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The scary stories about "cursed objects" in this episode of The List Show may not all stand up to intense scrutiny, but they can still tell us something interesting about the history and culture they come out of. Does a "cursed" chest of drawers reveal something unresolved in a country's history? Why do we find it so appealing to think James Dean drove a star-crossed car?

Erin breaks down the stories of ten so-called cursed objects, ranging from the creepy to the ridiculous. You'll learn about Ötzi the Iceman and Robert the Doll, along with other artifacts said to bring bad luck to anyone in their path.

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In 1991, hikers found a mummified body protruding from a glacier in Italy's Utsel Alps. It turned out to be a middle aged man, murdered by an arrow over 5,000 years ago. People started calling him Ötzi the Iceman. And he pretty much rocked the world of prehistoric research.

Fourteen years later, Australian molecular archaeologist Thomas Loy died at age 63 of natural causes. He had studied Ötzi closely. In fact, it was Loy who found traces of blood from several other people on Ötzi and claimed that he likely died after a skirmish.

To some people, Loy's connection to the iceman was an interesting, if unremarkable, sentence in his obituary. To others, it was yet more evidence that the corpse carried a fatal curse.

Hi, I'm Erin Mccarthy, editor-in-chief of, and welcome to the list show. When it comes to cursed items, mummified remains might be on the predictable end of the spectrum. What about chairs? Or Porshas? Or paintings of crying children?

Today we're sharing stories about objects that are said to bring death, doom, or just plain old bad luck upon anyone within reach. Let's get started.


The trouble with Ötzi the Iceman began the year after he was discovered. When 64 year old forensic pathologist, Ryan Hen, perished in a car accident. Hen had moved the remains into a body bag, and was actually in route to give a lecture on the iceman when he died. 

Not long after that tragedy, mountain climber, Kurt Fritz, died in an avalanche. He had arranged the helicopter trip to retrieve Ötzi from the mountain. Then it's said Riena Holtz, who captured footage of the retrieval, passed away from a brain tumor at age 47. The iceman "claimed" three more lives in quick succession between 2004 and 2005.

First, Helmut Zeeman, one of the hikers who discovered Ötzi, died after falling 300 feet down a mountain. Then, archaeologist, Conrad Spinler, one of Ötzi's chief researchers, died of complications from multiple sclerosis. In October 2005, Thomas Loy became the final "victim".

Have plenty of other people survived contact with Ötzi since he was torn from his icy tomb in the 90's?

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Yes. Does that make you feel safe enough to visit him in person at Italy's South Tyrol Museum of Archeology. I'll leave that one up to you. 

Before there was Annabelle, there was Robert, a 40 inch tall nightmare created by the German toy company Steiff. One look in Robert's beady little demon eyes is really all you need to know to believe he's bad news. But I'll tell you the story anyway.

In Key West, Flordia in 1904, the doll was given to 4 year old Robert Eugene Otto, who went by Gene. Some reports say it was a present from Gene's grandfather while others suggest a disgruntled maid of the Otto's cursed the doll before giving it to their young son. Whatever the case, Robert the doll, dressed in a sailor's suit of Gene's, quickly became his owner's evil alter-ego. As legend would have it, whenever Gene's parents would find his bedroom furniture upended or his toys mangled, Gene would say "Robert did it".

Gene grew up, became an artist, got married, and then returned to his childhood house, which he christened "the artist house". Gene's wife, Ann, wasn't a huge fan of Robert the doll, so Gene set up a new pad for him in the attic. Passerby claimed that Robert would switch positions without any help and watch them from the window while they walked by. 

People who actually set foot in the house reported footsteps and laughter in the attic. This activity continued after Gene's death in 1974 when the estate, property included, passed into the hands of Myrtle Reuter. She put up with the strange happenings for 20 years before handing Robert over to the Fort East Martello Museum. He's still there today, casting bad luck upon visitors who don't treat him with enough respect. And then receiving letters from those same visitors asking for absolution.

