One of the most famous families in American history has also suffered some of the worst scandals and tragedies imaginable. The Kennedy family might be American royalty, but with fame and fortune comes a whole lot of bad luck.
After an accident in 1969, Ted Kennedy publicly wondered if rumors of a curse “did hang over all the Kennedys.” Since then, people have looked into all the horrible things that have happened to the family and wondered if maybe the curse is true. Read on to decide for yourself if this was just a string of unfortunate events or if there’s something more to it.
It All Began With Rosemary Kennedy
The first in a long string of scandals and tragedies began in 1941 when the family decided to have one daughter, Rosemary Kennedy (left), secretly undergo a lobotomy. Experts now believe she suffered from mental illness, but her father, the family patriarch Joe Kennedy Sr., thought her mood swings would ruin the family reputation.
The lobotomy left her unable to walk or speak so Joe Sr. instead had her locked in an institution until her death in 2005.
Next, The Eldest Son Died In War
Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s plane crashed while he was on a top-secret military mission in 1944. Rumors began to swirl about the crash immediately because it wasn’t in combat and the film of the event has mysteriously never been found.
While many men died in World War II, the fatal plane crash that killed the eldest son of the Kennedy family hit particularly hard. Joe Sr. had intended for his eldest son to carry on the family legacy. In fact, it was Joe Jr. that everyone always believed would be president one day.
Another Plane Crash Killed Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy was the eldest daughter and easily one of the most personable and liked members of the family. She died tragically in a plane crash in 1948, only four years after her brother.
Kick was widowed during World War II and had been flying to the south of France with a married man when the plane crashed. She was known for being popular on the social circuit and many later questioned if her dating a married man contributed to the Kennedy “curse.”
Jackie Suffered Two Childbearing Tragedies
The early years of John F. Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier’s marriage weren’t easy. While their wedding was the social event of 1953, their attempts to create a family was a private struggle. In 1955, Jackie suffered a miscarriage and one year after that, she would give birth to a stillborn daughter, Arabella.
It didn’t help that at the time, John was suffering from Addison’s Disease and had a spine operation that nearly killed him.
Their Fifth Child Dies 39 Hours After Birth
The first two childbearing tragedies for Jackie were followed by two happy and healthy kids. Caroline Kennedy was born in 1957 and John Jr. came in 1960. The two decided to try for a third child and in 1963, but Jackie went into premature labor.
On August 7, 1963, their son Patrick Kennedy was born more than five weeks prematurely by an emergency cesarean section. Sadly, he died two days later due to infant respiratory distress syndrome.
The Assassination Of President Kennedy Changes Everything
One of the most well-known tragedies of the Kennedy family went down in U.S. history. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald. Jackie, recovering from the death of Patrick, was sitting beside John at the time and ended up with his blood all over her.
The FBI investigated the assassination and concluded Oswald was a lone shooter, but many conspiracy theories have combined with the Kennedy family curse over the years to argue otherwise.
Ted Kennedy Narrowly Escapes Death
Less than one year after his older brother’s assassination, Joe Sr.’s youngest son Ted was involved in yet another Kennedy curse plane crash. Ted was a passenger on a private plane that suddenly crashed into the Massachusettes town of Southampton.
Ted only made it out alive thanks to another senator, Birch Bayh, who pulled Ted from the plane wreck even after he suffered a broken back, punctured lung, and broken ribs himself.
Another Assassination Strikes The Family
On June 5, 1968, John’s younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, won the California Democratic presidential primary. Immediately after his acceptance speech, he was assassinated by a lone shooter, Sirhan Sirhan. Like his older brother, Robert’s assassination resulted in numerous conspiracy theories.
Some people believed there was a second shooter or that even the CIA was involved in covering it up because Robert was too progressive. Robert’s wife Ethel was three months pregnant at the time of the assassination.
Ted Kennedy Escapes Death Yet Again
One year after Robert’s death, the Chappaquiddick incident occurred to Ted Kennedy. According to Ted, he accidentally drove his car off a one-lane bridge on the way home from a regatta. He escaped the car and swam free, but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, was trapped and did not survive.
The incident became a scandal because Ted left the scene and did not report it for more than 10 hours. Many who believe in the curse think that Ted was involved in an affair with Mary Jo, which is why he didn’t report immediately. The scandal basically ruined Ted’s chance of ever running for President.
Joseph Kennedy II Is On A Hijacked Flight
Joseph II, the eldest son of Robert Kennedy, grew up a troubled boy. Not only did he have high expectations for carrying on the family legacy but the death of his father left him on his own as a reckless teenager. In 1972, he dropped out of Berkeley University and boarded a flight from Tokyo to West Germany.
The flight ended up being hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. All the passengers on board, including Joseph, were taken hostage. Luckily, the West German government paid the $5 million ransom, and he was safely released.
