Christine is both a film and novel chronicling a young man’s struggles with a car that has a life of its own. Stephen King is rumored to have written this novel based upon James Dean’s Porsche Spyder. But, what are the facts behind this tale of a cursed car? Does this phenomenon truly exist or is it the product of a vivid imagination? Tales of inanimate objects being “cursed,” or “possessed,” have been the topic of many stories for centuries in nearly all cultures. But, are cursed cars just fiction?
James Dean became a superstar after his movie, Rebel without a Cause. He was a sensationalized “heartthrob,” across the country. After he’d become successful, he began collecting cars. His love for the adrenalin rush from racing was not the only dubious presence in his life. Dean’s most notorious purchase was of the silver 1955 Porsche Spyder, aptly titled, “Little Bastard.” This car was one of only 90 Spyder’s created by the company.
Immediately, those in his social circle became alarmed. Fellow actors such as Nick Adams, Ursula Andress, and Eartha Kitt grew anxious as soon as they saw Dean’s new pride and joy. Famed car designer and Dean’s personal automobile customizer, George Barris, stated the vehicle gave, “weird feelings of impending doom.” Actress Malia Nurmi, better known as Vampyra, is reported to have been horrified by the car and begged him to get rid of it. Dean was frequently warned against driving the vehicle, but chose to ignore the words of friends and business acquaintances.
On September 30, 1955, Dean was on his way to a race in the Spyder. He was involved in a head-on collision. He died on the way to the hospital. The wreckage was purchased and taken to a garage where, on arrival, the broken heap of metal slipped from the trailer and broke a mechanic’s leg.
The engine and drive train were each purchased by one of two doctors. The two physicians were friends and racers themselves. The first placed the engine in his racing car while the other installed the drive train in his vehicle. They raced their newly renovated cars together on October 2, 1956. The doctor who used the engine hit a tree and died instantly. The other was seriously injured when he went too fast into a curve and his car rolled.
Two of the Spyder’s tires remained in good condition and were sold. The purchaser returned them the next week and claimed they both blew, at the same time, while he was driving and he went in a ditch. Two souvenir thieves attempted to take parts from the wreckage and both were injured. One thief had a more serious injury when trying to reach inside the vehicle. A shard of metal gashed his arm open lengthwise.
It became clear the vehicle, and its parts, would not be used for driving again. It went on display with the California Department of Transportation. The vehicle showed the dangers of racing and driving recklessly. It was carried throughout the country, but the “bad luck,” started after only two exhibitions.
The third exhibition was in Fresno, California. While the car was being stored in a garage, the building went up in flames. The entire structure, and all equipment, was consumed and scorched in the fire. Except the Spyder, it survived with only minor paint damage.
Later when the car was on display at a high school, misfortune hit again, a high school student was injured when the bolts holding the displayed wreckage broke. There are conflicting reports as to what happened to the student. One report states his legs were crushed, while the other claims his hip was broken.
As if that weren’t enough, the vehicle soon found itself in the middle of tragedy again. While being transported via truck, the driver lost control of his automobile. He was thrown from the vehicle, but survived, until the Spyder fell from its place onto him. He was crushed.
In 1960, the silver Spyder was crated to be transferred from Miami, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. When the boxcar arrived and was opened, the crate was there, but no car. No one knows what happened to infamous automobile. The end of the Spyder is still a mystery today. Perhaps someone knew there was something wrong with the car and disposed of it. Souvenir thieves might have taken it.
Europe and the United Kingdom also have their tales of phantom vehicles. There are rumors that a red tour car started World War I. The Archduke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated on June 28, 1914 inside the six-seated car.
The next owner of the tour car was General Portiorek. After acquiring the vehicle, Portiorek suffered an embarrassing military defeat. He was summoned to Vienna where he was publicly humiliated. He lost his status and respect. He died in an insane asylum.
The next owner was an unnamed Army Captain. He was on a regular drive in the car and swerved to miss two peasants standing in the road. He was unable to avoid them and ran into a tree. All three died from the crash.
The Governor of Yugoslavia was the next owner. He restored the vehicle, but his luck did not improve. He was in four accidents and his ownership apparently cost him an arm. He finally became convinced that the car was cursed.
His friend, Dr. Srikis, believed it was all nonsense. He purchased the car and assumed ownership. He died six months later in a wreck.
Yet, another doctor purchased the car after Srikis. He complained of problems with his patients until he sold it. The next owner, a diamond merchant, suffered such misfortune that he committed suicide.
A Swiss race car driver purchased the car next. He was killed in a wreck. A wealthy farmer then purchased the vehicle. He couldn’t get it to start so he started hooking the vehicle up to be towed off. As he was preparing to attach the chains, the car started and ran over him. He died as a result.
The last owner was traveling to a wedding with five friends. The car subsequently crashed and killed everyone inside, save for one passenger. The red tour car is now safely stored in a museum.
You can look online and find countless accounts of people who believe their vehicles are bad luck. People have complained of strange sounds, smells, and even an inability to photograph their suspected vehicle. There have been drivers who complained that the car constantly required repair for non-engine issues when there was no explanation. One vehicle had an uncanny ability to crack windshields.
The origin of each phantom phenomenon is equally a mystery. The topic is relatively unexplored and theories of where it might start are innumerable. From disgruntled employees to a vehicle simply being “bad” upon creation, there are no solid explanations as to why this happens only to a select group of automobiles.
James Dean’s Spyder and the red touring car are dramatic examples of cars that are labeled, “cursed.” Why did Dean’s car, and none of the other 89 manufactured, be the one to carry the negativity? Touring cars were common in Europe and it is not known why the Archduke’s automobile was the one to share the Spyder’s label of “cursed.” It would seem that Christine, while fiction, offers a glimpse of a relatively unheard of topic in the professional paranormal field.
While the Spyder vanished from known existence, the red tour car is still on display, for those ambitious visitors. You can travel to Vienna and visit the Heereschichtliches Museum to see the car, ironically, alongside the uniform still carrying the stains of Archduke Ferdinand’s blood.
More information on these bizarre automobile occurrences is available at Wikipedia. This site offers a list of information on “cursed” or “possessed” automobiles:
- A farm in the Midwest was reportedly being visited by a phantom sedan.
- In 1982, two people in Hawaii reported seeing a mysterious black car which disappeared a second later.
- In 1995, an eyewitness saw a brown 1960s car that had bumper stickers, the witness passed the car but it mysteriously reappeared ahead of the witness’s car. Also the witness noticed that the driver was a teenaged boy and that he never turned his head.
- 2004, In Cape Town, South Africa, a Renault sedan mysteriously rolled up an embankment and hit a fence, despite the fact that the handbrake was engaged and the engine was off. Some say the car was “jumping”.
- In the mid 1980s, three people in a sedan reported seeing a gray van heading straight towards them. Then suddenly the van vanished.
- In Germany, a car mysteriously started up by itself and rammed a wall.
- An eyewitness claimed that an old truck started up by itself and blinked at him as he walked past an old house.
- Early 1980s – A British motorist crashed his car in order to avoid a truck that suddenly appeared coming straight towards him and then vanished.
- There were frequent reports in the 1930s of a large ghost London Bus in Ladbroke Grove at the junction of St Mark’s Road and Cambridge Gardens. There was never a visible driver or crew, though the internal lights were on. It took the blame for several crashes on St Mark’s Road, leading the road being straightened. After this lengthy work, the bus was never seen again.
This is an editorial I created for the paranormal investigation group: The Hauntmasters Club. References are available on the page.