Woman Returns Artifacts Stolen From Pompeii, Claiming The ‘Cursed’ Items Gave Her Cancer

Published October 13, 2020

"Take them back, please, they bring bad luck."

Ruins Of Pompeii

Wikimedia CommonsA woman who stole a bounty of artifacts from Pompeii mailed them back to a travel agent, along with a confession claiming that they brought her bad luck.

Pompeii is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy. It is also, apparently, a popular target for archaeological theft.

According to the Guardian, a travel agent in the city received an unexpected package containing a number of artifacts that had been stolen from the site of the ancient disaster.

The package came with a confession letter written by a tourist who took the artifacts illegally after visiting Pompeii 15 years ago.

The remorseful thief, identified only as a Canadian woman named Nicole, sent back a package of looted items which included two parts of an amphora, mosaic tiles, and a piece of ceramic — all snatched from Pompeii.

In her letter, Nicole wrote that she stole the historical artifacts because she wanted to have a piece of history that “nobody could have.” But she grew to regret her theft over the years as she found that the relics had “so much negative energy…linked to that land of destruction.”

Excavating Around Pompeii Bodies

Flickr Commons
Archaeological workers extract the mummified bodies of two adults and three children from Pompeii on May 1, 1961.

She went on to state that she had suffered a number of misfortunes over the last decade — including two bouts of breast cancer. She believed her bad luck was a curse brought on by the stolen artifacts.

“I am now 36 and had breast cancer twice. The last time ending in a double mastectomy,” she wrote. “My family and I also had financial problems. We’re good people and I don’t want to pass this curse on to my family or children.”

Nicole went on to note that she had learned her lesson and that she hoped to earn “forgiveness from God.”

“Take them back, please,” she pled in her letter, “they bring bad luck.”

Nicole isn’t the only light-fingered visitor Pompeii has received over the years. Within the same package was a separate set of stones that had been stolen from the site as well. Just like Nicole’s returned loot, the stones also came with a letter of confession, this one sent from a couple also from Canada.

“We took them without thinking of the pain and suffering these poor souls experienced during the eruption of Vesuvius and their terrible death,” the couple wrote. “We are sorry, please forgive us for making this terrible choice. May their souls rest in peace.”

The couple stole the stones from the Pompeii site in 2005 — the same year as Nicole. It’s unclear what relationship the woman had with the couple or whether they stole the pieces on the same trip together.

Before it became a world-famous historical site, Pompeii was once a lost city. It suffered one of the worst tragedies in ancient history when its residents were buried beneath tons of ash and volcanic debris following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Pompeii Lararium

Ciro Fusco/EPA via Shutterstock
Pompeii officials have received countless returned artifacts that were stolen over the years.

The bodies of those who didn’t make it out in time to escape the eruption lay beneath layers of volcanic ash for thousands of years. The lost city was rediscovered accidentally in the 18th century during the construction of a new palace for the Bourbon King of France.

The remains of Vesuvius’ victims who were buried alive in Pompeii were calcified by the layers of ash which formed a protective shell around their bodies.

The skin and soft tissue of these remains later disintegrated but the hard shell that formed over them remained, making Pompeii an eerie yet popular tourist attraction due to the bodies of victims whose final moments were immortalized like statues.

Remarkably, officials at the tourist site have received a number of returned stolen artifacts from regretful thieves over the years. As a response, officials cheekily established a museum displaying the stolen goods.

Although there’s no real proof of a ‘Pompeii curse,’ hopefully the news will deter other naughty tourists from stealing artifacts.

Next, take a look at the Roman Shrine that was uncovered at Pompeii after being buried for 2,000 years and check out the horse that was prepped to rescue victims of Pompeii — only to be buried under ash in its stable.

Natasha Ishak
A former staff writer for All That's Interesting, Natasha Ishak holds a Master's in journalism from Emerson College and her work has appeared in VICE, Insider, Vox, and Harvard's Nieman Lab.
Cite This Article
Ishak, Natasha. "Woman Returns Artifacts Stolen From Pompeii, Claiming The ‘Cursed’ Items Gave Her Cancer." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 13, 2020, https://allthatsinteresting.com/cursed-pompeii-artifacts. Accessed April 24, 2024.