievous and morally bankrupt, and their strange costumes and masks only added to the creepy vibes they gave off.

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the white-faced circus clowns we know today started gaining popularity. Unlike the jesters and harlequins that came before them, these clowns performed primarily for children and maintained a wholesome image. But as pop culture in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s showed us, that old perception we had of clowns as nefarious troublemakers never really went away. Steven King’s It, the cult classic Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988), and that scene from Poltergeist (1982) all combined these original fears with the more modern association of clowns with children. That formula gave us one of the most frightening figures in horror media today.

If you’re not completely spooked yet, watch the full story below.

[h/t Origin of Everything]

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This Oregon-Based Nonprofit Creates Amazing Costumes for Children in Wheelchairs
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Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Ryan and Lana Weimer celebrate Halloween all year round: The couple from Keizer, Oregon, runs a nonprofit called Magic Wheelchair, which the two founded in early 2015 to build elaborate—and free—costumes for kids in wheelchairs.

The Weimers’ eldest son, Keaton, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) when he was 9 months old. The rare genetic disorder affects the control of muscle movement, so Keaton uses a wheelchair to get around. In 2008, the 3-year-old asked his parents if he could be a pirate for Halloween. It was then that Ryan had an idea: Instead of simply giving Keaton a tri-corner hat, why not build a pirate ship that fit around his wheelchair?

Weimer constructed the wooden ship, and “what happened when we went out trick-or-treating was really just a wonderful, wonderful experience for us,” Weimer tells Mental Floss. “There's this weird awkwardness around disability. People don't always look at the kid and say hi, or talk to him or look at him. Instead, they just pause, or stare … But with that [pirate ship] costume on [Keaton’s chair], his disability really seemed to disappear, and people saw him before they saw his wheelchair.”

Kids swarmed around Keaton as they admired his ship, and he even wound up getting his picture published on the front page of the local newspaper. An annual tradition was born: Not wanting to rest on his laurels, Weimer continued building Keaton elaborate, wheelchair-friendly Halloween costumes each year. When his younger son Bryce—who was also diagnosed with SMA—was born in 2011, he included him in the fun, too. The positive reactions they received, Weimer says, inspired him and Lana to eventually “create a nonprofit to duplicate the experience we had for other kiddos and other families.”

A custom pirate ship Halloween costume, created by Magic Wheelchair founder Ryan Weimer for his son, Keaton.
A custom pirate ship Halloween costume, created by Magic Wheelchair founder Ryan Weimer for his son, Keaton.
Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Magic Wheelchair—which is funded by individual and corporate donors—relies on teams of local volunteers around the country, who work together to build costumes for children in their communities. To be considered for a costume, families fill out an online application, which provides the nonprofit with a kid's biography and a description of their desired ensemble.

After receiving automatic email confirmation that Magic Wheelchair has received their materials, recipients are selected on a first-come, first-serve basis, although kids with life-threatening conditions do get priority. The rest are placed on a waitlist until a local volunteer team is able to complete their build. This process can take a few months or a few years, depending on whether there's an available team in the region.

Once kids make it off the waitlist, they meet with volunteers to discuss their vision. After that, the teams work anywhere from 100 to 500 hours, from start to finish, to construct the commissioned costume. The final product is kept under wraps so Magic Wheelchair can surprise the lucky recipient at a grand unveiling.

One of these kids was 13-year-old Cassie Hudson, a fan of comic books who hails from North Plains, Oregon. Cassie, who has spina bifida and other related health issues, first heard about Magic Wheelchair in 2015 when she noticed a flyer for the nonprofit hanging in the lobby of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The non-profit was new at the time, so Cassie and her mother, Tess Hudson, figured they wouldn’t have the resources to provide the teen with her dream Halloween costume. But in 2016, Magic Wheelchair approached a physical therapist at Shriners and asked if they knew anyone at the hospital who would be interested in receiving one of their custom creations through a big reveal at the upcoming Rose City Comic-Con. “She was like, oh my goodness, I know exactly the kid!” Tess tells Mental Floss.

Cassie’s favorite fictional superhero is Green Arrow, who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. “I just think he’s super cool—he’s one of those superheroes that doesn’t have any powers and just wants to help people because he feels the need to,” Cassie says. She wanted Magic Wheelchair to transform her chair into his motorcycle. The costume the volunteers built lights up, makes noises, and looks so much like an actual motorcycle that at one comic-con Cassie attended, security teams initially said she couldn't bring it into the building.

A custom Halloween costume created by Magic Wheelchair for 'Star Wars' fan Bryce Amiel.
A custom Halloween costume created by Magic Wheelchair for 'Star Wars' fan Bryce Amiel.
Courtesy of Magic Wheelchair

Designing custom costumes for wheelchairs does pose a unique set of challenges: For one, "these kids need their chairs," Weimer says. "Our volunteer teams don't have the chair to build on, so they take measurements and pictures and build off of those."

Also, Weimer says, "you definitely have to consider what the kiddo is capable of, where [the costume] is going to be stored, and where it's going to be transported—because they're big." Costumes, which wrap around the wheelchairs, range anywhere from 2.5 feet by 4 feet to 5 feet by 8 feet and are sometimes constructed in pieces, which makes moving them around much easier. Like pieces of a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, these parts fit together on the wheelchair's base and are secured in place with brackets, plastic and metal pipes, zip ties, duct tape, and specially designed metal mounts.

These obstacles don't interfere with Magic Wheelchair's goal to build what Weimer calls the "biggest, baddest costumes" imaginable for kids. "The sky's the limit," he says. "The only limitations are what's OK with the family and the kiddo." One particularly ambitious recent build was for an Atlanta resident named Anthony. "He loves cooking, and so [the volunteers] built him this chef's kitchen around his wheelchair, with a stove," Weimer says. "There was even food—a turkey, and different dishes on the stovetop."

In just a few short years, Magic Wheelchair has grown from six volunteer teams, with anywhere from one to 10 members, to around 50 teams. This Halloween season, they plan on constructing around 50 costumes—a far cry from the seven or eight ensembles the nonprofit first produced in 2015. And it's poised to become just as big and bad as the costumes it creates. “We have a complete board of directors now,” Weimer says. “We were also able to get to the point where we have hired a fundraiser and some part-time staff. This just help us to keep on growing.”

For more information on volunteering with Magic Wheelchair, or to make a donation, visit their website.

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