Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Archduke’s Cursed Car

It has been said over the years that the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie at the hands of a Serbian nationalist secret society known as the “Black Hand” started World War l. 

This is not entirely true the reason being that the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef and most of the Austrian people, admitting it was a tragedy, were not exactly saddened by this event. The Archduke was not popular so actually no one cared. What really started World War l were events that occurred after the assassination.

Austria-Hungry had been looking for an excuse to engage in a war with Serbia in order to weaken or destroy them so they could take back territory in the Balkans that they had lost during the Balkan Wars. 

They needed Germany’s support in order to do this and with the assassination they were able to secure a promise from Germany that they would aid them with a war against Serbia and possibly Russia in the off chance they entered the war because of a treaty they held with Serbia. 

The Austro-Hungarians didn’t think this would occur, in fact they thought it would be a small war that would end quickly. Unfortunately, Russia did enter the war. World War l escalated into one of the bloodiest wars in human history. By the end, 15 million people had died.

So what does all this have to do with a cursed car? 

A Graf and Stift was the most luxurious automobile in the early 1900s. One of their most prestigious customers was the Austro-Hungarian court. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand went on that fateful state visit to Bosnia with his wife he took his new red Graf & Stift limousine. 

While driving through the crowded streets of Sarajevo, a Black Hand gunman approached the open touring car firing the shots that killed the two passengers.

The archduke’s car is called “the automobile that started World War I,” but as I discussed above it wasn’t the assassination—so this is a misnomer. 

The deaths of the archduke and his wife were just the beginning of a series of tragedies connected to this automobile. Some say that Ferdinand and Sophie left a ghostly imprint on the car. Regardless of whether this is true or not the car is truly cursed.

This is the archduke's Graf & Shift with a double phaeton body.
It is powered by a 4 cylinder engine with 32 HP.
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.

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