Cursed Books You Should Read at Your Own Risk

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Old library filled with ancient books

It may seem like the spookiest thing about walking into a bookstore these days is how empty it is, with many choosing to swipe away on their Kindle as the shelves of old and rare books collect dust. But that’s nothing compared to the cursed books that have haunted us for centuries. While novels are supposed to bring wisdom and wonder, there are a few books in the world so cursed that one page flip will leave you with years of bad luck and misfortune.

From cursed Japanese poetry and witch’s spellbooks to a deadly novel that kills anybody who dares to edit its pages, the world of literature has a dark side that you couldn’t even imagine. Read on for our top five most cursed books to read at your own risk. 

young woman reading the orphans story

The Orphan’s Story

It can take a while for an author to get their big break, even the first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected 12 times – but 400 years is surely a new record. Written in the early 1600s by Martin de Leon Cardenas, The Orphan’s Story is a Golden Age novel about a 14-year old Spaniard who heads to the Americas in search of fortune. While it may sound like the typical feel-good adventure story, a major darkness lurks within its pages that led to the novel not being published until 2018. 

Belinda Palacios, a Peruvian scholar who edited the book for two years, says that she was warned by multiple people about The Orphan’s Story. They told her that the book was cursed, and the reason it had taken so long to publish was that anybody who worked on it would die in mysterious ways. While she initially laughed it off, research showed that those who previously edited the book died in horrific car accidents or of strange illnesses. Did the powers-that-be not want the ancient script out in the world? Palacios remains alive and well two years after the book’s release… so here’s hoping the curse has lifted.

The Untitled Grimoires

You would think people have watched enough scary movies to know never to mess with a witch’s spellbook… but apparently not. The Untitled Grimoires is a set of two handwritten, spiral-bound spell books, sold by an online retailer for nearly $14,000 back in 2013. The books were handwritten in the 1960s by Persephone Adrastea Eirene, a high priestess of Wicca who supposedly led her own coven. All 250 pages are filled with incantations, spells, enchantments, and details on how to summon spirits and demons.

However, there is a serious catch. The seller warned buyers that any non-believers who messed with the books would bring a deadly curse upon themselves, while Persephone herself explicitly tells readers on the first page that proceeding with the book would have serious consequences. She wrote, ‘To those not of the craft – the reading of this book is forbidden!  Proceed no further or justice will exact a swift and terrible retribution – and you will surely suffer at the hand of the craft’. Since the absolute best way to get somebody to do something stupid is to tell them it’s forbidden, we really hope that the buyers of this cursed book made the right decision.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

Most parents give their kids toys or a new phone as a gift, but Abramelin gave his son a book full of mythical curses. That works too. Since it was translated to English in 1900, this 15th century novel has had a reputation for being cursed. There are several theories why, but most believe it has to do with the mage’s belief that everybody has their own, unique personal demon. 

Throughout the book, he gives instructions for rituals and supernatural feats to bring your demons under control. Any paranormal enthusiast knows that it’s risky to reach out and communicate with the spirit world, so it’s not surprising that readers of this book have reported bad luck and hauntings by spirits from another realm.

old cursed book

The Grand Grimoire 

When a book is nicknamed the “gospel of Satan,” you may want to think before cracking it open. Said to be written by a man possessed by the devil, this 16th century book is known as one of the most terrifying occult books in existence. It contains dark incantations and instructions on how to summon demons and raise spirits from the dead. That last part may sound appealing to those who are grieving or suffering from loss, but this book’s dark reputation makes it one of the most feared medieval manuscripts of all time. 

Since even opening the book is considered equivalent to selling your soul to the devil, it’s a good thing that The Grand Grimoire is not available for purchase. It’s said that the original copy is currently kept in the Vatican Secret Archives, and not currently available to the public.

The Voynich Manuscript

There’s nothing more frightening than the unknown, and this is why The Voynich Manuscript has become one of the most mysterious and feared books of all time. Written in the 15th century, all 240 pages are inscribed in an indecipherable language that has frustrated and cursed people with bad luck for years. While countless historians and researchers have tried to crack the code, none have been successful.

Was it written by people from another country? An unknown species? Alien life? Nobody knows… but it’s been long speculated that a fatal curse will be unleashed on anybody who finally unlocks this terrifying language. 

The Lesser Key of Solomon

The Lesser Key Of Solomon book cover

The Lesser Key of Solomon is a grimoire of demonology. Like many of these books, it has multiple names and is also known as the Clavicula Salomonis Regis. To add to the mystery the original author is unknown although several authors who have re-written it take credit on some cover variations. The pictured version is available on Amazon even.

The books is actually divided into five discreet books—the Ars Goetia, Ars Theurgia-Goetia, Ars Paulina, Ars Almadel, and Ars Notoria. Most historians believe the book of spells is a compilation taken from other grimoires dating as far back as the early 1500s. In essence, it is really written by many previous authors and compiled into a master book of magic. The contents include summoning demons, angels, and spirits. Creating magical talismans, spells of invisibility, curses, and anything else you might imagine wanting to conjure using magic.

Owners of the original manuscript report strange happenings such as pages turning on their own, the book flying off the shelf, hearing whispers in the dark and seeing dark shadowy figures after obtaining the book.

Arguably it might be safer to buy one of the re-writes as perhaps curses don’t transfer, but to be on the safe side maybe just observe this book at a distance.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is one of several cursed books according to lore on the internet today. It exists in re-print today but the originals are few and far between.

Date of Discovery

The book internally dates itself to 1458. It was published in English around 1897.

Name

Two slight variations were found – “The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage” and “The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-melin”

Image of the cover of the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
English translated version of The Book Of The Sacred Magic Of Abramelin The Mage

Physical Description

The text exists as twelve manuscripts and several English printed editions from the 1900s on as seen on the right. There are two manuscripts from 1608 written in German which are located in Wolfenbüttel. Another two manuscripts from 1700 and 1 750 are located in Dresden.

The text can also be found online in PDF form and on various websites such as sacred-texts.com although errors, omissions, and changes would be hard to verify.

It can also be purchased on Amazon if you want to take the risk.

Mythology and Lore

The text describes rituals using magic word-square talismans and daily prayer that can summon the magician’s guardian angel and demon. Once the ritual has been completed the summoner evokes the 12 Kings and Dukes of Hell in his mind in order to remove their negative influence over him or her. After the process is complete the magician gains abilities such as finding treasures, casting love spells, gaining flight, raising the dead, and invisibility.

Historian Francis King said this about the book “The Sacred Magic of Abra Melin expresses its doctrine, and the technique which depends from it, more clearly, and more consistently, than any other grimoire. The machinery of the cosmos is seen as operated by demons under the direction of angels; man is seen as standing between the angelic and the demonic – each human being having attached to his or her soul a malevolent demon and a ‘Holy Guardian Angel The object of the processes taught in The Sacred Magic was the obtaining of ‘the Knowledge and Conversation’ of this Holy Guardian Angel – once this had been done the magician could control the demons who run the universe, raise the dead, heal the sick, find great treasures and even fly [ astrally ].”

Cover of The Book of the Sacred Mage of Abra-Melin

However, this book is believed by some to be cursed. Simply possessing the book is rumored to bring forth demons from other realms who will haunt the owner which will ultimately lead to terrible luck and the demise of the person possessing the cursed grimoire. There are two camps, however. One that says it is cursed, likely due to the demon references, and another that says it is simply the most powerful magic book in the world.

For even more on the history of the book and it’s author read this article on Wikipedia

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The Necronomicon and Other Ancient Tomes

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

What is the Necronomicon

While it’s true that the Necronomicon is a fictional book, there has been so much lore built up around about it that it has taken on a life of its own. H.P. Lovecraft imagined an ancient tome that accounted for the primordial cultures and lore of the universe he imagined along with them. This universe of course exists concurrently with the world that we are aware of, as if these locations and creatures that might cause someone to have an existential crisis just for knowing about them, exist just beyond our understanding. If this book really existed the way Lovecraft imagined it—and not just as a recreation of Lovecraft’s original idea—would be traceable and we probably would have seen the world end several times over by now.

Abdul Alzahred’s book was originally titled as “Al Azif,” in reference to the noise made by insects at night—although some scholars (both real and fictional) say that it may also correlate to the sound of demons howling—since it’s not a real tome, it sadly cannot be verified from an original source. Perhaps it’s due to the notoriety of this fictional book that has caused it to come to a point where it has almost become a real entity—or perhaps it was simply an inevitability that multiple people would eventually produce books titled Necronomicon in a way to cash in upon the gullibility of those who didn’t get such an elaborate inside joke. To those seeking the true Necronomicon, Lovecraft was truthful—he admitted that he invented the idea of this book as a prop for his incredibly involved tales of cosmic horror—but it remains such a dynamic symbol in the genre that many people are simply unwilling to accept that it was no more than a fictional creation.

Even though Lovecraft wanted to eventually write the Necronomicon himself, it seems that he considered it too great of a challenge—then at one point he also thought of writing an abridged version of the book, if only to put on display the bits that wouldn’t drive the readers mad. Shortly after he first mentioned the Necronomicon, it began to appear in the stories of his peers, other authors that wished to explore the idea of Lovecraft’s cosmos—this led to his fictional book to become more widespread and seem more authentic.

Who Was Abdul Alhazred?

Alhazred was a world traveler—born in Sanaa, Yemen, he was said to have thrived during the period of the Ommiade caliphs—lived in Damascus during the 8th century—and explored most of the Middle East and Europe. As a traveler, he visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secrets of Memphis, then spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia

He was a remarkably intelligent person and an adept at learning and translating languages, it would be fair to say he was a scholar—if not an avid drug user. Alhazred would meditate while inhaling fumes from incense that included exotic ingredients—such as opium—and wait for knowledge to “fill him,” essentially alluding to the fact that his source of information for his historical tome is said to have been the cosmos itself. It’s possible that his moniker of the “mad Arab,” came from this unorthodox method of researching the universe. Lovecraft wrote of the Roba el Khaliyeh, or “Empty Space,” of the ancients as well as the Dahna, or “Crimson” desert of the modern Arabs—it was said to hold the protective evil spirits and monsters of death.

Many claims that Alhazred was simply mad, that there was no truth to his stories, but those that believe say that he visited the fabulous Irem—the City of Pillars—as well as having ventured into the nameless city that sat atop ancient ruins which housed a secret race older than all of mankind. Those who pretend to have explored out into this desert, tell tales that are strange and unbelievable, but in his last years Alhazred dwelling in Damascus, where the Necronomicon was initially created was the location of his final disappearance in 738 A.D. Concerning his disappearance—or his perceived death—there have been many conflicting and terrifying stories have been told. Being considered indifferent to the religious experiences of the people of his world, he instead worshipped entities he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu. Ebn Khallikan, a twelfth-century biographer tells that Alhazred was seized by an invisible monster in broad day-light and it

The real story behind the mad Arab is that H.P. Lovecraft invented the name Abdul Alhazred while imagining himself on adventures of Andrew Lang’s Arabian Nights when he was five years old. So as far as we know the most famous and diabolical mystical book of spells was created from the mind of a five-year-old boy that was born and raised in New England. Interestingly enough, later on in Lovecraft’s career, he was able to give the book some type of footing in the realm of plausible mythology, by referencing the Necronomicon in the same paragraph or sentence as other authentic books on the occult, such as The Book of Dyzan as well as Poligraphia.

History and Media Culture of the Necronomicon

The Necronomicon is a popular source of original stories—there is just so much information there to work with, both in a comedic and a horrific sense. We see on television that the book pops up most frequently within cartoons, where there doesn’t have to be an involved main story that it is referenced in. Some of the cartoons that are known to have referenced are shows such as, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Metalocalypse, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, The Real Ghostbusters, and The Simpsons. It makes sense that whenever a show requires a creepy book in the plot-line, the Necronomicon is the most obvious choice and it would probably thrill Lovecraft to no end to know how popular his creation had become. To know about more of the media culture that surrounds Lovecraft’s infamous tome, check out our article about the Seven Times the Necronomicon Appeared in Cinema.

When it comes to the lore that suggests the Necronomicon is anything but fiction, it probably stems from the fact that Lovecraft put so much detail into it—as if he was creating a character sketch—that it became convincingly real. Lovecraft wrote letters about this book to a fellow author and peer Clark Ashton Smith; in one such letter, he claimed that Theodorus Philetas translated the Al Azif from its original Arabic text into Greek in 950 A.D. where the name of the book was also translated into the Necronomicon. He also wrote that most of the copies of the original book were burned after several nasty incidents, where people—intent upon harnessing the power of the Old Ones—experimented with the text.

Olaus Wormius, a priest in 1228, translated the original Arabic text into Latin, soon after Pope Gregory IX banned both the Latin and Greek translations, then the church officials seized and burned as many copies that they could find. There is additional lore that claims that Dr. John Dee, an Englishman and magician, in 1586 discovered a singular long lost copy of Wormius’ Latin translation of the Necronomicon. It’s said that Dee and his assistant, Edward Kelly, attempted to translate the work into English, but no fully finished text was ever published again.

The Real and Fallacious Ancient Occult Tomes

With Lovecraft’s writing, he intentionally referenced many different tomes—to give more authenticity to his own fake ancient creation by showing that it was by no means the only such thing in existence. Instead, he threw in both legitimate books, as well as fictional ones in order to build a mythology that might make people question what was real and what was not.

Old Book on Display
Photography by Hatice Yardim

Fake Ancient Mystical Books

  • Cultes des Goules
  • De Vermis Mysteriis
  • The Book of Eibon
  • The Pnakotic Manuscripts
  • Unaussprechlichen Kulten

Authentic Ancient Mystical Books

  • Ars Magna et Utlima
  • Poligraphia
  • The Book of Dyzan
  • The Daemonolatreia
  • Wonders of the Invisible World
  • The Book of Thoth