Smiling H1 - 1920 x 116
Smiling H1 - 1920 x 116
Smiling H1 - 1920 x 116
Marymount - International School Rome

Tourist returns 'cursed' stones to Pompeii

Pompeii director thanks visitor for returning stones and wishes her well.

A tourist who removed pumice stones from Pompeii has returned them by mail to the Italian archaeological site after blaming her illicit souvenirs for causing her cancer.

Pompeii director Gabriel Zuchtriegel published a picture of the stones on social media alongside the 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 a 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."

"Dear anonymous sender of this letter" - Zuchtriegel wrote on X  "… the pumice stones arrived in Pompeii… now good luck for your future & in bocca al lupo, as we say in Italy."

It is far from the first time that repentent tourists have returned looted stones or artefacts to the ancient city buried in volcanic ash after the eruption of Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago, often blaming them on bad luck.

Pompeii even has a special display area to exhibit returned artefacts alongside remorse-laden letters, such as one from a Spanish tourist who had stolen a piece of decorated plaster that became "a harbinger of family misadventures and misfortunes."

Three years ago a parcel arrived in Pompeii containing a terracotta fragment of antesissa, portraying the face of a woman, traditionally used as a decorative element on the roof of an ancient domus.

Inside the package was a short note, written in Italian, containing an apology and the words "50 years ago I removed this fragment from a building. I am ashamed and I return it to the owner. Sorry".

Although most tourists return stolen items out of guilt, others do so for superstitious reasons.

In 2020 a Canadian tourist returned artefacts stolen from Pompeii 15 years earlier, to “shake off the curse that has fallen on me and my family."

The 36-year-old woman, identified only as Nicole, sent a package to a Pompeii travel agent containing two mosaic tiles, ceramic fragments and parts of an amphora which she stole during a visit to the archaeological park in 2005.

In addition to the looted artefacts, which the travel agent handed over to police, the package contained a letter of confession in which Nicole expressed regret for her actions.

"I was young and stupid" – she wrote – "I wanted to have a piece of history that nobody could have."

However she feared that the artefacts were possessed of "so much negative energy" linked to "that land of destruction."

Nicole blamed the relics looted from Pompeii for years of serious health problems and financial woes.

“I have 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.”

She concluded by saying that she has learnt her lesson and is seeking "forgiveness from the gods."

The display area of "sorry" letters in Pompeii includes a message from an English woman who in 2015 sent back a piece of mosaic stolen in the 1970s by her parents and which she believed was a bad omen.

One of the most dramatic letters on show came from a Canadian woman who recounted how years ago she had stolen a figurine from Pompeii during her honeymoon.

As the newly-weds travelled home the husband died of a heart attack. The little figurine was in his suitcase.

Photo Gabriel Zuchtriegel

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