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For example:

According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. (Wikipedia)

and

According to the legend, a curse befell the large, blue diamond when it was plucked (i.e. stolen) from an idol in India - a curse that foretold bad luck and death not only for the owner of the diamond but for all who touched it. (The Curse of the Hope Diamond)

Are these curses real?

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    Macbeth was a fictional story... – Mark Henderson Mar 24 '14 at 1:02
  • To say whether they could be true or not, one has to figure out if curses can be scientifically affirmed or disproven, of which I think is not possible at this time. – Caleb Xu Mar 24 '14 at 1:11
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    What does it mean for a curse to be real? – user5582 Mar 24 '14 at 1:35
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    @MarkHenderson The Macbeth curse doesn't refer to the story itself, but to the curse that the actors tend to talk about (i.e. you don't say the name of the play). – rjzii Mar 24 '14 at 13:42
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    I'm concerned that this question is too broad. By asking about all curses, I think it makes itself unfalsifiable, where asking only about the Hope Diamond curse or the Macbeth curse would allow us to introduce specific evidence. – Oddthinking Mar 24 '14 at 14:45
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No, they are not. They are the product of confirmation bias, magical thinking and often deliberate fabrication (as pointed out in the comments, there can of course be psychological and psychosomatic effects).

The Wikipedia page about the Hope Diamond details many examples of deaths incorrectly linked to it, individuals who embellished the story of the curse for personal gain, and most tellingly finishes:

Since the Smithsonian acquired the gemstone, the "curse appears to have gone dormant." Owning the diamond has brought "nothing but good luck" for the nonprofit national museum, according to a Smithsonian curator, and has helped it build a "world-class gem collection" with rising attendance levels.

People who believe in curses would no doubt come up with an explanation (probably focusing on the "nonprofit" angle) rather than admit that there simply is no curse (a form of no true scotsman fallacy). Note especially that the person who talks about the curse "going dormant" (instead of being bogus) also works for an organization which profits from the additional attention it draws to the stone.

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    -1 Some sources are needed to demonstrate they are the product of confirmation bias in aggregate. Also, what about situations like voodoo death where the belief and acceptance of curses as a part of society can lead to apparent nocebo effects. – rjzii Mar 24 '14 at 13:43
  • @rob: Voodoo death sounds like an excellent dubious claim to be asked about in itself. – Oddthinking Mar 24 '14 at 14:43
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    @Oddthinking Voodoo death is actually really interesting from a psychosomatic and sociological perspective. You would have to narrow in on something to be dubious of because there are a bunch of layers to it. – rjzii Mar 24 '14 at 15:04

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