‘Please, Take Them Back’: A Canadian Woman Returned Artifacts She Stole From Pompeii Because They Brought Her Terrible Luck

The woman wrote a heartfelt confession to accompany the stolen items.

Pompeii at dusk. Photo by Sergio Morchon, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.

A Canadian woman who stole artifacts from Pompeii 15 years ago has now returned them, claiming that they have brought nothing but bad luck to her family.

The 36-year-old woman, who gave only her first name of Nicole, sent a hand-written confession and apology along with the stolen objects—which include parts of an amphora vase, mosaic tiles, and shards of ceramics—to a travel agent in southern Italy, who then passed them along to officials.

“I was young and dumb,” Nicole wrote in the letter, which was first published in the Italian newspaper Il Messagerro. “I wanted to have a piece of history that couldn’t be bought. I never realized or thought about what I was actually taking. I took a piece of history captured in time that has so much negative energy attached to it.”

She goes on to explain that she associates her youthful indiscretion with a long run of bad luck, including two bouts of breast cancer, a double mastectomy, and ongoing financial issues. “We’re good people and I don’t want to pass this curse on to my family or children,” the letter concludes, “please, take them back.”

Karl Brullov, <em>The Last Days of Pompeii</em> (1830–33). Collection of the Russian Museum, St.  Petersburg.

Karl Brullov, The Last Days of Pompeii (1830–33). Collection of the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Pompeii’s own legacy of bad luck begins, of course, with its instantaneous obliteration amid Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 AD, which wiped out all inhabitants. Although for many years historians believed that the residents were suffocated by the volcanic ash, excavations revealed that collapsed buildings crushed most of the people. The residents of Pompeii lived opulent, pleasure-seeking lives, and the mystery of their untimely demise has incited some to wonder if their sexual proclivities and materialistic ways somehow contributed to their death.

Nicole is not the first visitor to return objects to Pompeii that had “negative energy.” In 2015, a rash of guilt-ridden tourists sent back stones and other ceramic pieces, citing a curse that they traced back to visiting the ancient ruins. A Canadian couple also returned tokens they swiped from the site.

“We are sorry,” Nicole ended her confession, “please forgive us for making this terrible choice. May their souls rest in peace.”

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