Ted Kennedy Suspected His Family Had A Curse, & He Might've Been Right

On the evening of July 25, 1969, Senator Ted Kennedy verbally acknowledged a troubling pattern in his family's history: tragedy dogged the Kennedys. A week earlier, Kennedy had crashed his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing his 28-year-old passenger. So Ted wondered, during a televised broadcast following the Chappaquiddick accident, whether "some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys."
The Chappaquiddick accident was awful, and unfortunately it fits among the Kennedy family's equally awful history. The Kennedy Family Curse, as it's called, features four plane crashes, two assassinations, and an alarming number of young deaths. While this is an eerie string of unfortunate events, the so-called pattern may realistically be chalked up to the fact that the Kennedys are all so firmly in the public eye — we're paying attention and cataloguing every turn for the dramatic. “Certainly those tragedies have equally affected other families, but [the Kennedys] are the people who are in the public eye. Other people are not known," psychotherapist Melody Masi told the Cape Cod Times.
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If you were born any time in the '90s or later, you might be vaguely aware of this legendary "curse," but not familiar with the details. Are the facts enough to convince you of some curse following the Kennedys? Read on to see.
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In 1941, 23-year-old Rosemary Kennedy has a lobotomy.

Many of the fixtures of the Kennedy "curse" are public events — plane crashes, assassinations. But Rosemary Kennedy's tragic life was kept secret for a long, long time. Rosemary, the eldest daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy, was unlucky from birth. The obstetrician supposed to deliver Rosemary was running late, and the inexperienced nurse held Rosemary's head in place in the birth canal for almost two hours. This preventing oxygen from reaching Rosemary's brain. Later in life, it was apparent that Rosemary suffered from intellectual disabilities, as well as epileptic seizures, as a result.

Rosemary's parents, concerned with the Kennedy family public image, were determined to keep their daughter's intellectual abilities a secret. The radical procedure of a lobotomy – or the practice of removing parts of the brain to lessen mental illness – seemed like their chance to "cure" Rosemary. When she was 23, Rosemary underwent a lobotomy procedure. The doctors cut through her brain until she was no longer able to speak.

The lobotomy left Rosemary unable to walk or talk. She was sent away to a psychiatric care facility, and did not see her family for 20 years. In the press, the family said Rosemary was reclusive. Her story came out largely thanks to two books — Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Larson, and The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Elisabeth Moss will star as Rosemary in an upcoming biopic.

Pictured, from left: Kathleen Kennedy, Rose Kennedy, and Rosemary Kennedy.
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In 1944, Joseph Kennedy Jr. is killed in WWII.

Joseph Kennedy Jr. was the oldest of the nine Kennedy children. His father, Joe, spent years grooming him to rise to political greatness, and Joe Jr. internalized the message. Supposedly, before graduating from college, he told his friend he would become "the first Catholic president of the united States." Unexpectedly, though, Joe junior dropped out of law school and joined the Navy in June 1941. Though he could have gone home in 1944 having completed 35 successful missions, Joe Jr. decided to stay on for one more mission — an experimental one, at that. As part of Operation Aphrodite, Joe Jr. took off on a plane carrying 20,000 pounds of explosives. His job was to send the plane towards a German target before bailing. However, the plane exploded.

After Joe Jr. died at the age of 29, Joe Sr. told Jack (the second son) that now he would be groomed to be president. “It was like being drafted. My father wanted his oldest son in politics. ‘Wanted’ isn't the right word. He demanded it. You know my father," Vanity Fair reports that Jack Kennedy once told a reporter.
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In 1948, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy Cavendish dies in a plane crash.

Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy was the fourth of Rose and Joe Kennedy's nine children, but she stood out in her vivacious personality. “If you look at all nine [Kennedy] children, she was the only one who didn’t march down the prescribed road," Lynne McTaggert, author of Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times, told The New York Post. She was charming, lively, and known to kick her shoes off in fancy English manors.

When she was 24, Kick married Billy Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington (who was Protestant, much to the horror of her mother). Four months later, Billy was killed in combat. Years later, Kick met another man, the 9th Earl Fitzwilliam. He was in the process of getting a divorce; they wanted to marry next. She and Fitzwilliam were traveling to the French Riviera for vacation when their plane crashed. All four passengers died.
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John and Jackie Kennedy lose children.

