I fell victim to the Pompeii ‘curse’: Tourist returns pumice stone stolen from ancient


A tourist who stole pumice stones from the ancient city of Pompeii has returned the artefacts along with a grovelling letter, claiming the pilfered fragments were ‘cursed’.

The woman sent a package containing three small stones and a letter written in English saying she ‘didn’t know about the curse’ of Pompeii when she stole the artefacts during a holiday in southern Italy.

The young tourist, who did not give her name, revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer within a year of her visit to Pompeii in the letter.

‘I didn’t know about the curse. I didn’t know that I should not take any rocks,’ the woman wrote. ‘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,’ the tourist added, before signing off the letter with ‘I’m sorry’ in Italian.

The woman sent a package containing three small stones and a letter written in English saying she 'didn't know about the curse' of Pompeii when she stole the artefacts during a holiday in southern Italy

The woman sent a package containing three small stones and a letter written in English saying she ‘didn’t know about the curse’ of Pompeii when she stole the artefacts during a holiday in southern Italy

Pompeii was destroyed after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, covering the ancient city in volcanic ash, preserving it until it was rediscovered in the 16th century. 

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Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii’s archaeological park, shared a picture of the letter and the returned artefacts on X and wrote: ‘Dear anonymous sender of this letter, the pumice stones arrived in Pompeii. Now good luck for your future.’

This isn’t the first time a tourist has returned artefacts they stole from Pompeii, citing a ‘curse’ as the reason for doing so.

In 2020, a Canadian woman, identified only as Nicole, sent a package containing two mosaic tiles, parts of an amphora and a piece of ceramics she had pilfered from Pompeii to a travel agent in the Italian city. 

Nicole, who had stolen the artefacts in 2005, said she was returning them after they had given her 15 years of bad luck. 

She wrote a letter of confession in which she detailed her theft and her subsequent run of misfortune, including two cases of breast cancer and financial hardship. 

Nicole wrote: ‘Please, take them back, they bring bad luck.’ 

She said she took the artefacts because she wanted to own a piece of history that no one else had, but they had ‘so much negative energy… linked to that land of destruction’.

Pompeii was destroyed after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, covering the ancient city in volcanic ash, preserving it until it was rediscovered in the 16th century (file image)

Pompeii was destroyed after Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, covering the ancient city in volcanic ash, preserving it until it was rediscovered in the 16th century (file image) 

At the time, she said: ‘I am now 36 and had breast cancer twice. The last time ending in a double mastectomy.

‘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.’

Her package also contained another letter of confession written by a couple from Canada who stole from the site in 2005.

She said they took the artefacts without thinking of those who suffered there thousands of years ago. 

The ancient city is one of the most visited attractions in Italy and has had to contend with many tourists pilfering its ruins.

So many stolen relics have been returned to the site along with letters expressing guilt that officials at Pompeii set up a museum to display them.

Gabriel Zuchtriegel said they had received hundreds of apologetic letters from tourists who had stolen artefacts from the ancient site, many of whom cited a ‘curse’.

Speaking about the latest case of the woman who sent back three pumice stones, he told RaiNews24: ‘We responded to the lady who wrote to us because her letter is very touching but I remember it: stealing goods from archaeological sites is a crime and we must report everything to the authorities.’

He added: ‘Many people write to us about the alleged curse and tell us about the misfortunes they have suffered at work, in illness: these are touching and sad things. Many write returning objects stolen when they were children, these are thefts that occurred decades ago.’

Zuchtriegel said ‘it makes no sense to take these objects away’, before adding: ‘We also monitor the site with video surveillance, but the site is large and it could happen that something is stolen.’ 

Some thieves have even tried to sell parts of Pompeii online, with a brick from the ruins appearing on eBay in 2015. 



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