Thieves have returned stolen artifacts to a temple in Uttar Pradesh, India, after suffering nightmares following the theft.
Last week, police said that thieves had stolen 16 idols of Lord Balaji, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, from the temple in the Chitrakoot district. The idols were largely made of copper and silver, with one made of ashtadhatu – an alloy made of gold, iron, silver, lead, copper, zinc, tin, and antimony or mercury.
Police did not have to do much work recovering the items, however, as they were returned on Monday with a confession and an apology. The thieves found they were plagued with misfortune with the items in their possession.
"We have been suffering from nightmares since we committed the theft and have not been able to sleep, eat and live peacefully," the thieves said in the accompanying letter, the Times of India reports. "We are fed up with the scary dreams and are returning your 'amaanat' (valuables)."
The thieves returned all but two of the idols, clearly deciding that they could tolerate 1/8th of the nightmares from the remaining treasure in their possession.
Thieves returning items believing themselves to be cursed in some way is surprisingly common.
Over the years, hundreds of items have been taken from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, where thousands of bodies are perfectly preserved by the volcanic ash and pumice from an extraordinarily powerful eruption that wiped out everything, including neighboring town Herculaneum, thousands of years ago. So many thieves go on to return the items – believing themselves to be cursed by the objects – that Pompeii has a permanent exhibition of these items and the accompanying remorse.
In 2020, 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, like the fear felt by the thieves of Lord Balaji idols, 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."
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."