This has got to be one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever come across. If you were a fan of the Hanshin Tigers–a baseball team from Osaka, Japan–between 1985 and 2003, you are probably not a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Or especially its founder and mascot, Colonel Sanders. Legend has it that the good Colonel’s spirit cursed the Hanshin Tigers when his statue was thrown into a river nearly 30 years ago.

First, the Hanshin Tigers are known throughout Japan as a hard-luck team. They’re often compared to the Boston Red Sox, though personally I think the Chicago Cubs might be a more apt comparison. Anyway, they win so seldom that when the team won the Japan Series in 1985, their fans went on a rampage, storming a KFC restaurant near the stadium. A life-sized plastic statue of the Colonel was wrenched from its moorings and thrown into the nearby Dotonbori River.

This act of vandalism, somewhat out of character for polite Japanese sports fans, was said to have triggered a curse. The Hanshin Tigers did not approach a pennant for the next 18 years. The legend spread throughout Osaka that the Tigers would not win another title until the statue of Colonel Sanders was recovered.

The Tigers came close to a title in 2003, but some fans insist the curse is still in effect–although they did much better that year the Tigers lost to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so it can be said the “Curse of the Colonel” has not yet been lifted.

This despite the fact that, amazingly, the statue pitched into the river in 1985 was actually found in 2009. Here is a news article detailing the recovery. Having spent 24 years underwater the Colonel was quite pitted, and his hands and glasses had disappeared. But it was undoubtedly the same statute.

I don’t even know what to make of this. Since childhood I’ve always been a little afraid of Colonel Sanders, despite the fact that he died in 1980, but that’s just a psychological block. Anyway, you can read more about the “Curse of the Colonel” here.