Tourists call it Ayer’s Rock. To the Aboriginals, it’s Uluru. Either way, it’s an incredibly odd rock that’s so close to the geographic center of Australia that we’re surprised it doesn’t feature in more ancient astronaut theories. It’s one of the world’s largest monoliths, and it’s such an impressive sight that, too often, tourists want to take a piece home with them.
Ayer’s Rock has an incredible cultural and spiritual significance to the people that live there, and the relentless flow of tourists has always been something of a sore point. While climbing on the rock is technically legal, doing so means you’re walking all over what the ancients called “dreaming tracks.” However, the rock seems to have a built-in defense mechanism, and many that take a souvenir find themselves in a hurry to send it back.
The administrators of the monolith’s surrounding national park say they get around one package a day containing pieces of the rock that were taken. Sometimes, the packages include a note detailing the misfortunes the rock brought and a plea to make it stop already. Administrators have heard stories of everything from illness to romantic breakups to death, all attributed to Ayer’s Rock.
Some people don’t take just a few pebbles, either. One package contained a 32-kilogram (70 lb) piece of stone, sent from South Australia. A 9-kilogram (20 lb) piece was posted back from Germany, and when one university student did a project on the curse, she found about a quarter of the people who’d taken souvenirs from the rock thought they’d picked up a little bad luck as well.