Earth Notes - Just Bad Luck?

Flagstaff, AZ – Earthnotes: Just Bad Luck?

Everyone knows you're supposed to take "nothing but pictures" at National Parks. But some visitors can't resist a souvenir. Some of them end up regretting it.

Rangers at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona remind people that rock hunting is illegal and threatens the beauty of the park. Still, they estimate that visitors make off with a ton of petrified wood every month. Now and then a few pieces come back with letters that relate unusual occurrences of bad luck or is it something more?

A woman who signed herself "Ashamed in Alabama" returned her stolen souvenir with a tale of lost jewelry and a serious car accident. Another woman told of getting home from the park to face car trouble and medical problems. "Then," she wrote, "our dog died."

"To whom it may concern," yet another letter begins. "I took these rocks from your park just to see if it was true that it would bring bad luck. I had heard that, but didn't believe it. Well, I believe it now keep them, please!"

It might be just coincidence that misfortune follows pilfering. But the same thing happens elsewhere in the Southwest, at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park near Farmington, New Mexico. Rangers there get apologies and sad stories from visitors sending back stolen potsherds and other artifacts of the ancient Puebloan culture.

When you visit these parks, enjoy the letters on display at the visitors' center. They're staying there for future visitors to appreciate just as the ancient resources of those parks should too.

-Mike Lamp