Visitors who remove any bit of nature from a state park are breaking the law. But those who remove a chunk of petrified wood from Utah's Escalante Petrified Forest State Park risk something darker: an alleged ancient curse that visitors claim is the real deal. The park manager tells KSL that each year he's sent as many as a dozen pieces of petrified wood—which time has turned to stone quartz—typically accompanied by an apology in the hope that good fortunes will return to the one-time plunderer. One man wrote that he "thought the warnings were phony. Since that time, I have had three accidents" involving broken bones—plus a motor home fire and a dead car engine.
Another wrote of three years of bad luck: "I hope with this act of restitution (the) Lord will have mercy upon me. I apologize and beg your pardon." It's an alleged curse not unique to Utah: In 2012 the Daily Sun looked at the "conscience rocks" mailed back to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, which claims the most petrified wood of any location on Earth. It sees as many as six letters a month, and has a 1,200-page archive of such letters that dates to the 1930s—when the story of the park's curse was believed to have been started. Still, the rumored curses haven't stemmed the thefts: In the case of Escalante, visitors now have to hike a mile into the park to even encounter the wood because the areas closest to the parking lot have been cleaned out; as for Arizona's 220,000-acre park, the National Park Service suspects as much as a ton of petrified wood is removed each month.