Behind the Curse of the White Lighter

In the world of music, there is an urban legend-turned-superstition that exists, one in which a disposable BIC lighter strikes caution in the hearts of all who carry it. The curse of the white lighter has been long-fabled musical lore, but where did it come from and is there any truth behind it?

Videos by American Songwriter

The superstition’s origins are steeped in rumor and hearsay. Tied to the famed 27 Club, a cultural phenomenon in which several musicians died at the age of 27, the tale poses that several members – like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain – were all in possession of white lighters when they passed.

That rumored coincidence has been translated as a curse in which harm will come to all who carry that shade of disposable BIC lighter. However, the “coincidence” doesn’t entirely add up. The fact-checking website,, published their findings and debunked the myth. The biggest axe to the legend was the dates of the musicians’ deaths and when the disposable lighter was produced.

“The first disposable BIC lighter wasn’t produced until 1973, more than a year after Morrison’s 3 July 1971 death, and Hendrix and Joplin had both passed away even earlier, in 1970,” the site pointed out.

“While it simply isn’t possible for Morrison, Hendrix, or Joplin to have been in possession of a white BIC lighter at the time of their deaths, they could have been carrying some other brand of disposable lighter,” the study explained, mentioning the brand, Cricket, in BIC’s place. That type of lighter, however, wasn’t not widely available outside of Europe until 1972.

There are certainly inconsistencies when it comes to these timelines, but there are also other facts that can’t really be ignored. Yes, Morrison spent his last moments in France and could have been in possession of a Cricket lighter, but he passed away in a bathtub and more than likely did not have a lighter on him. No mention of such an item was recorded in Joplin’s autopsy report either, and no lighter was officially mentioned in regard to Hendrix.

Of the 27 Club members, Cobain would be the only feasible holder of a white BIC lighter at the time of his passing, and even that was debunked. At the scene of the Nirvana frontman’s death, two lighters can be seen in police photographs. Neither of them was white.

The curse of the white lighter has pretty much gone up in smoke, so why do we hang on to such superstitions?

Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Meaning Behind the Song: “Stay” by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber