Via Medium, the story of a U.S. Navy vessel, USS Cowpens, which seems to have suffered a number of unfortunate incidents, including:
- Two accidents that resulted in the deaths of sailors
- One captain who ruled the ship with an iron fist, including having sailors walk the captain's dog
- One captain who was relieved for adultery with another officer's spouse
- The latest: a captain who fell ill in the middle of a deployment, handed over their duties to an inexperienced executive officer and then holed up in the captain's quarters for 3 months
The article mentions the naval tradition of the "happy ship" and the "unhappy ship" with a passage taken from from one of Patrick O'Brian's novels of the Royal Navy. It concludes that the Cowpens seems to be cursed, which is a bit of traditional naval superstition. Not sure I buy that, but I can imagine the feelings from where it might come from, i.e. trusting your life to an incredibly complex set of human/machine interactions and also thousands of metric tons of steel.
I definitely think there are happy labs and unhappy labs -- just like a naval vessel, much of this emotional state comes from the boss of the lab, be they an academic PI or an industrial group leader. I think a good leader can take their team through tough times and have them feel like they've accomplished something significant; a bad leader can make their team feel like they're incompetent and barely hanging on. There's not much physical infrastructure to rely on, so I don't think that scientists put much emotional stock in them.
I don't think there are such things as 'cursed labs'*, but I'd be willing to listen to such stories. Readers?
*Cursed instruments, though? I swear I've seen possessed balances.