People typically think of curses as purely fictional, but there are more than a few that have left a lasting impression on the world. Real life curses are quite different than their fictional counterparts. Their effects, especially on the targets, are enough to make even the most hardened skeptic question their beliefs. These curses from around the world show that making somebody angry can have a serious backlash.
Curses are a strange thing — many times, they work because the victims believe in them. But that's not the only way they can make an impact. Numerous famous curses have shown that belief is only part of the equation, and that a well-placed hex can have a tangible effect even when nobody sees it coming.
While plenty of people have claimed to be the victim of a curse because of a mere string of bad luck, there are in fact historical and modern records of curses that work. It's not all eye of newt and tongue of frog. From simple ill wishes to magic rituals, these curses prove that you shouldn't underestimate the power of things you don't understand.
Bone pointing is a practice of aboriginal Australians, in which a kurdaitcha (an executioner), points a bone or other object at a victim. The victim is then said to become listless and ill, typically refusing to eat or drink until they succumb to the illness and die.
While it's hypothesized that the response from victims is mostly psychosomatic, that doesn't mean it's treated any less seriously. Belief in the curse is strong enough to have a tangible effect, and doctors and nurses in Australia are sometimes trained to handle cases where these curses have induced symptoms in their patients. The practice has lost popularity in modern times, but there are several documented cases of victims of bone pointing dying because of their belief in the curse. They believe themselves doomed and, resigned to their fate, die of self-inflicted starvation or dehydration. That's reason enough to consider it a real curse.
The August Curse, a belief that bad things are more likely to happen in August, carries a pretty significant weight in Russia. Since 1991, numerous tragic events have happened during August, including plane crashes, bombings, and wildfires. Russia has had some rough Augusts prior to 1991 as well, of course, including the battle of Stalingrad, the siege of Leningrad, and the opening of the Eastern Front during World War I.
There are various theories as to why the August Curse might exist. Some believe it's not a curse at all, but rather coincidence or a deliberate exploitation of the fact that important people tend to take vacations during August, leading to higher potential for terrorism. Others propose that the alignment of planets is to blame. Whatever the reason, many Russians believe firmly there's something especially dangerous about the month of August.
The Tichborne Dole is an old English tradition that required the Tichborne family to donate a large amount of food to the poor every year. Lady Mabella Tichborne, who started the tradition, laid a curse on whoever should break the tradition. If the food was not donated, the Tichborne family would have a generation of seven sons, then seven daughters, and then family name would die out.
In 1796, the family stopped the dole, reportedly due to claims that poor people and vagabonds were "abusing the privilege." By 1803, part of the family home had collapsed. One branch of the family tree had indeed produced seven brothers, and Sir Henry Tichborne – one of those brothers – had seven daughters of his own. Several of those brothers died, and the dole was reinstated. The last remaining brother, Sir Alfred, managed to carry on the family name.
Tutankhamen might have the most famous tomb curse, but Timur might have the pharaoh beat in terms of efficacy. Timur was a Turco-Mongol conqueror in the 1300s. His remains were entombed in the Gur-e Amir in Uzbekistan, and his body was exhumed in 1941. Reportedly, his tomb contained two engravings — one that read, "When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble," and another inside the casket that read, "Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I."
Curses on tombs are not uncommon, but what happened after Timur's tomb was opened changed the course of history. A mere two days after Timur was exhumed, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Barbarossa remains the largest military invasion in history. Timur was reburied over a year later under Islamic rites, and the tide of the fight in the Soviet Union – specifically the Battle of Stalingrad – began to change shortly after.