Joseph Escapes Death Again In 1973
In August 1973, tragedy struck the people surrounding Joseph Kennedy II once again when he was driving a jeep and overturned the vehicle. Joseph left the crash unharmed but his brother David Kennedy ended up with a fractured vertebra.
Even worse, David’s girlfriend Pam Kelley was left paralyzed for life. The Kennedy family ended up paying for Kelley’s medical bills for the rest of her life to keep her from pressing charges.
David Kennedy Fatally Overdoses In 1984
David, the fourth child of Robert Kennedy, struggled with drug addiction all his life, but the jeep crash made it worse. David began abusing drugs when he was only 12 after watching the television broadcast of his father’s assassination. He increased his drug use to numb the pain of the car crash and overdosed in 1976 and 1978.
It was a 1984 binge in Palm Beach, Florida that proved fatal. David was found dead in a hotel from a cocktail of drugs, including cocaine.
President Kennedy’s Nephew Is Arrested
William is the son of Jean Kennedy—the youngest daughter of family patriarch Joe Kennedy Sr.—and Stephen Smith. William was accused and charged with raping a young woman in Palm Beach, Florida in 1991. The charge and trial were highly publicized and many in America were outraged when he was eventually acquitted.
The incident was also scandalous because other prominent members of the family, including Ted and Patrick Kennedy, were at the bar with him.
Another One Of Robert’s Children Meets An Untimely Death
The Kennedy curse continued to claim victims in 1997. This time, it was Michael, the sixth child of Robert Kennedy. He died on December 31, 1997, in Aspen Mountain, Colorado. He was vacationing with several other members of the Kennedy family. Michael was playing football while on his skis and hit a tree.
Michael wasn’t wearing any safety guards like a helmet. It’s alleged that the ski patrol told the Kennedys to stop using the mountain, but Michael, in particular, refused to listen.
A Plane Crash Takes The Life Of Another Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. was one of the most notable fourth-generation Kennedys. He followed in his late father’s footsteps and entered politics. In 1992, while working as a journalist, he wanted to get his pilots license. His mother Jackie begged him not to since the Kennedys don’t have luck with flying, but John persisted.
On July 16, 1999, Jackie proved to be right when John accidentally crashed his plane into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha’s Vineyard. John, his wife Carolyn, and his sister-in-law were all killed in the crash.
Robert Kennedy’s Nephew Is Convicted Of Murder
It took more than two decades, but Michael Skakel, the nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, was finally charged and convicted of a 1975 murder of Martha Moxley. The case had been left cold until the 1991 trial of William Kennedy Smith reopened old wounds.
During that trial, rumors surfaced that William and his cousin Michael were the ones last seen with Martha. An investigation after William’s trial led to the arrest of Michael. In 2002, he was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
RFK’s Granddaughter Sadly Overdosed Too
Robert’s granddaughter Saoirse Kennedy Hill sadly passed away on August 1, 2019 due to an alleged overdose. Saoirse was only 22 when she was rushed to the hospital. The daughter of RFK’s 11th child Courtney was found in cardiac arrest on the grounds of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port.
Saoirse had begun studying communications at Boston College and was said to be battling depression. She even wrote a school paper on her struggle with mental health and previous attempts to take her own life.
Jackie Was Forced Into Electroshock Therapy
Jackie Kennedy suffered greatly after her first miscarriage and the birth of a stillborn daughter. Rather than helping her ease through the pain, John continued having an affair. One night, he came home late and the two ended up in a huge argument. She ran out into the street in nothing but her night dress and an ambulance had to be called.
After that, the Kennedys admitted Jackie to a psychiatric clinic in Massachusetts for a week where she was forced to undergo three electroshock treatments. Jackie later called it the “nightmare ride” of her life.
John’s Secret Drug Addicition
David Kennedy wasn’t the only family member who suffered from drug addiction. President Kennedy’s medical records were released and revealed he was consistently on a cocktail of drugs that included painkillers, steroids, and illegal stimulants.
While most of the medication was to treat his Addison’s disease and the after-effects of it, a 1964 interview with Jackie revealed that both she and JFK used amphetamines on the night of his Presidential inaugural ball.
None Of The Kennedys Were Allowed To Cry
The matriarch of the Kennedy family, Rose, had some strict rules in place for her children that might explain their behavior when they grew up. One of the most important family rules was that Kennedys don’t cry. This included the children. John and Robert were taught from a young age that being emotionless was best for their relationships.
Rose considered crying to be “selfish and demoralizing.” After John was assassinated, she even told the children there was no crying allowed in the house.
