Terrifying voodoo magic has featured in many Hollywood screenplays, but what about real life voodoo curses? And what is a voodoo curse anyway? Whatever your personal beliefs on the supernatural, remember that voodoo is a very real religion. It was most commonly practiced by people of Haitian and African heritage, but voodoo has spread due to the African diaspora.
The supposed effects of voodoo have been well documented. But when it comes to tales of voodoo curses that worked, anthropologists and psychologists typically agree that the misfortune that befalls the "cursed" is all psychosomatic. If someone believes they are cursed, and those around them reinforce the idea, they will become depressed, stop taking care of themselves, or lash out violently. The curse thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the person inadvertently destroys their own life.
This list explores some of the scary voodoo stories that have made headlines over the years. Whether there were dark forces at work here, or all-too-human concerns like self sabotage and murderous impulses, is open to interpretation.
In the early 20th century, Julia Brown was a local healer and magic practitioner in Frenier, LA. She would travel all over the village to perform rituals for people, and she was known for her magic touch. Unfortunately, the people began to take advantage of her, demanding her help - until she began fighting back. Those she deemed disrespectful and ungrateful would be given terrifying predictions, or she would curse them.
In last few weeks before her death in 1915, Brown would sing her curse for the town of Frenier to herself over and over: "One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me." Her passing came as she predicted, and the whole town went to her funeral to pay their respects out of fear. As they began to nail Brown's coffin shut, a devastating hurricane tore through the village, killing all but two people. Just as the priestess had promised, the town died with her.
Brown's curse seemingly lives on. Many developers have tried to rebuild the area over the years, with no luck.
Adolfo Constanzo was a cult leader, serial killer, and practitioner of an offshoot of Haitian Voodoo. In the 1980s, he gave psychic readings and worked magic for dangerous drug cartels and hitmen. He’d cast spells to bring luck, curse enemies, and was somehow able to keep his clients from getting busted. His rituals involved the sacrifices of chickens, goats, snakes, and even humans.
Constanzo finally overstepped when his followers kidnapped an affluent American student named Mark Kilroy to use as a sacrifice. Police began tracking Kilroy, and eventually found Constanzo's base of operations. When his ranch of horrors was finally raided by police, they uncovered 15 mutilated corpses and Kilroy's dismembered body. Constanzo was so determined to stay out of prison that he ordered one of his followers to shoot him.
"It was witchcraft," Ronald Eric Salazar said when asked to explain the brutal murder and rape of his 11-year-old sister, Marina "Estefani" Salazar in 2005. He was just 14 years old when he killed her. Salazar originally blamed two armed men for his sister’s death, but later confessed to the horrific crime himself.
Allegedly, a witch in El Salvador claimed the boy had inherited an old voodoo curse from his father once he left for the United States in 1991. The boy was left behind with his grandparents and his father’s curse. Once Salazar was able to make his way to America, he brought the curse with him and it drove him to kill his sister. Cursed or not, he was sentenced to two life terms in prison in October of 2009.
A massive outbreak of cholera claimed the lives of 2,500 people across Haiti in 2010. Another 63,500 people were hospitalized, and 121,000 were treated for symptoms. Many Haitians assumed the outbreak was due to a voodoo curse, and they began attacking voodoo priests in the area.
Mobs lynched at least 45 people, while others were beaten, stoned, and hacked with machetes before being set on fire.