Robert also recently inspired a series of horror movies. Here's the tagline for the first one, titled Robert, obviously, and released in 2015. "He want to be your best friend... forever." 

Robert's antics practically scream amateur when compared to those of the conjured chest, a chest of drawers with a body count of about 16. As the story goes, an enslaved man named Remus custom made the item for his enslaver, Jerimiah Graham, in Kentucky circa 1830. Graham, displeased with Remus' work, beat him to death. Remus' friends then cursed the chest by scattering dried owl blood in its drawers.

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The oblivious Grahams filled those drawers with clothes for their newborn baby who died soon after.

For the next 140 years or so the chest was passed down through the family and death or injury came to anyone who stored their apparel inside. In the mid 20th century Virginia Carrie Hudson Cleveland watched her first child die in infancy and another child contract polio.

A son got stabbed at school and the husband of one of her children died after being rushed to the hospital for appendicitis. So Cleveland enlisted the help of her maid, Sally, to undo the curse. They followed steps that included procuring a dead owl and boiling willow leaves.

Sally also said that if she or Virginia then died that it would prove that the curse had broken. I didn't say any of this made sense but months later Sally did die. Seems like a better strategy would have been to just stop using the chest which is what Virignia's daughter decided to do when she inherited it.

In 1976 she donated it to the Kentucky historical society where it still is today, empty except for some owl feathers in the top drawer, just in case the curse tries to return or something. Elsewhere in Kentucky in the late 1930s, a carpenter named Carl Pruitt reportedly walked in on his wife in flagrante delicto [sic] with another man. Pruitt strangled her to death with a chain before taking his own life.

After he was buried, far from his wife, some kids were said to have noticed what looked like the outline of a chain on Pruitt's tombstone. One kid chucked a rock at it only to be strangled to death on his ride home when his bicycle chain got dislodged from its track and wrapped around his neck. After the boy's mom took an axe to the tombstone, she ended up strangled by her clothesline and the tombstone appeared mysteriously undamaged.

A farmer who shot at the stone accidentally spooked his horses and got strangled by the reigns. You might be starting to sense a theme here. Anyone who messed with Pruitt's final resting place died of strangulation.

But the factual basis for this legend is flimsy to say the least. When Cult Nation's Jason Bunch investigated he couldn't find any record of the deaths, and at least two historical experts from the area hadn't even heard the story. A Carl Pruitt did die in 1937 but it was in

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Washington DC and it seems that that same Carl Pruitt was buried in North Carolina.

But just to be safe, maybe don't deface any tombstone that bears the name "Carl Pruitt" or any tombstone period. On September 4th, 1985, British tabloid The Sun printed a portrait of a weeping toddler beneath the headline "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy".

The accompanying text told the story of a South Yorkshire couple whose home had burned down after a chip pan caught fire. But the crying boy portrait that had hung inside the house remained unscathed. The husband's brother was a firefighter who said he and his fellow firefighters kept finding other prints of the portrait un-burnt in other house fires.

The article ignited a media frenzy and The Sun stoked the flames by reporting on similar fired in the area, both old and new. It turned out there were dozens, if not more. The Sun also speculated on the origins of the curse.

One folklore expert, Roy Vickery, posited that perhaps the artist had abused his muse and the fires were "his way of getting revenge". In fact, it wasn't just one crying boy, at least two artists had painted a number of different works featuring teary-eyed boys and girls. As folklore expert, David Clarke, wrote years later "the only common denominator shared by this motley collection was that they were all examples of cheap, mass-produced prints sold in great numbers by English departments stores during the 60s and 70s.

The geographical cluster of fires simply reflected the popularity of the prints among working-class communities in that part of the north." But the general public didn't much care for reasonable theories at the time, not even when a fire department official said the paintings were flame resistant because they were printed on a hardboard that didn't burn easily. One veteran firefighters wife offered a different explanation: "I always say it's the tears that put the fire out." Enough people asked The Sun what to do with their crying child paintings that the paper finally instructed them to just ship them to the tabloid's office. Over the next six weeks, 2500 paintings showed up.

