The Japanese Baseball Team Cursed by the Ghost of Colonel Sanders

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Even casual sports fans in the United States are familiar with the legendary Curse of the Bambino: After trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in the off-season between 1919 and 1920, the Boston Red Sox failed to win the World Series for 86 years. The Sox's spell of bad luck ended in 2004, but they're not the only baseball team to be cursed with a losing streak. Over in Japan, the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball's Central League are suffering from a similar dry spell. The only difference is that instead of being haunted by a bad trade, they're cursed by the late founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland David Sanders.

In 1985, the Tigers won the Japan Championship Series (Japan's version of the World Series). Delighted fans took their celebration to the street and, as per tradition, met on the Ebisubashi Bridge in Osaka. After naming each member of the winning team, a fan who bore a vague resemblance to the player called would jump in the Dotonbori River. But when the crowd came to the team's power hitter and MVP, Randy Bass, they ran into trouble. Unable to find anyone who looked anything like the American player, the revelers had to get creative—and that's where Colonel Sanders comes in. Fans found a nearby KFC with a statue of the fast food mascot outside. They hoisted the statue from its perch, dressed it up like Bass, and tossed it in the river in honor of the player. Little did they know what consequences their gesture would have.

Fans jump into the Dotonbori River, Getty Images

According to lore, the spirit of the chicken king (Sanders died in 1980) was less than pleased, and since this injustice toward the Colonel's statue, the Tigers haven't been able to win a Championship Series.

Sports fans are a notoriously superstitious bunch, so it's not surprising that they would place the blame on the ghostly shoulders of Colonel Sanders. It's believed—both playfully and seriously—that the spirit of the American businessman has come back to haunt the Tigers after the disrespectful dunking of his likeness. After all, the team hasn't won a Series in 31 years, despite making it to the playoffs in 2003, 2005, and 2014.

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Obviously, this sort of haunting isn't taken lightly. The team's fans have tried everything short of an exorcism to lift the curse, and in 2009, divers even rescued the statue from the river. Unfortunately, the one of Colonel's hands and as well as his glasses are still hiding somewhere in the murky depths of the river—perhaps still holding onto the decades-old grudge. We can only hope, for the sake of the Tigers, that the vengeful ghost statue spirit lifts his curse soon. (In 2003, scientists discouraged fans from jumping in the river, which was reportedly "full of toxic sludge" thanks the exhaust fumes from passing cars and pollution from the nearby industrial plants; when the Tigers won the Central League pennant for the first time in 18 years that year, fans jumped anyway.)

If you're wondering how Bass himself is doing, it seems he's been able to avoid the scourge: He's now an Oklahoma State Senator.

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