The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks

Illustration for article titled The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks

In Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest, Ryan Thompson and Phil Orr document everything in the national park's "conscience pile" — the name park employees give the mound of rocks that have been returned by guilty thieves. While some people just felt bad, others became convinced they'd been cursed by taking the petrified wood out of the park.

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The conscience pile exists because the rocks can't just be returned to random places in the park — that would contaminate the scientific research of the area. While warnings of fines and vehicle inspections are erected in the park, a display in the visitor center featured a few letters warning of cursed luck for any thief. Thompson and Orr became interested in the letters, and discovered that there were actually 1,200 letters going back to 1934. They are incredible artifacts of people both attributing bad luck to their bad action and seeking to end a curse and those who just couldn't let go of the guilt.

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Photos of around fifty letters and of the rocks were collected into the book. Find more letters on the Bad Luck, Hot Rocks website and more still in the book:

Illustration for article titled The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks
Illustration for article titled The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks
Illustration for article titled The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks
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Illustration for article titled The Conscience and Curse Ridden Return of Stolen Petrified Forest Rocks

[via Hyperallergic, New Yorker]

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DISCUSSION

So interesting/cool... Gonna have to pick up that book.

I've had several talks with my son over the years about "the power of belief and programming". Along the lines of, "why do vacuous, selfish, stupid, and perhaps evil people get ahead?" and part of my answer being "it doesn't matter what they believe in, it's just that they so entirely believe that they deserve more than others, and that their belief system is infallible, that some kind of cosmic matrix seems to kick in. Whether they've 'earned' their good fortune or just walked on other people's backs (or worse). Hell, even the definition of 'earned' is so malleable as to be virtually meaningless". Usually the conversation is about his mom and step-dad's hateful wack-a-doo church and politics, but I think it applies to hidden programming in all of us... The seed is planted, you subconsciously own it, and before you know it, your negative (and positive) expectations come true to one extent or another. For the "big stuff", and perhaps even more so, for the crazy everyday things. Weirds me out when I think about my own buried feelings of guilt and inadequacy and faulty childhood programming...

I could be wrong, of course. I don't have a PhD or a car.