The Sun burned them in a triumphant bonfire chronicled in a Halloween article titled "Sun nails curse of the weeping boy for good." A firefighter who oversaw the event said sarcastically "we all listened for muffled

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cries but all we heard was the crackle of paintings burning". Have you heard the legend of Sleepy Hollow? No, not that one. I'm talking about the bronze lady who's actually much easier to find than the headless horseman. She's a bronze statue located in New York's Sleepy Hollow cemetery, home to the grave of Washington Irving himself. Officially named "Recueillement" or "Grief", the bronze lady was commissioned by the widow of civil war general Samuel M. Thomas after he died in 1903. As the story goes, Thomas' widow was unhappy with the statue because its expression seemed too morose, so sculptor Andrew O'Connor Jr. redid it for her. But instead of handing over the new head he called it a monstrosity and shattered it in front of her. Apparently he had just wanted to prove his skills and start a little drama. Relateable. The disgruntled Mrs Thomas installed the original figure to watch over her late husband's tomb anyway. And in the following years nighttime visitors to the cemetery claimed to have heard quiet sobs coming from the bronze lady. Superstitions got embellished and passed down by neighbourhood kids throughout the 20th century. Anthony J. Marmo, who grew up there in the 1970s shared his childhood memories with the New York Times in 2000. "If you knocked on the door of the general's tomb and looked through the keyhole, it was said you would have a bad dream that night. Of course that always worked. There was another one where, if you slapped her in the face, sat in her lap and spit in her eye, she would haunt you for the rest of your life. There was always one brave kid who did it." Hey, if kids were always slapping my face and spitting in my eye, I'd probably cry at night too, and haunt them forever. Locked away in the depths of London's Natural History Museum is the Delhi purple sapphire which is actually an amethyst. The jewel's cursed history purportedly began during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 when it was looted from a temple in Kanpur and smuggled to England by a colonel of the Bengal cavalry. Bad luck plagued both him and his heir who passed it off to a polymath named Edward Heron-Allen in 1890. Heron-Allen suffered misfortune too and chucked the gem into the Regents Canal around 1903. After a dealer returned it to him a few months later, Heron-Allen gave it to a singer who had begged him for it. He later wrote "The next time she tried to sing, her voice was dead and she has never sung since."

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Back in possession of the amethyst, and worried that it would ruin his infant daughter's life, Heron-Allen encased it in seven boxes and stashed it in a bank. Logical. With it was a letter chronicling the gem's long wicked journey. He wrote "This stone is trebly accursed and is stained with blood, and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it." The letter also mandated that the amethyst remain in the bank until at least 33 years after Heron-Allen's death. It didn't.

Less than a year after his death, in 1943, Heron-Allen's daughter gifted both the amethyst and the letter to the natural history museum. Since then, the curse has apparently been dormant, if there ever was one. Not only is Heron-Allen's note the only detailed account of the gem's curse, but he also published a short story in 1921 called "The Purple Saffire". It's more than a little similar to his letter. 

Some museum historians think he may have bought the jewel and created the curse himself to make his short story more believable or compelling. But if there really were a curse, the way to break it seems a little obvious. Just return it to Kanpur.j

Another ominous object, possibly purloined from its homeland, is a three inch stone head known as "The Little Manny With His Daddy's Horns". After a cleaning lady stumbled upon it in a basement floor in Manchester England, local scholars Tony Ward and Pat Ellison-Reed explored the sight and found evidence of a strange ritual. As Manchester museum curator, John Prag, later wrote "...around it was a circle of candle holders, and inside the circle they found the remains of chicken and hare bones, ivory counters used for scoring at billiards, and other offerings including a 'mother figure' whose head had been broken off accidentally."

Since the Little Manny looked a lot like Celtic stone heads, everyone assumed that's what it was. But when it was displayed at the Manchester museum in 1991, a visitor identified it as a nomoli, a type of figurine from Sierra Leone. Though the nation's Mende people had unearthed and named the statuettes, they're thought to have been created by an older native group that 15th century Portugese traders called the Sapi.

