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11 Reasons The Kennedy Curse Might Be Real

Kennedy Curse
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All families suffer tragedy and grief at some point, but few families have had such a vast number of unfortunate tragedies befall them. The sheer number of tragic illnesses and deaths involving the Kennedy family has led many to believe that the family is somehow cursed. Known as ‘The Kennedy curse’, its origin mainly comes from speculation and rumors built up over the years.

While some of the more skeptical members of society might just chalk the many tragedies, the Kennedys have suffered as just plain old bad luck. Many genuinely believe that a dark cloud hangs ominously over this most famous of political dynasties. But how much of it is accurate, and how much is just fanciful thinking?

Here we will look at 11 tragic deaths in the Kennedy clan, and we’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

Kennedy Curse
Photo By Earl P. Olsen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.

Born on July 25, 1915, Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. was the eldest of the nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. From a very young age, he was groomed by his father as the first Kennedy to make it all the way to the White House potentially. However, those political aspirations would be short-lived.

Before his final year of law school at Harvard, Kennedy Jr. would enlist in the US Naval Reserve. After successfully completing 25 combat missions, he was eligible to return home. Instead, he volunteered for a top-secret mission in 1944. Sadly, this mission would claim his life as his plane, loaded with 21,170 lb (9,600 kg) of Torpex explosives, exploded in mid-air in the skies above England, killing him instantly.

Kennedy Curse
International News Photos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Kathleen Kennedy

Born Kathleen Agnes Kennedy on February 20, 1920, Kathleen was the fourth child and second daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Kennedy, but most people called her ‘Kick’ due to her optimism and general high spirits. When her father was serving as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, she would fall deeply in love with not only England but would marry the politician William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington.

Four months into her marriage and just a month after the death of her brother Joseph Jr., her husband was killed in action in France in 1944. Sadly, her life would be cut short four years later when on May 13, 1948, she was flying from Paris to the French Riviera for a vacation when her plane would encounter a storm that would send the plane into a nosedive. It crashed into a ravine at Plateau du Coiron, near Saint-Bauzile, Ardèche, France, killing her instantly.

Kennedy Curse
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3. Patrick Bouvier Kennedy

It wouldn’t just be the siblings that would experience tragedy as the curse would soon make its way to the next generation with the infant child of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. Born prematurely on August 7, 1963, he would sadly only survive 39 hours before passing away due to complications of hyaline membrane disease (HMD), an infantile respiratory distress syndrome.

His death would have a devastating effect on the first family, and the nation would share in their grief. However, there would be one positive outcome from the young Kennedy’s passing as it would bring HMD into the public consciousness, inspiring further research.

Kennedy Curse
Robert L. Knudsen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

4. John F. Kennedy

Three months after the death of his infant son Patrick, tragedy would again befall the Kennedy clan in one of the most infamous assassinations in American history, the murder of President Kennedy while he was traveling in a presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas by a sniper’s bullets. He was 46 years old and had been in office for only 1,036 days.

Much has been written about the events of that day and who was responsible. The Warren Commission did conclude in 1963 that Lee Harvey Oswald was indeed the lone gunman responsible for the assassination, but there have always been lingering doubts about that conclusion. In 1979 the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations would challenge that conclusion as they believed “that Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.”

Kennedy Curse
Sven Walnum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Robert F. Kennedy

As the saying goes, ‘lightning never strikes twice’; unfortunately, when it comes to the Kennedy family, that would prove untrue. Like his brother JFK, RFK was born to serve and would get his chance early on when his brother became President and made him the youngest United States Attorney General at the age of 36, after successfully managing his brother’s 1960 presidential election campaign.

After JFK’s tragic assassination, he left to run for the United States Senate from New York in 1964 and won. He would parlay that success to become the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. However, shortly after midnight on June 5, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, buoyed by being declared the winner in the South Dakota and California 1968 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan would assassinate RFK. Like with JFK, many troubling and unanswered questions remain about that fateful day.

