Curses! Haunted Again!
By Rosemary Ellen Guiley
© Visionary Living, Inc.
The story is a familiar one in haunting lore: an angry, wronged person gets even by laying a curse. Like an arrow in a bull’s eye, the curse hits it mark, and for generations a family, place or even land suffers under a shadow of misfortune. Whatever is cursed becomes ruined, and often haunted.
Does a curse really have the power to destroy, and to create a haunting? Or is it a convenient fiction for explaining why bad things happen and hauntings exist — a bit of colorful folklore that springs up after the fact?
Cursing is indeed a real and potent power. Cursing can create all manner of havoc: bad luck, misfortune, apparitions, poltergeist disturbances, disasters, destruction – and death.
A curse against the land may have blighted Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The area around Point Pleasant – including Parkersburg to the north and Athens, Ohio to the west – is renowned for its haunting activity. There are ghosts aplenty, mysterious creatures, strange UFO sightings and alien encounters, men in black, poltergeist activity – and, most famous of all, the Mothman flap of 1967-68, when a large, bat-winged humanoid terrorized witnesses. The flap ended when a bridge across the Ohio River collapsed, killing 42 persons. What’s responsible for this dark hot spot? According to lore, a 200-year-old deathbed curse, the most powerful curse of all.
In 1777, the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk and his son were killed by colonial soldiers who were holding them in a fort. Betrayed by the whites he had trusted, Cornstalk leveled a curse on the land as he lay dying from eight gunshot wounds. “I came to the fort as your friend and you murdered me,” the chief cried. “You have murdered by my side, my young son…. For this, may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood.”
More than two centuries on, the Point Pleasant area has seen a string of unusual deadly disasters in addition to the weird hauntings. Coincidence – or the long reach of the Cornstalk curse?
Every culture and society on this planet has appreciated the force of a curse. Curses have been used throughout human history to right wrongs, wreak vengeance and eliminate rivals of all stripes. Do you believe in the power of prayer to heal? The dark side of that power is the curse — a negative prayer that harms or even kills. Have you ever had bad thoughts about someone? You’ve indulged in a form of cursing called “ill-wishing.”
So important is cursing that many societies have had professional cursers. They go by many names, such as witch, sorcerer, cunning man or woman, and shaman. They possess abilities to use magical power — for better or for worse. In Hawaiian magical culture, for example, certain kahunas have the power to issue a death prayer. They literally pray — or curse — a person to death. The death prayer is the ultimate punishment for the most serious of crimes. The cursed person becomes ill and dies.
Skeptics argue that curses work because the target fears the curse so much that he or she subconsciously fulfills it. That may be so in some cases, but sometimes victims have no knowledge of a curse, or, if they do, dismiss it. The curse works, anyway.
So what makes a curse take hold and last? Certainly, not every ill word or thought has drastic consequences. We still don’t have a thorough understanding of the powers of our own consciousness. But there are several factors that likely play a significant role in cursing:
Emotional intensity. In magic, the success of a spell or any magical operation depends heavily upon the emotional intensity of the practitioner. Emotions seem to be able to lodge in the time-space fabric, where they can have an effect for a long time. Others can experience this lodged emotion. Paranormal investigators are familiar with the emotions behind many hauntings. Negative, angry and unhappy emotions seem to have more staying power than positive emotions. These factors may be why the deathbed curse is so powerful – a dying person, filled with rage, puts every last bit of strength and energy into the curse.
A skilled magician knows how to manipulate emotional intensity with focused thought and imagination, and laser-like direction of will. However, under the right circumstances, such as emotion-laden events, ordinary persons can project the right mix of energies to make a curse take effect. They may even do so without realizing it. For example, a heinous crime can generate the right emotional pitch to curse a place with a negative haunting.
Objects can become cursed, too. You may be familiar with “possessed possessions,” objects that somehow radiate misfortune and cause haunting activity. Sometimes the cause is spirit attachment. Other cursed objects acquired their black reputation via magic or someone’s negative emotional intensity. The objects generate a curse on whoever owns them.
Receptivity of the victim. The belief of the victim in the power of the curse may help it last. For example, if a dying man curses the family members gathered around his bedside, the fear may lodge successfully enough so that bad things do happen. Family curses can be passed down for generations before they lose power.
The beliefs of others. If a curse becomes well-known, the beliefs of outsiders may contribute to its powers. If visitors know a place is supposed to be cursed, they may feed the curse and keep it active. Interestingly, it often doesn’t matter if the events behind a curse are real or embellished folklore. If enough people believe, the curse takes on its own real power.
The psychokinetic power of united group mind lies behind the success of prayer circles and chains, and the will of a people to overcome adversity and to conquer or resist being conquered. Scientific evidence collected by the Global Consciousness Project – available online – supports group mind.
Geophysical factors. When a place or land is cursed, there may be something literally in the landscape that energizes the emotional energy and keeps the curse alive. There may be some composition of rock or soil, for example, that feeds hauntings in general. Quartz, water-retentive clay and radon have been linked to hot haunting areas.
Is cursing immoral? It depends on your viewpoint. The Romans cursed as part of everyday life and business, as evidenced by the many cursing tablets they left behind. To them, cursing was simply a tool. If you wanted to beat the competition for sports glory, money, power or love, you laid curses on them. If an unknown person stole your belongings or animals, you cursed them by bringing the wrath of the gods down on them. The Romans didn’t fool around. They demanded nothing short of destruction of their enemies in a curse. It is quite possible that their collective skill in cursing was one of the factors that enabled the Roman Empire to be created.
An unusual modern curse has been playing out in England since 2005. In the town of Bury St. Edmunds in East Anglia – an area with a strong magical and haunting history – the big department store chain of Debenhams announced plans to tear down the old Cattle Market and build a store there. The locals didn’t like the idea and considered it a blight on their historic landscape.
The Knights of St. Edmunds, the patron saint of East Anglia, conducted a public, ritual curse of the plan. The robed knights declared that Debenhams and two development groups would be “accursed of their own actions, error and love of sin… We declare that nothing they build on this land will ever prosper or bear fruit.” The curse would last until a new shrine was built to St. Edmunds, the Knights said.
The curse was dismissed by many as superstitious silliness. The doubters are thinking twice about it now. Since the curse was laid in November of 2005, a string of serious disasters, embarrassments and scandals have befallen the store chain and persons involved in the redevelopment plan. And, a national campaign to reestablish St. Edmund as the patron saint of all England is picking up steam.
This article was published in TAPS Paramagzine, 2007, http://www.tapsparamagzine.com.