Letter returning 'cursed' pumice stones

Tourist returns ‘cursed’ pumice stones to Pompeii

Culture News

A tourist has returned ‘cursed’ pumice stones, which she attributes to her breast cancer diagnosis, to Pompeii.

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii, shared an image of the ‘cursed’ pumice stones on social media along with an unsigned note written in English.

“I didn’t know about the curse,” the note read. “I didn’t know that I should not take any rocks. Within a year, I got breast cancer. I am a young and healthy female, and doctors said it was just ‘bad luck.’ Please accept my apology and these pieces. Mi dispiace.”

Zuchtriegel responded on social media, addressing the anonymous sender, “Dear anonymous sender of this letter, the pumice stones arrived in Pompeii. Now good luck for your future & in bocca al lupo, as we say in Italy.”

Room of returned artefacts at Pompeii

This incident is not the first time remorseful tourists have returned pilfered stones or artefacts to Pompeii. In many cases, they associate their misfortunes with the alleged curse.

Pompeii has a dedicated display area showcasing returned artefacts alongside regretful letters. One is from a Spanish tourist who stole a decorated plaster piece, leading to “family misadventures and misfortunes.”

Dr Sophie Hay shows images from the Pompeii room of returned stolen artefacts.

In another instance three years ago, a parcel containing a terracotta fragment of antesissa, traditionally used as a decorative element, arrived at Pompeii. The note, written in Italian, expressed remorse and stated, “50 years ago, I removed this fragment from a building. I am ashamed and I return it to the owner. Sorry.”

Tourists commonly return stolen items due to guilt, while others do so for superstitious reasons. In 2020, a Canadian tourist returned artifacts stolen 15 years earlier, seeking to “shake off the curse” affecting her and her family. She attributed health problems and financial woes to the relics taken from Pompeii.

One of the most poignant letters on display recounts how another Canadian woman, during her honeymoon, stole a figurine from Pompeii. Tragically, as the newlyweds travelled home, the husband suffered a fatal heart attack. The figurine was found in his suitcase.

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