Jackie Kennedy was pregnant five times. In 1955, she had a miscarriage. Then, she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, whom they named Arabella. Finally, Jackie gave birth to healthy babies — her third and fourth pregnancies produced Caroline and John. In 1963, while John Kennedy was president, Jackie gave birth to their third child, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. Patrick was the first baby born to an active president since the 1800s. However, he was born with respiratory problems. He died two days later of respiratory distress syndrome. Back then, this highly deadly disease killed 25,000 infants a year. Now, due to medical breakthroughs, the survival rate is 95%.
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In 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.

This one, you almost assuredly knew about. On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald while traveling in an uncovered limousine in Dallas, Texas, and was pronounced dead not long after. Next to President Kennedy in the car was Jackie; this was her first outing since the death of their son, Patrick, earlier that year.
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In 1964, Ted Kennedy narrowly escapes dying during a plane crash.

Plane crashes are a common motif on this list. Nine months after John was assassinated, Ted Kennedy – then 32-year-old Senator — was flying to Massachusetts to campaign. He was traveling his legislative aide, a fellow senator, the senator's wife, and the pilot. The plane crashed. Kennedy was badly injured, but his aide, Edward Moss, and the pilot, Edwin Zimny, died. Kennedy spent five months in a hospital and experienced lifelong back injuries.
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In 1968, Robert Kennedy is assassinated during his primaries campaign.

After winning the California presidential primary, Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Sirhan, a Palestinian, said that he killed Kennedy for supporting Israel. Sirhan was sentenced to death, but since the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972, he is now serving a life sentence.
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In 1969, Ted Kennedy gets in a fatal accident off Chappaquiddick Island.

This accident is the subject of the recent movie Chappaqquiddick. At the time of the accident, Ted was attending a reunion of people who worked on Robert Kennedy's campaign, along with six campaign secretaries and five other men. He offered to drive 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne to the ferry, which would take them to Martha's Vineyard. Instead of turning towards the road to go to the ferry, though, Ted took a dirt road to the beach. Soon after, his car hurtled over a bridge into a pond. Somehow, he was able to escape from the car. Kennedy tried to rescue Mary Jo, but did not call the police. At 8:30 a.m., two fishermen spotted the car and called the police. A diver concluded that Kopechne had actually died of asphyxiation, not drowning — she'd been breathing through an air bubble for three to four hours, waiting for rescue.

Pictured: Senator Kennedy at Kopechne's funeral.
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Photo by David Mcgough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
In 1973, Joseph P. Kennedy II is a devastating car accident.

Robert Kennedy was assassinated at the age of 43, and left 11 children behind — including Joseph P. Kennedy II. At the age of 20, Joe Kennedy was driving a Jeep in Nantucket with six other people, including his brother, David, and his brother's girlfriend. Pamela Barkley, David's then-girlfriend, was left paralyzed. David was injured.
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Photo: Brian Quigley/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.
In 1984, David Kennedy dies of a drug overdose.

On June 5, 1984, when David Kennedy was 12 years old, he nearly drowned in Malibu. His father, Robert Kennedy, dove in to save David from the undertow. The following day, Robert won the Democratic ticket in the California victory — and was assassinated that evening. David heard the news while watching TV by himself.

David turned to drugs soon after this traumatic incident, and eventually became addicted to heroin and alcohol. He eventually died at the age of 28 of an overdose.
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In 1997, Michael Kennedy dies in a skiing accident.

Michael was one of Robert Kennedy's 11 children. He died at the age of 39 after crashing into a tree while skiing. Prior to his death, Michael had been in the press because of his public affair with his family babysitter, which allegedly began before she was 16.
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In 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, die in a plane crash, along with Bessette Kennedy's sister.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy were an undeniable it-couple, which made their death all the more unexpected. In July 1999, John was flying Carolyn and her older sister, Lauren, to Martha's Vineyard for a family wedding, when the plane crashed somewhere in the Atlantic. The National Transportation Safety Board ultimately ruled the cause of the crash as, "The pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation. Factors in the accident were haze and the dark night."
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