How many ways are there to bring bad luck?

Well, just for openers, you can break a mirror, you can whistle a tune onstage, you can let a black cat cross your path, you can spill salt and forget to toss some over your shoulder, or you can hang a horseshoe upside down. You can get the wrong half of the Christmas turkey’s wishbone, you can open an umbrella indoors, and you can even "step on a crack and break your mother’s back" – if you believe in those things.

On the other hand, you don’t have to believe at all, and if bad luck chooses you anyway, there isn’t much you can do about it but hunker down and wait until it’s reduced you to a quivering mass of jelly.

But sometimes, bad luck just seems to decide on a victim, and we found a survivor who can tell you all about it.

Meet Mr. Frane Selak, a Croatian who may be the unluckiest or the luckiest person in the world since strange and dangerous things just seem to follow him around, yet he persevered, and almost injury-free, he has a few interesting stories to tell.

Lucky or unlucky, it all started in 1962, when the train he was in jumped the tracks and plunged into a river, killing 17 passengers – but not Frane, who swam to shore, despite a broken arm.

One year later, when the door blew off the plane he was traveling in, he was sucked out. The plane crashed, killing 19 passengers, but Frane woke up in hospital with minor injuries, having landed in a haystack!

In 1966 he was riding on a bus that went off the road and into a river. Four passengers were killed – but not Frane. Again, only minor injuries.

In 1970, when driving alone, his car suddenly caught fire, but he managed to stop and get out just before the fuel tank exploded, which made Escape Number Four.

Three years later, a faulty fuel pump sprayed gas on the hot engine of his car, blowing flames into the car through the air vents, but once again, Frane got away almost scot free, losing only most of his hair.

About this time is when his friends began calling him "Lucky," but Fate wasn’t finished with him.

In 1995, Frane was hit by a city bus in Zagreb. Result? Only minor injuries.

The very next year, while driving on a mountain road he turned a corner and saw a bus coming straight at him. He avoided collision by driving through a guardrail and jumping from the car. He landed in a tree and watched the car explode 300 feet below him – which brought his total  escapes to seven.

Lucky ol’ Frane was now getting an international reputation for his survival talents, but he still wasn’t sure, being quoted as saying “I am either the world’s unluckiest man or the luckiest. I prefer to believe the latter.”

After all, he hadn’t annoyed any witch doctors, nobody had burned him in effigy at midnight, gypsies hadn’t read grim predictions in his palm, he hadn’t walked under a ladder, and he hadn’t even seen an ugly old crone riding her broom by the light of a full moon. He was just an ordinary guy who seemed to attract these unfortunate events, and there simply wasn’t a way to explain it, so he just went on with his life.

But he wasn’t quite finished.

In 2003, at the age of 74, Frane bought his first lottery ticket in 40 years, and – you guessed it.

He won more than a million dollars, and was quoted as saying, “I know God was watching over me all these years.”

Frane intended to spend it wisely, planning to buy a house, a car, and a speedboat, and to marry his girlfriend – which would have made his fifth wedding. Not surprisingly, he called his first four marriages disasters.

Then, after a relatively uneventful year, at 75 Selak was hired by an Australian television company to make a commercial for Doritos, but it never happened.

Frane changed his mind when he learned that he had to fly to Sydney, Australia for the filming, but apparently enough was enough, and he turned the job down.

He said he didn’t want to test his luck.


— Newton columnist Mike Morton writes weekly for the Kansan. He can be reached at