The Kennedy Curse refers to a number of misfortunes suffered by one of America’s most prominent political families, the Kennedys. Unnatural deaths and unfortunate events have also extended to those related to the Kennedys by marriage, such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and even to people casually acquainted with members of the family. In the context of conspiracy theories, the Kennedy Curse is believed by some to be the result of an actual hex cast against the family as some sort of vendetta. Others contend that the entire concept is largely an invention of the mass media, intended to create hype. In the most popular sense, however, the "Kennedy Curse," is simply a metaphor for the series of tragedies that have befallen the family, which may in part be due to the fame, wealth, and power that have brought attention them in the first place.
Perhaps the most devastating and memorable examples of the Kennedy Curse are the public assassinations of United States President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. Both died from gunshot wounds, and their deaths were said to mark the end of an era known as "Camelot," a term coined by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to describe a time of happiness.
Aviation Related Deaths
An adventurous and competitive family, many of the Kennedys were avid aviators, and as such, a number of the deaths and dangerous incidents attributed to the Kennedy Curse involve airplanes. As early as 1944, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., older brother to John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, was killed when the plane he was flying on a World War II mission exploded over the English Channel. His sister, Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish, died in a plane crash in France four years later. In 1964, Massachusetts Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy became the first Kennedy to survive a plane crash, while his nephew, Joseph P. Kennedy II, found himself hostage on a plane hijacked by Palestinians in 1972. John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, died in 1999 while en route to Martha's Vineyard when JFK Jr. crashed the plane into the Atlantic Ocean after making a series of piloting errors.
One of the most famous and beloved Kennedys by marriage, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis also experienced a series of misfortunes after her induction into the family. In 1954, she suffered a miscarriage, and two years later gave birth to a stillborn daughter who is buried beside her at Arlington National Cemetery and was reportedly named Arabella. In 1963, Kennedy Onassis was again overcome by loss when her son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, died two days after birth. A decade later, after she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Kennedy Onassis' new stepson, Alexander, died in a plane crash. In 1988, Kennedy Onassis lost another stepchild, Christina, to heart failure related to substance abuse.
The curse allegedly struck completely outside the family in 1969, when Senator Ted Kennedy was driving a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, not far from Martha’s Vineyard. According to reports, the senator mistakenly drove off a bridge into a channel, and the car sank in the water. Kennedy managed to swim free, but Kopechne was trapped in the car and died. The incident was featured prominently in the media, sparked a series of investigations and hearings, and many believe that it destroyed the senator's chances of making a run for the presidency. Shortly after the fatal accident hearing that found Kennedy was driving unsafely, Kennedy's wife suffered a miscarriage. Notably, Ted Kennedy himself questioned whether there was a curse on his family in a televised statement after the incident.
Other Victims of the Curse
Several nephews of the late John F. Kennedy have also died or were injured under unusually tragic circumstances. In 1973, 12-year-old Edward Kennedy, Jr., son of Ted Kennedy, lost his right leg to bone cancer. Two of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's sons have suffered untimely deaths, including David Kennedy, who died from a cocaine and Demerol overdose in 1984. Michael Kennedy then died in a skiing accident in 1997 after he collided with a tree during a game of ski football.