Hundreds of tourists over the years have taken artifacts from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, believing them to be cursed after experiencing misfortune. Recently, the director of the Pompeii archaeological park shared a letter from one such tourist returning items.
“I didn’t know about the curse,” the letter reads. “Within a year of taking rocks from Pompeii, I developed breast cancer as a young, healthy woman. Doctors said it was bad luck. Please take these pieces back.”
Dear anonymous sender of this letter … the pumice stones arrived in Pompeii… now good luck for your future & in bocca al lupo, as we say in Italy pic.twitter.com/vaYlqUudke— Gabriel Zuchtriegel (@GZuchtriegel) January 9, 2024
Similar letters have accompanied other returned artifacts. One woman believing herself cursed developed breast cancer twice after visiting Pompeii, eventually needing a double mastectomy.
Of course, the “curse” is not real but rather a misunderstanding of coincidence and statistics – if enough healthy youth take artifacts, by chance some will later develop cancer anyway. Only those who have misfortune after tend to make a connection. There’s likely a larger group who took items without incident.
The returned letters and items are now part of a permanent exhibition on the myth of the supposed Pompeii curse.