Have you ever felt like you were cursed? Like bad things were happening to you and you couldn’t really explain why? One woman in Canada, identified simply as Nicole, felt this for 15 long years; except, she had a sneaking suspicion about how her streak of bad luck started. When she was 21, on a trip to Pompeii—the ancient Italian city forever preserved by a volcanic eruption in 79 CE—she took a few random items from the ruins back home to Canada and nothing has been the same since. Now, she’s decided to return the stolen artifacts in the hopes of breaking the curse.
So what exactly did Nicole take? She looted a piece of marble wall, two pieces of amphora vases, and two mosaic tiles. Even though there are many who believe that the dead and what belonged to them should be left to rest without disturbance, Nicole didn’t initially think anything of it. However, she is now convinced that these items from the ruins of a city frozen in time carry an ancient curse with them.
In an effort to reverse this “curse,” Nicole returned the artifacts along with a letter of explanation to the Archeological Park of Pompeii. “We are good people and I don't want to pass this curse on to my family or children,” she writes in the letter. She blamed her misdemeanors on being “young and dumb” at the time when she took the ancient items. “I wanted a piece of history that couldn’t be bought,” she explains.
The list of misfortunes that Nicole experienced since her naively unsolicited theft of mementos might be chalked up to the ups and downs of life by less superstitious people. But after enduring family financial troubles and two bouts of breast cancer, Nicole didn’t want to take any more chances. She returned the small pieces of Pompeii in 2020, sure that the curse continued to affect her life.
Hundreds of stolen artifacts and pieces of Pompeii such as rocks, pebbles, and fragments of architecture taken as mementos in the past are now being returned. Some people are troubled by their conscience and want to do the right thing. Others believe that their actions have directly affected the way their lives have turned out. Stolen items have turned up for sale on eBay, and even more have been uncovered by authorities. Six beautiful frescoes were returned after they were discovered in an illegal dig site northwest of Pompeii, and police recovered another three frescoes as part of a crackdown on illegal antiquities trading that began in 2020. So many items have come home to where they belong in recent years that the Archeological Park has established a museum dedicated to items stolen and returned.
“Ancient works of great value are returning to their rightful place,” says General Roberto Riccardi, head of Italy’s cultural heritage protection squad, at a ceremony celebrating the frescoes’ return in 2021. The Italian Ministry of Culture's general director of museums, Massimo Osanna, said in a statement that each find constitutes an important piece of the history and knowledge of a place, and must always be protected and preserved. Superstition or not, ancient curses and Nicole's gesture to return her “souvenirs” are proving to be hugely beneficial for the preservation of history and heritage.
A Canadian woman named Nicole returned pieces of an amphora vase, two white mosaic tiles, and a piece of wall that she'd taken from Pompeii 15 years before.
Nicole returned the stolen items to Pompeii to break what she believed was a 15-year “curse.”
Pompeii, from where the artifacts were taken, was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.