And while the Mende people have historically relied on nomoli to bring strong harvest and other good fortune, the Little Manny seemingly brought a fair amount of bad luck to its British handlers. 

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Manchester Museum' staff members suffered car accidents, bike accidents, burglaries, broken pant zippers, which debatable not as devastating, and all other manner of trouble. 

Ellison Reed actually plucked some hairs from her own head and wrapped them around the statue, claiming that it would be, as Prag recalled, "much warmer and friendlier now."

It's not clear whether the gesture had any effect on Little Manny's attitude, or who brought the statue up from Sierra Leone to Manchester in the first place, but if that person experienced rotten luck for the rest of their life, I can't say I'd be surprised.

On September 23rd 1955, James Dean ran into Sir Alec Guinness at a restaurant, and showed off his Porche 550 Spider, fondly nicknamed "Little Bastard." In his autobiography, Guinness described the car as sinister. He told Dean "Please never get in it... If you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week." Seven days later Dean was found dead, after crashing the car.

Suregeonamateur racer, Dr William F Esrich, rescued some of the Porche's parts from a junkyard, and passed a few to his friend, Dr Troy McHenry. They installed parts in their own cars, and then both crashed during a race in October 1956. Eshrik survived, but McHenry didn't, and whispers of a curse began to spread.

The rest of The Little Bastard went to George Barris, the car customizer who tricked out the 1949 Mercury that Dean drove in 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. He'd go on to create Adam West's Batmobille, the Munster Koach, and other memorable Hollywood vehicles. 

Over the next several years, The Spider supposedly caused a handful of incidents: a garage inexplicably caught fire while the car was inside, two tires blew out while affixed to a different vehicle, and a couple of thieves were injured while trying to pilfer some of The Spider's remaining parts. 

Since Barris himself promoted the story, some people thought the curse was really just a publicity stunt. And when Barris claimed that the car had mysteriously vanished in 1960, skeptics felt even more vindicated that Barris was behind it all, or at least most of it.

The car has been MIA since then, but we know at least one part is alive and well, by which I mean, ready to wreak more havoc. The trans-axle, one of the pieces salvaged by Esrich, was bought by Ghost Adventures' host, Zak Bagans in May 2021. He spent $382,000 on the item which he plans to showcase at his haunted museum in Las Vegas.

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Visit the Thirsk Museum in north Yourkshire England and you'll no doubt spot a handsome oak chair attached to one wall a few feet above the floor. That's Thomas Busby's chair of death. One version of it's origin story goes like this: In 1702 Thomas Busby murdered his partner in literal crime Daniel Auty after an altercation that may have involved Busby's wife, who was also Auty's daughter. Others have said that the men fought specifically because Auty had plopped down in Busby's favorite chair at a local pub. As Busby was marched to the gallows his executioners granted him one last detour to the pub. "May sudden death come to anyone who dare sit in my chair!" he declared. And then sudden death came to anyone who dared sit in his chair. Allegedly. A chimney sweep was found hanged after reclining in it in 1864. World War II pilots who took turns in the chair perished during battle, a delivery man died in a car crash right after trying out the chair in the 1970's and so on. In 1978 the pubs landlord gave it to the Thirsk Museum along with strict instructions for it to be suspended above the floor. According to museum curator Cooper Harding, Busby was executed for murdering Auty, but their argument had ti di with a gold counterfeiting scam. There's no record of Busby's marriage to Auty's daughter. Furthermore furniture historian Adam Bowit has said that the chair is partially machine turned and probably wasn't manufactured until sometime after 1840. So, if Busby did curse a chair, it was a different one. All evidence aside, Harding still wouldn't take his chances in the chair of death. As he told the Northern Echo in 2014, "I'm not superstitious, but I wouldn't sit in it because if I did and was knocked down by a car everyone would say it was down to the chair.".

If you've got an idea for a future episode of the list show, drop it in the comments below. Or tell us your own story of being haunted by a cursed object. Preferably one that has not led to any deaths or dismemberments.
Thanks for watching.