Home » ‘Cursed’ private island was once paradise for the rich, but now abandoned after unexplained deaths

‘Cursed’ private island was once paradise for the rich, but now abandoned after unexplained deaths

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Surrounded by water, a beautiful view of the Italian mainland and just a half-hour drive from Naples. There are worse places to go on holiday. Or to teach there. The latter is what the Roman poet Virgil must have thought when – according to legend – he went to the island with his students. He would have walked around there for years. Apart from inspiration, Virgil would have gained few other things from it, at least the legend.

So no strange things until then. Logically, because Gaiola’s gloomy story only begins in the 19th century. Everyone points to one man for this: ‘The Wizard’. A hermit who lived on the island thanks to the generosity of fishermen. Until one day he disappeared and no one heard from him again. Since then, everyone has had one question: did he curse the island?

Wrapped in a carpet

Not long after the mysterious disappearance, the island was purchased by Luigi De Negri, a businessman active in fishing. On Gaiola he built a villa that still stands today. But the man went bankrupt shortly after the construction works, forcing him to sell all his possessions, including his island. (Read more below the photo)

The villa on Gaiola. — © Shutterstock

Gaiola was subsequently resold several times. Captain Gaspare Albegna was also interested in purchasing the island and in 1911 he decided to sail around it to see what it had to offer. But his ship crashed into the rocks and he drowned. His body and the ship were never found, according to locals.

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Almost ten years later, in 1929, Hans Braun, a Swiss businessman, became the owner of the island. But not much later he was found murdered and wrapped in a carpet. His wife drowned in the sea shortly afterwards.

So again an owner was sought. The ‘lucky’ one was Otto Grunback, a German perfume dealer. But while spending time in his new villa, he suffered a heart attack and died.

Owner of Fiat

The body of Gianni Agnelli’s son was found under the bridge at the villa. — © Shutterstock

And so the legend of the curse continued to grow. Yet wealthy Europeans continued to show interest. That was also the case for Maurice Yvez Sandoz, a Swiss pharmaceutical industrialist. He is said to have gone mad on the island, ended up in an asylum and eventually committed suicide.

The next owner was Gianni Agnelli, owner of Fiat. He is probably the most famous on the list. But even wealthy famous people cannot escape the curse of Gaiola. First, his son’s body was found under the island’s bridge. He too had taken his own life. Then Agnelli’s young nephew Umberto died of a rare form of cancer.

However, the gruesome stories did not deter the next owner. Jean Paul Getty, an American industrialist, lost his eldest son there. Another suicide. His youngest son died under suspicious circumstances. And in 1973 his grandson was kidnapped by the mafia. Getty received his ear in an envelope with the demand to pay $3 million.

Marine Protected Area

And Gaiola’s last owner, Gianpasquale Grappone, also had a hard time. The man got into debt and had to go to prison. His wife died in a car accident.

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Since 1978, the island has been owned by the Campania government, which made the island a marine protected area. But anyone who thought that this would completely stop the curse is wrong.

Since 1978, the island has been owned by the Campania government, which turned the island into a marine protected area

In 2009, a couple was murdered in a villa on the other side of the island. Which brought up the eternal question again: is the island really cursed?

Anyone with questions about suicide can contact the Suicide Line on the toll-free number 1813 and on the website www.zelfbloed1813.be.

It looks like an idyllic island, but it isn’t. — © Shutterstock

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