Kennedy Curse
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6. David A. Kennedy

Born on June 15, 1955, David Anthony Kennedy was the fourth child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel. Shy, introverted, sensitive, and particularly close to his father, the then 12 year old David’s life would be forever shaped, and scarred, as he watched television in horror as the news of his father’s murder was announced. Not long after that he would start using drugs, a decision that would go on to dominate his life.

He would spend two years as a student at Harvard College, pursuing a major in American history before dropping out in 1976. In that same year he would overdose on drugs and two years later, do exactly the same. By the spring of 1984, despite completing a month long stay at St. Mary’s Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Minneapolis, he would travel to Florida to be with the family for Easter. He was found dead in his hotel room a few days later after overdosing on cocaine, Demerol, and Mellaril. He was just 28 years old.

Kennedy Curse
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7. Michael LeMoyne Kennedy

Sadly, David wasn’t the only child of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel to suffer a tragic end. Born Michael LeMoyne Kennedy on February 27, 1958, he was the sixth of the couple’s eleven children. Unlike his brother David, Michael would successfully graduate from Harvard before going on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1984.

Like his father Robert, Michael has a social conscience, serving as the head of his brother Joe’s non-profit organization, Citizens Energy Corporation and co-chaired the Walden Woods Project, a non-profit organization to preserve Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He also, again like his father, successfully helped organize his uncle Ted Kennedy’s re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate. Sadly, on December 31, 1997, while skiing in Aspen Colorado, he would hit a tree. As he was not wearing a helmet or other safety equipment, the injuries he sustained would claim his life that same day.

Kennedy Curse
Image By mark reinstein From Shutterstock

8. John F. Kennedy Jr.

Born John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. on November 25, 1960, he was the second child of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, entering the Kennedy clan just 17 days after his father was elected. Three days before his third birthday, his father was gunned down in Dallas. The image of him saluting his father’s coffin would be one of the most enduring images in American history.

Training as a lawyer, he would spend four years working as a New York City assistant district attorney before going on to try his hand at acting. He would eventually found ‘ George’, a glossy monthly magazine centered on the theme of politics-as-lifestyle. However, on July 16, 1999, Kennedy departed from Fairfield, New Jersey, at the controls of his Piper Saratoga light aircraft. He would soon lose control of the aircraft before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Kennedy Curse
The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Kara Kennedy

Born Kara Anne Kennedy on February 27, 1960, she was the oldest of the three children and only daughter of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and Joan Bennett Kennedy. After graduating from the National Cathedral School in 1978, Kennedy would briefly enter the family business as she helped with her father’s 1980 Presidential campaign before going on to study at Tufts University.

After graduating, she wanted to follow a career in television, working at Fox News in New York and producing the television program Evening Magazine. She would again return to the world of politics when she co-managed her father’s successful 1988 re-election campaign with her brother Ted Jr. She would continue to produce films and serve on the boards of many charities. On September 16, 2011, while working out at the gym, she suffered a fatal heart attack aged just 51.

Kennedy Curse
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10. Mary Richardson Kennedy

Born Mary Kathleen Richardson on October 4, 1959, she was raised in Bayonne, New Jersey, by her father, John F. Richardson, an attorney and a professor, and her mother, Nancy Higgins, a public school English teacher. Educated at Brown University, she would work as an architectural designer and help renovate the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.

On April 15, 1994, she would marry Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and have four children. He would file for divorce on May 12, 2010, citing her alcoholism and substance abuse struggles. Almost two years to the day of those papers being filed, she would hang herself at her home in Bedford, New York on May 16, 2012, she was 52 years old.

Kennedy Curse
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11. Maeve Kennedy McKean

Born Maeve Fahey Kennedy Townsend on November 1, 1979, she was a daughter of Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and a granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy and a grandniece of President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She was the first-ever Senior Advisor for Human Rights within the United States Department of State’s Global AIDS program and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Global Affairs.

On April 2, 2020, McKean and her eight-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean, mysteriously went missing while canoeing. Sadly, her body would be recovered on April 6, 2020, with her son’s body being recovered two days later. It was concluded that McKean and her son accidentally drowned in the turbulent and chilly water of the Chesapeake Bay.

If you’d like to read more about this iconic American dynasty, click here


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