The First World War is seen as the most devastating war in human history. The total number of military and civilian casualties in that conflict, was around 40 million and all of it started when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip.
When driving through Sarajevo, the provincial capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, both were shot at close range. They were being driven on a Gräf & Stift open-topped touring car by their driver, Leopold Lojka, who was unfamiliar with the new route that he had to take due to the prior assassination attempts that failed. In a state of confusion, he pulled to a halt just six feet from the gunman after taking a wrong turn. This would prove catastrophic as this ignited the First World War.
After the assassination of the Archduke, his car which was considered a valuable design at that time due to it being powered by a 32-horsepower 4-cylinder engine changed owners about thirteen times – all these owners either died while driving or suffered in accidents – before being placed in the Museum of Military History in Vienna. It has been many decades since anyone drove this car and with that comes the curse that is associated with this vehicle. How did the curse come about?
It is said that before the assassination, a rare animal might have been mowed down by Franz Ferdinand without thinking twice. In pursuit of small game, the archduke was an indiscriminate and committed huntsman, who had been responsible for the deaths of 272,439 animals during his lifetime, according to records meticulously recorded in his game book. Hunting a rare white stag is thought to bring death to any hunter who kills it, either personally or through a family member. That is the legend that is attached to his assassination and so, could the car be cursed by the spirit of the stag? A man of his temperament and behavior, he has shot that white stag to prove his abilities and due to his high ego but the possibility of being cursed is something scientifically unproven to this day even with other well-known cases.
Photo From Flickr
An astonishing detail attached to the car is the license plate which predicts the future specifically the end of The Great War. The coincidence had initially gone unnoticed for years until a British visitor noticed it in 2004 on a visit to Vienna's Military History Museum, where the car is kept.
The plate reads AIII 118 which could be interpreted as Armistice 11, 11, 18 which is without a doubt the date of the truce that occurred on the 11th of November 1918.
World War One ended on that date between the Entente powers and Germany. The fighting at that point devastated nations on both sides as it was seen as a bloody, gruesome war that everyone expected to end on Christmas 1914.
Is the date a Coincidence? Some might think that the license plate is a fabrication, put on the car after the war. However, that date only symbolized the end of the war between the Entente powers and Germany, not Austro-Hungary for that nation ended the war a week earlier on the 4th of November.
The fateful limousine was photographed just as it turned onto the road, where Gavrilo Princip was waiting for it, some 30 seconds before Franz Ferdinand was killed. Its number plate looks very much like the current one. Therefore, there is no alteration to that license plate.
And what about the future owners of Franz Ferdinard's Cursed Car?
- The first owner was an Austrian general who was present during the assassination attempt. He later acquired the vehicle and used it throughout the war, but the war had a mental toll on him, and he died in a lunatic asylum afterward.
- The car was later sold to an army captain who was killed when he was driving the car and hit two peasants.
- Afterward, the car was bought by a new governor of Yugoslavia in 1918 and the man engaged in at least four documented accidents with the last putting a fatal blow to him by having his right arm amputated.
- Then, the car was sold to a medical doctor who was killed while driving the car as the vehicle was overturned, crushing the doctor.
- Afterward many owners of the car were either killed or involved in dangerous accidents that nearly took their lives.
In the 12 years, the Double Phaeton car saw 15 different owners. During that period, the car was involved in accidents that claimed the lives of 13 people.
All these incidents are what we called an urban legends. In truth, however, the story was circulated and popularized in Frank Edwards’s Stranger Than Science in the 1950s. A sensationalist writer prone to exaggeration and unconcerned by facts, Edwards often offered his readers something as convincing as an actual source in his bestselling books.
A similar tale concerning James Dean's cursed Porsche Spyder began making the rounds in the United States at about the same time as Edwards' story about the jinxed Gräf & Stift. All of it was done to earn more revenue by gaining more sales. The story goes that Edwards heard of the story being proven to be a hoax years before his publication and tried to convince his readers that the story is true.
However, that does not leave the fact that the license plate predicted the end of The Great War.