Mysterious Occurrences

Voodoo Death

Can a curse kill you?

According to Walter B. Cannon it can, and we can see the evidence of this all around us if we look hard enough.

It’s called Voodoo Death, and it is a very real phenomenon.

The term Voodoo Death refers to the sudden and unexplained death that is a result from a curse, typically a Voodoo curse. Essentially, this is a death caused specifically by a threat.

I can hear you already. “Bullshite!” You say. I know. I said the same thing, but it is real.

According to Cannon, in his 1942 article “‘Voodoo’ Death”, there is a scientific explanation for death caused by a threat. It’s all psychological. It has been proven since Cannon wrote his article proposing this that emotions are closely linked to physical illness. Therefore, as extreme as it can be, intense fear can cause death, and this is precisely how a curse works. Believing you will die because someone said so with such conviction seems preposterous, but there have been cases of this around the world.

For example, in his article, Cannon describes an African man who ate wild hen against the orders of this tribe. The consequence for this action was death. Panicked and feeling helpless, this man died less than 24 hours later.

A more recent example, and something that happens all the time, is when a doctor gives an individual a diagnosis of terminal illness. Often, when diagnosed with terminal illness, the patient can die much sooner than a patient who has not been told that their life is in danger. Believing that you will die shortens your life span. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A curse is not just a plot device, nor is it fictional. Curses are very real and can induce actual harm, even if it is just psychological. The scary part is that curses can come from the unlikeliest of places, even your own doctor. Be careful out there.

Further reading:

Barber, Nigel. “Voodoo Death I.” Psychology Today.

Sternberg, Esther M. “Walter B. Cannon and ‘Voodoo Death’: A Perspective from 60 Years On.” American Journal of Public Health. v.92(10), Oct 2002.