Cursed and haunted treasures

Anyone weighing a potential investment must calculate its risk-to-reward ratio. Can this item generate returns that make buying it worth it, and if it doesn’t, can you handle the downside?

Risk can entail unusual things, such as becoming part of an investment’s grisly history. A few treasures, curios and keepsakes have become the stuff of legend, as one owner after another has fallen prey to bad luck—with sometimes-fatal results.

These treasures are rumored to be cursed or haunted. That can’t be proved, of course, so every such case resides in the limbo of urban legend and ancient superstition. Nonetheless, many of them have track records that even the most entrenched skeptic might find hard to ignore.

Read ahead and find out about valuable treasures that have been said to provide more of a return on investment than their owners bargained for.

By Daniel Bukszpan
Published 23 April 2013

Hope Diamond

Marvin Joseph | Washington Post | Getty Images

The Hope Diamond is probably the most famous jewel rumored to be cursed. The 45.52 carat gem has had a succession of owners dating back to the 17th century, and as noted in an article in the Jan. 29, 1911, edition of The New York Times, many of them suffered an untimely demise.

The owners included Prince Ivan Kanitovski, who was killed by Russian revolutionaries; Simon Mencharides, who died with his wife and child in a car accident; and French diamond merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who was “torn to pieces by wild dogs in Constantinople,” the Times said.

The article was prompted by the purchase of the diamond by Edward “Ned” McLean for more than $300,000 ($7.4 million today). It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in the late 1950s.

“The Hands Resist Him”

Courtesy of Darren Kyle O’Neill

“The Hands Resist Him” is a 1972 painting by California artist Bill Stoneham. According to his website, both the owner of the gallery that displayed the painting and the Los Angeles Times art critic who reviewed it were dead within one year of the exhibit.

According to the BBC News, the work was listed on eBay in 2000 by a seller claiming that the image had changed overnight, a phenomenon allegedly captured by her husband on webcam. It sold for $1,050, more than five times its $199 opening price. U.K.-based writer Darren K. O’Neill is developing a film based on its story.

Koh-i-Noor Diamond

STR | AFP | Getty Images

The Koh-i-Noor diamond is a 105-carat gem first recorded in a 14th-century Hindu text. According to The Sunday Times of India, the text carries a dire warning.

“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”

Victims of the alleged curse are said to have included the son of Mughal Emperor Babur, who was exiled from his kingdom; Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned by his son; and Nadir Shah, who was assassinated.

The gem became property of the British royal family in the 19th century and is on display at the Tower of London.

The Treasures of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Gerard Gratadour | Isifa | Getty Images

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh whose tomb was discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter. It contained vast treasure, including the golden death mask that has become a symbol of ancient Egypt. But some believe that its discovery was accompanied by a deadly curse.

Victims included 12 members of Carter’s crew and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who financed the excavation and died of blood poisoning less than a year later. Carter, however, lived another 16 years, reinforcing opposition to the myth.

The “Amityville Horror” House

Getty Images

The house at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, N.Y., was the site of a mass slaying in November 1974.

A year after that, George and Kathy Lutz moved in with their children but moved out less than a month later, citing paranormal phenomena. Their version of events inspired the 1977 book “The Amityville Horror” and the 1979 movie of the same name.

The house remains an object of mystery, but no one who has owned it since the Lutzes’ hasty exit has cited any supernatural occurrences, including James Cromarty, who bought it in 1977 and lived in it for 10 years.

It was last sold in October 2010 for $950,000, according to the real estate website

James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder

Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Legendary actor James Dean was killed on Sept. 30, 1955, when his Porsche 550 Spyder crashed into another car. Custom auto designer George Barris wrote about the car in his 1974 book “Cars of the Stars,” describing a series of accidents it was involved in after Dean’s death.

According to “James Dean at Speed” author Lee Raskin, the claims made in Barris’ book fueled speculation that the Spyder was cursed.

Barris had stated that parts from the wrecked Spyder were put into two other cars, both of which were involved in racing accidents, one of them fatal. His book also claimed that the car somehow disappeared from the back of a sealed truck hauling it from Florida to California, never to be seen again.

The “Superman” Franchise

Silver Screen Collection | Getty Images

The “Superman” franchise consists of five movies made between 1978 and 2006, and according to Box Office Mojo, it has earned an inflation-adjusted domestic box office gross of $1.2 billion.

Despite the impressive yield, bad fortune visited many people involved in the projects.

Christopher Reeve, who played the superhero four times, was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 horseback riding accident and died of cardiac arrest nine years later. Dana Reeve, his wife and a nonsmoker, died from lung cancer two years later.

According to 2009′s “The Little Book of Curses and Maledictions for Everyday Use,” by Dawn Rae Downton, the actor who played Superman as an infant in the 1978 film, Lee Quigley, died at age 14 from inhalant abuse.

The bad juju goes back further: George Reeves, who played the Man of Steel in 1951′s “Superman and the Mole Men” and in the television series “The Adventures of Superman,” died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1959.

The Clutter Family House

Spacini | Wikipedia

“In Cold Blood” is Truman Capote’s novel about the murders in 1959 of farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife and two of their children.

The crime took place in their 14-room home in Holcomb, Kan., which was bought in 1964 by cattle rancher Bob Byrd. He later committed suicide, according to The Lawrence Journal-World of Kansas.

The house is occupied by Donna Mader, who moved in with her husband, now deceased, in 1990. She put the spacious residence up for sale in 2006 but never found a buyer. Her daughter, real estate agent Sue Wieland, said in an interview that this had nothing to do with the house’s past and everything to do with potential buyers’ being too stingy to pay the asking price.

When asked if the house had ever been the site of any paranormal activity, Wieland chuckled and said “No. Never.” If it is haunted by anything, she said, it’s the steady parade of tourists who drive by to gawk.

Treasure Detectives

“Treasure Detectives” is a one-hour weekly show featuring world-renowned fakes and forgeries detective Curtis Dowling and his squad of investigators, who dig into the history of potentially counterfeit items using high-tech science.

In each episode, the “Treasure Detectives” team will meet collectors and verify the authenticity of artwork, antiquities and other collectibles using innovative technology and street smarts to determine whether they’re sophisticated forgeries or extremely valuable items … answers that could cost or reap owners a small fortune. The detectives trace not only where an item came from but how it was made—and, in many cases, how it was faked.

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