Violent poltergeists, screeching banshees and terrifying grey ladies may haunt our dreams with their ghostly apparitions, however, there are many cases of reported hauntings where a human spirit was nowhere to be found. Clutch your mugs tight, your ornaments closer, but be wary of clenching your glassware. Introducing the true terror of cursed homewares; the Basano Vase.
The vase is a pretty little thing, and old too. Cast from silver in the 15th century and produced in a simple design, it is one of the most mysterious and elusive ‘haunted objects’, lacking eyewitnesses to its power, but making up for it with ingrained tales of terror. Curiously, the ‘curse’ has no origin story, no reason for being, it just is.
Originally, the vase was supposedly a wedding present for an Italian bride, who lived in a small village close to Napoli. On the woman’s wedding night, she was found dying on the floor, her hands wrapped tightly around the silver vase. In her dying breaths, the bride vowed to have her revenge, then passed away. Whether the vase was already cursed, and sent as a threat, or the bride caused the chain of events herself, is unclear. But considering that we don’t even know the bride’s name, the technicalities of her ornamental curse ownership are understandably lost to time.
As time went by, the vase was handed from person to person within her family, yet with each new owner, came another mysterious death. Before long, the family decided that perhaps they should preserve one or two of their remaining living relatives and hid the vase away in a ‘secret location’. This may have been in a family house or buried underground, or in consecrated soil, depending on who you ask.
Nonetheless, the vase was not to stay hidden forever and in 1988, it was unearthed once more. Examining the vase, a piece of paper was hidden inside, reading “Beware…this vase brings death.” A warning which was promptly discarded as ancient curses are nothing compared to the sweet, sweet thrill of the auction house. Selling for 4million lira, the vase once again re-entered circulation and with it, came deaths.
Supposedly the first buyer, a pharmacist, owned the vase for three months before dying in mysterious circumstances. Then came the 37-year-old surgeon, who died two months later. Surprise! The vase was re-sold once more, this time to an archaeologist who coveted the vase as a beautiful example of high renaissance work. After three months with the vase in his collection, the man was dead.
By this point, the vase had garnered somewhat of an unsavoury reputation and try as they might, the family could not re-sell the vase for anywhere near the same amount the archaeologist had paid.
However, despite the loss, once again the vase was sold and the new owner duly perished. Rumours of the curse were now well circulated, and the vase was utterly unsellable. Enraged and taking the fate of the vase into their own hands, a family member hurled the silver vessel out of the window. Supposedly, this killer throw cracked a passing police officer on the head, but for once, was not fatal. Instead, the officer tried to return the vase and issue him with a ticket for disorderly behaviour. The ticket was taken without question, but they refused to take back the vase.
Having been lumbered with the vase, the local police tried to pass on the item to local museums, but the legend of the curse put them off, every time.
One way to look at this is that the belief in the curse was so intense that it was even greater than any beliefs in other curses, such as items stolen from Egyptian tombs.
Instead, the vase never made it to a museum, but remained in police custody. Several rumours circulated as to its final fate; many believe it is buried once more, with others arguing it was hidden in cemetery grounds, so that no one would dig it up again. In short, we don’t know.
There are no concrete accounts of anyone being in contact with the vase, no personal experiences, only stories and rough guesses as to its whereabouts.
But I’m willing to hop over to Italy with a metal detector if you are…
There are so many differing theories, versions and angles on the Basano vase story. It’s also held up as a far stronger story than it is in reality, being little more than Italian hearsay. The reason as to why the vase is cursed is one of the first hefty plot holes. The most popular solution to this question is that the Italian bride was murdered on her wedding night, for unknown reasons, and ploughed her anger and energies into the vase as it was the nearest thing to hand?
Similarly, all the events that followed are incredibly hazy. We don’t know the names of people involved, exact dates or times or even who made the vase, let alone gave it.
In several online accounts, they cite an article in an ex-Yugoslavian magazine as proof of the vase’s existence, but without any references or even basic information pertaining to the name of the publication. Similarly, there appears to be only one photograph in existence, which doesn’t exactly match up with descriptions, or historical/design likelihoods of the vase. After looking at the token vase image, it seems more likely that the vase in question is far newer than its proposed 15thcentury origins. One account suggests that the closest comparison would have been a ‘Chinese Shiliuzun or Pomegranate vase from the Quin Dynasty in the mid to late 1700’s.’Which I’m sure you’re all very relieved to hear.
Silver is a curious choice of material for a cursed object too. Most commonly in myth and folklore, silver has been used to ward off evil; just consider vampires and werewolves for one. By that same logic, you could say that any curse strong enough to effect a solid silver vase would be a very powerful evil indeed (should you believe in the concept at all).
In all likelihood, the story began in the 1980s when a succession of quick deaths piqued interest in the vase. It’s whether you take the string of deaths as truthful or exaggerated, and whether coincidences come into play. And, as much as I adore the idea of a weaponised trinket, I’m more inclined to believe a the story of an escalating local legend and an underwhelming antique.
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Further Reading and Sources:
Spencer, John and Anne. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. BCA. 1992.