Jackie’s Diaries Reveal A Scary Truth About Her Time With The Kennedys
Scandals with Jackie and John’s relationship were kept secret from even just the first few days of their courtship. After her death, Jackie’s family discovered her unread diaries that painted a scary picture of the Kennedy men.
In her diary, she wrote that both Robert and Ted Kennedy were more interested in her than John. Robert’s obsession was so bad that Jackie feared if she “went out alone on a boat with him, he’d rape me.”
Mary Richardson Kennedy Commits Suicide In 2012
Mary, the second wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., tragically committed suicide in her home on May 16, 2012. There is a multitude of reasons why someone might take their own life, but of course, with the Kennedy curse looming over her, many have looked into the private details of her life for answers.
Mary had spiraled out of control after her divorce. It didn’t help that Robert Jr. openly admitted to having an affair with his now third wife, Cheryl Hynes.
It All Began With Joe Kennedy Sr.’s Infidelity
Many people like to point to the patriarch of the family, Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr., for the reason why the family was cursed. Joe Sr. was a notorious playboy who carried on an affair with his secretary for nine years.
It was also rumored that Joe Sr. had affairs with film stars of the day like Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrick. The affairs impacted his relationship with wife Rose. It’s accepted now that all their children knew of his infidelity. Joe Sr. even called Rose “mother” instead of “wife.”
Is Marilyn Monroe A Casualty Of The Kennedy Curse?
The iconic model and actress has gone down in history for her affair with both John and Robert Kennedy. Marilyn met John in 1962 and they began a brief affair. Jackie has admitted she knew of the affair and it’s even alleged that Marilyn wrote to Jackie about it.
Marilyn then began a longer affair with Robert. Marilyn’s untimely death in 1962 before either brother had been assassinated led some conspiracy theorists to wonder if a member of the Kennedy family wanted to keep Marilyn silent.
Before Marilyn, John Had Ties To The Mob
One of JFK’s earliest affairs while he was in the White House was with Judith Campbell. John met Judith in 1960 and she regularly visited the White House in the years after.
What’s more shocking in that Judith was the ex-wife of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Judith later claimed to have carried messages and packages to John from her mob boss ex-husband, and even claimed she aborted John’s child.
A Possible Soviet Spy Scandal
Another one of JFK’s many mistresses was Ellen Rometsch. Ellen was a high-class call girl from East Germany that John’s special assistant, Dave Powers, set him up with. Ellen was married to a German Air Force sergeant but regularly made trips to the White House to be with JFK.
Scandal plagued John throughout 1963 when his brother, Robert, the acting Attorney General, expelled her for being a Communist spy. Many believe it was his way of protecting his brother from infidelity rumors.
John Wooed The Same Woman Hitler Did
Long before he was in bed with a (possible) Communist spy, John was having an affair with a woman named Inga Arvad. John was a young Navy Ensign and she was in America with her husband. The problem was that the FBI already had Inga under surveillance for being a Nazi spy.
Hoover had discovered that Adolf Hitler himself had tried to woo Inga several times. The FBI feared she was trying to collect information from Kennedy for Hitler.
The Original White House Intern Affair
Before Monica Lewinsky, there was Mimi Alford. Mimi was the 19-year-old White House intern that had an 18-month affair with JFK that began only four days after she was hired.
Mimi alleged that Kennedy took her on a tour of the White House and led her into Jackie’s bedroom, where they had their first sexual encounter. The affair lasted until August 1963 and Mimi was actually supposed to be on the trip with JFK to Dallas, where he would eventually be assassinated.
Marlene Dietrich Had A Quick Affair With Yet Another Kennedy
The actress and singer was known for her long-time affair with Joe Kennedy Sr., but in 1962, she also had a brief fling with his son, President Kennedy. Deitrich later revealed that it was a one-time fling with JFK in 1962. She actually told her friend that she didn’t remember most of it because “it was all so quick.”
She was in her sixties when the affair happened and remarked the brief encounter as a “conquest.”
Joe Sr. Had To Bribe Jackie Not To Divorce John
They may have seemed like the perfect couple, but in reality, Jackie and JFK had serious marital problems as early as 1956. Jackie was said to have wanted a divorce early into their marriage, especially after the initial failure to have kids. Joe Sr. had his eyes on making his eldest son the President, and allegedly offered Jackie $1 million to stay his wife.
Jackie agreed to stay with JFK on the condition he didn’t bring home a “disease from any of his mistresses.”
Jackie Knew About Everything
It’s clear that Jackie and the entire Kennedy family knew about John’s problems staying faithful. In fact, Jackie actually taught the women who married into the family that with the Kennedys, infidelity was just a fact of life.
Jackie may have ignored it be she didn’t exactly keep it a secret. She once even boldly introduced a White House staff member, Priscilla Wear, to a French reporter as “the girl that’s sleeping with my husband.”