If anywhere is going to be cursed it's the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, where thousands of bodies are perfectly preserved by the volcanic ash and pumice from an extroadinarily powerful eruption that wiped out everything, including neighboring town Herculaneum, thousands of years ago. Even rational people who know curses are Not A Thing might think twice about removing an ancient artifact from its eerie grounds, even after overcoming the obvious moral reasons why you shouldn't steal historic items in the first place.
Not so for many tourists, apparently. Over the years, hundreds of items have been taken from the UNESCO World Heritage Site before either being returned in a fit of conscience years later, or because the thieves believed themselves cursed by the objects, usually sent back with letters of apology. So many so, in fact, that Pompeii has a permanent exhibition of these items and the accompanying remorse.
One thief returned a statuette they had taken from a Pompeian domus, explaining in a letter that it had unleashed an "evil eye in the family". The statue was a replica, the thief just didn't know it.
The "curse of Pompeii" is, of course, nonsense. However, joining those returning their cursed objects is Nicole from Canada, according to Italian newspaper Il Messagero. She had taken mosaic tiles, pieces of marble, and part of an amphora (a two-handled pot) from Pompeii in 2005, when she was 21 years old, wanting to have a unique memento that "no one could have."
Seriously, if one place on Earth is cursed it's here.
She took them home to Canada, whereupon the events of the "curse" began to play out.
"I took a piece of history that has crystallized over time and that has a lot of negative energy in it. People have died in such a horrible way and I have taken pieces related to that land of destruction," she wrote in a letter, seen by Il Messagero.
"Since then, bad luck has played with me and my family. I'm 36 now and have had breast cancer twice, the last time ending in a double mastectomy. My family and I also had financial problems. We are good people and I don't want to pass this curse on to my family or children."
Nicole promised in the letter that she will one day return to Italy to apologize in person, but that she was returning them now in the hopes that it would "shake off the curse that has fallen on me and my family. Please accept these artifacts so that you do the right thing for the mistake I made."
Hers wasn't the only package of stolen goods to return to Pompeii in recent weeks. A package signed from "Alastain and Kimberly" contained stones and the note "I return these stones that my wife and I took while visiting Pompeii and Vesuvius in 2005.
"We took them without thinking of the pain and suffering that these poor souls they felt during the eruption of Vesuvius and the terrible death they had. We are sorry and please forgive us for making this terrible choice. May their souls rest in peace."
Pompeii isn't the only victim of sticky fingered admirers. Alan Turing's Degree and OBE medal were discovered in an American woman's home earlier this year 36 years after they'd been stolen from his school in Dorset, England in the 1980s. And fear of coronavirus-related retribution led a man to return a 2,000-year-old ballista stone to the City of David this summer, having stolen it 15 years earlier, to clear his conscience.