I was collecting notes for another post about a cursed object when my puter went down–this is the fruit of those labors. ;)
The most peripatetic ghost in Hollywood, of all the great stars who have lived and died there, is, apparently, the silent film star Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926). Valentino died of peritonitis secondary to a perforated ulcer at the unmercifully early age of thirty-one. And that death may have been, in part, due to a cursed ring that he purchased in a jeweler’s shop in 1920.
Valentino’s friend, the bandleader, songwriter and psychic Chaw Mank (born Charles Menk Jr., 1902-1985), told the story this way:
Valentino bought the ring, a curious gem known as a tiger’s eye, in 1920. He was told by the jeweler, so the story goes, that the jewel was cursed, but bought it anyway. When he showed his new bauble to Mank, the psychic Mank was promptly overwhelmed by a vision of a pale, obviously dead Valentino, and advised Valentino to get rid of the ring. Valentino, of course, did no such thing. Several of his pictures in the immediate wake of the purchase flopped at the box office; then, in August 1926, an untreated ulcer and the resultant infection killed him.
Valentino, though, was not the only one affected by the curse on the ring. Consider this list:
Pola Negri. Also a great silent movie star, Negri, who claimed in later years that she and Valentino were engaged to be married at the time of his death (and who was at one time believed to be the Lady in Black who left flowers yearly at his mausoleum grave), was given the ring following Valentino’s death. Negri promptly fell gravely ill, and remained so for some time. By the time she recovered her career was, like that of many silent film stars, virtually over.
Russ Colombo (1908-1934). Colombo was hired by a director named Lansing Brown to play Valentino in a biographical picture. Colombo wore the ring, and shortly thereafter was killed in a freak shooting accident. (Tangentially, Colombo was at the time of his death dating the beautiful blonde Carole Lombard, who would die in a 1943 plane crash.)
Joe Casino. Casino was a gangster who bought the ring at some point but refused to wear it, claiming he was waiting for the curse to wear off. After some years had passed, he began wearing the ring; within a week, he was killed by a hit and run driver.
Joe Casino left the ring to his brother Del, who never wore it. While it was in Del’s possession, however, it was stolen by a two-bit housebreaker named
James Willis. Willis was shot dead by police as he left Del Casino’s house.
Del Casino loaned the ring out to another film director, Edward Small, who–like Lansing Brown before him–was planning a biographical film about Valentino. Small’s star was a relative unknown, but he would become the last known victim of the curse.
Jack Dunn wore the ring for two weeks. During that two weeks, he was diagnosed with, and died of, a rare blood disease.
Del Casino thereafter kept the ring in a bank vault. The bank wasn’t immune to the curse, according to Chaw Mank; it was robbed several times, and at least once nearly burned to the ground in a mysterious fire.
When last heard of, the ring was, according to author Brad Steiger, owned by a New York barber, who won it in a peculiar contest; a live radio show awarded the ring to the listener who could write the best essay describing its peculiar powers.
I have to say, this story isn’t very satisfactory either; again, we don’t know the source of the curse story, save that the jeweler who originally sold it to Valentino claimed it was cursed.
Still, some very strange things do appear to have happened to a number of people who came into contact with that cat’s-eye ring.
Danged if I know what to make of it.
I ran across the story of Rudolph Valentino’s cursed ring in Brad Steiger’s 1990 book GHOSTS AMONG US. Steiger, in turn, made use of material from a 1966 biography he wrote about Valentino, which was based in part on Chaw Mank’s reminiscences.