“[A]bout a score of years ago, the appearance in the Magazine of the portrait of an eminent living person was often followed by that person’s unexpected death. It began with the publication of Wagner’s portrait; and for several years this fatal sequence attracted attention."
He adds, “Of course it was merely a coincidence — probably to be rationally accounted for by the fact that at that particular period the personages of greatest interest to the public were men whose work had been accomplished, and whose salutation always seemed to suggest valediction.”
In other words, they were really old.
The author also notes another deadly coincidence, this one involving a short story about the rupture of a reservoir and the ensuing flood — a manuscript that had long languished in the magazine’s inventory. “[I]t was not hurried to the press; indeed a dozen years or more passed before it saw the light.” But days after the story ran, in 1889, much the same scenario occurred when a burst dam released a rushing wall of water as tall as 60 feet and claimed more than 2,200 lives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Probably the most famous magazine “curse” in our time, of course, is the supposed Sports Illustrated cover jinx.