The Cursed Chest | Kentucky Historical Society

New Details About the Cursed Chest

Photo Credit: Kentucky Historical Society

The Kentucky Historical Society has plenty of them: the Graveyard Quilt, the cursed beads, a hangman’s noose, and the suit that Governor Goebel was wearing when he was shot.

Perhaps the most unique of our eerie artifacts is a chest-of-drawers known as the Conjured Chest. Eighteen deaths are associated with the chest. Virginia Cary Hudson Mayne donated the Conjured Chest to the Kentucky Historical Society in 1976. The chest haunted Mayne’s family for generations.

The Conjured Chest’s reputation extends outside of Kentucky. So much so that the chest traveled to Las Vegas in 2015 where it was featured in Season 1 of the Travel Channel’s “Deadly Possessions.” On the show, paranormal investigator Zak Bagans interviewed Virginia Cary Hudson Mayne’s daughter, Beverly Mayne Kienzle, about her mother’s motivation to donate the chest to the Kentucky Historical Society.

“I don’t think she would turn it loose. I mean, imagine putting it out on the curb knowing that someone might put items in it and then die. She felt that it needed to be preserved, but to be kept away from innocent people in a place that would make it very clear that it wasn’t to be used.”

The Conjured Chest’s story is first described in a letter from Virginia Cary Hudson Cleveland (1894-1954) to her daughter, Virginia Cary Hudson Mayne (1916-1989). Cleveland’s grandmother, Eliza, told her the story as a child. This narrative was originally documented in the book “Flapdoodle, Trust & Obey” by Virginia Cary Hudson Cleveland. The names in the book were changed.

In 2017, Beverly Mayne Kienzle, daughter of Virginia Cary Hudson Mayne, published “The Conjured Chest: A Cursed Family in Old Kentucky,” in which she identifies the actual names of the victims and their relations to Virginia Cary Hudson Cleveland.

The chest was likely made in Kentucky around 1830, possibly in Meade County, where members of the Graham family resided. The story begins when Jeremiah Graham was making preparations for his firstborn, which included a chest that was hand-carved and made by an enslaved man named Remus. Jeremiah was not satisfied with the chest, and he beat Remus. Remus died from his injuries.

In order to avenge the death of Remus, the other enslaved African Americans sprinkled dried owl blood inside the drawers and put a curse on it. The chest was moved to the child’s nursery.

Tragedy continued every time someone put their clothing in the chest. Sixteen people are believed to have had misfortune due to a curse placed on this chest of drawers. In addition, both the chest-maker Remus and the curse-breaker Sallie died, making a total of 18 deaths related to the chest.

Original Post by Kentucky Historical Society

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