The Kennedy Curse

kennedy curse

Never did a truer American family exist than the Kennedys. With a longstanding history in the public eye, the Kennedys have been famously involved in politics, business, scandal, and one thing above all else: a family curse.

Known as the Kennedy Curse, this myth revolves around the untimely and downright horrific outcomes of various members of the Kennedy family. Even the late U.S. Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy pondered whether or not “some awful curse really did hang over all the Kennedys,” after he was involved in an unfortunate automobile accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne and became infamously known as the Chappaquiddick Incident.

Some say that this curse has existed ever since the first two Kennedys, Patrick and Bridget Kennedy, immigrated to Boston from Ireland; some say that it started with the mistreatment of Rosemary Kennedy by her father, Joseph Kennedy; others think that this misfortune is merely a result of the Kennedy’s long-standing medical history of mental illness and addiction; and some say that there is no curse at all. However, pushing away any skepticism or certainty that the public may have regarding the Kennedy Curse, it is indisputable that this family’s history is miserable, messy, and repetitive.

Take a look at some of the ways that the Kennedy Curse has haunted its family over the past century:

1) Rosemary Kennedy

Rosemary Kennedy, the daughter of Joseph Kennedy, Sr. and sister of President John F. Kennedy, is who many consider to be the greatest tragedy of the Kennedy Family’s history. It is popularly speculated that Rosemary had some form of an intellectual disability based on her inability to meet the expected Kennedy ideals, which caused her to rebel against her parents in several ways.

Her father, fearing she might tarnish the Kennedy reputation, decided to schedule Rosemary for a lobotomy. He hoped that it might control her outbursts, as lobotomies were advertised as a fix to hyperactivity. Instead it rendered her both immobile and mute. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. then institutionalized Rosemary in a home in Wisconsin, and while some of her siblings maintained contact, her story was not fully known until after her death in 2005.

Courtesy of People

2) Joseph Kennedy, Jr.

Perhaps his bad luck started just by receiving his cursed father’s name. Regardless, Joseph Kennedy, Jr.’s short life is another indicator that, perhaps, bad luck simply co-exists with the Kennedy name. Joseph Kennedy, Jr. became a Naval Aviator during the second World War, completed 25 missions and was eligible to go home, but chose to fly in Operation: Aphrodite. Little did he know that this would be the mission that would kill him; his plane was shot down over East Suffolk, England, and he died at only 29 years old.

Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

3) President John F. Kennedy

As the most famous and influential Kennedy of all time, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is an event that is still widely studied, analyzed and speculated. Although Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger (for motives that are still indefinite, although a love for Marxism and general resentment of authority may have contributed), there are several other indicators that JFK’s assassination was a result of the curse.

JFK had only narrowly escaped death once before this assassination, as well. Back when he was just a Lieutenant, he was captaining a motor boat in Kolombangara when it was run over by a Japanese Destroyer, and JFK and the remaining survivors of his crew (as other crew members had been killed) were eventually rescued. His wife, Jackie, also endured two stillborn births while he was in office, and many say that by marrying into the family transferred the curse to her, as well.

Courtesy of New York Daily News

4) Robert F. Kennedy

Robert “Bobby” F. Kennedy quickly became his older brother’s (JFK) successor post-assassination in many ways. As a strong leader in the Civil Rights Movement and the favorite in the 1968 Democratic Primaries, Bobby Kennedy was quickly gaining momentum and significance in the United States — that is, until he, too, was assassinated. Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian shooter, was against Bobby Kennedy’s support of Israel, and it is often said that this was the first incident that sparked the US’s involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict

Courtesy of UK Progressive 

5) Ted Kennedy

Some call Edward “Ted” Kennedy the luckiest of the family because he lived the longest; however, he very well could be the unluckiest by enduring the most misfortune for the longest amount of time. The first of his bad luck started when he was on a flight back to Massachusetts from Washington. The plane crash-landed into an apple orchard, and both the pilot and one of Ted Kennedy’s aides died. Ted suffered from a punctured lung, severe back injury, broken ribs and internal bleeding that kept him in a hospital for months. Afterwards, he was involved in the Chappaquiddick Incident—a scandal that ruined his political career and overall public reputation.

Ted Kennedy was driving Mary Jo Kopechne, one of Bobby Kennedy’s former staff members, home when he accidentally drove his car off the road and into a tidal channel. Kopechne died in the accident, and Ted Kennedy reported the accident 10 hours later after the police had discovered the car and Kopechne’s body. Much controversy exists surrounding the event and potential affair occurring between the two, but all of the rumors regarding the night have been denied.

Courtesy of the Concord Monitor

6) Michael Kennedy, David Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy, Jr. 

Michael and David, both sons of Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, died at young ages. Both were self-inflicted: one from a skiing accident, and one from a drug overdose. Ted Kennedy, Jr., named after his father, had to have his leg amputated because of bone cancer. It seems that the curse is still being transferred down from one Kennedy generation to the next.

Do you love digging into the mysterious and awesome history of Boston? Check out our history section for more!

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