According to the rumor, the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand sat when he was assassinated caused the death of multiple people over the years. According to Smithsonian.com the legend of the cursed car originated in the 50’s, but it seems that the rumor is much older.
On the 28th of June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie Chotek were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist. This event is widely acknowledged to have sparked the outbreak of World War I.
The car in which Franz Ferdinand sat in at the moment of his death was a Gräf & Stift made in 1910. The rumor has it that the subsequent owners of the car had their fair share of “troubles” as well:
“The first owner after the Archdukes’ death was a General Potiorek. He developed mental problems and later died in an insane asylum. An army captain, the next owner; died in an accident after hitting and killing two peasants on the road. The governor of Yugoslavia bought the car, he had four accidents in four months while driving the car; the last resulted in the amputation of his right arm. The governor sold the car to a doctor, who lost his life when the car overturned and crushed him. With each successive owner the tragedies continued. They were either injured or killed in accidents while in possession of the car. In all, thirteen people associated with the car died—it was then taken out of service. Today this supposedly haunted Graf & Stift automobile is displayed at the War History Museum in Vienna—the bullet holes from the assassination are still visible.”
While it’s certainly true that the car can be found in the Museum of Military History in Vienna, the other details of the rumor could not be verified by either Smithsonian or Snopes. According to Smithsonian, the story of the cursed death car did not begin to make the rounds until decades after Franz Ferdinand’s death. The article suggests that the legend dates only to 1959, when it was popularized in a book called Stranger Than Science, written by Frank Edwards, who was a relatively well-known American ufologist in the 50’s and 60’s.
However, according to the archives of the Hungarian newspaper Délmagyarország, the legend of the cursed car is much older. An article from 1927 reports on the Berlin correspondent of the “Ewening Post”, whose job would have been to investigate another accident related to Franz Ferdinand’s car. According to Délmagyarország the reporter was sent to Hungary; only to find that the story was completely false.
This article is important in showing that the legend was well-known overseas well before Frank Edwards’s book came out.
As for anyone interested in another account of Franz Ferdinand’s car; we’d recommend the book titled “Das Auto von Sarajevo”. According to its writers, the aforementioned car was put on exhibition in the Museum of Military History in Vienna from 1914 to 1944. The car was severely damaged during World War II, and was moved to its current place (a different wing of the same museum) after its restauration was complete.
Photo: Hemmings Daily / Délmagyarország