Auto-Blue

Get An Auto Insurance Quote

Find out if you're eligible to save hundreds on your car insurance.

Creepy Superstition Black Cat Crosses Your Path

10 Creepy Superstitions and Their Origins

Deb Hipp

Even if you don’t consider yourself superstitious, there’s a good chance that superstitious beliefs have still worked their way into your life. For example, maybe you try to improve your luck by knocking on wood or picking up pennies. But when it comes to creepy superstitions, these mild practices pale in comparison to the scary things people around the world believe can happen when you defy a superstition.

Have you ever wondered where superstitious beliefs originated? Well, we’ve done the work for you — and you don’t even have to cross your fingers, clutch a rabbit’s foot or throw salt over your shoulder to explore the origins of these 10 creepy superstitions.

1. The Number 13 Is Unlucky

At least 10% of the U.S. population fears Friday the 13th or the number 13 when it comes to dates for weddings, travel and other occasions. In fact, some high-rise buildings don’t contain a 13th floor, according to History.com. Some theorists speculate that the fear of 13 stems from Judas Iscariot’s arrival as the 13th guest at the Lord’s Supper. Others pin the superstition to the ancient Norse God Loki, who arrived as the 13th guest at a dinner party, upsetting the other gods and introducing evil and turmoil into the world. However, the origin may go back even further, to the preference in some ancient civilizations for the use of the “perfect” number 12 in calendars and measurements, casting a shadow over the less-auspicious number 13.

Creepy Superstition 13th Floor

2. Breaking a Mirror Brings Seven Years of Bad Luck

You may know that breaking a mirror doesn’t really bring bad luck, but wouldn’t it make you at least a little nervous if a mirror falls from your wall and shatters? This old superstition originated with the Romans, who believed that our soul could be seen in a mirror. They believed that damaging the mirror would damage the soul for seven years. Another Roman origin is the belief that our soul renews every seven years, so if you break a mirror, your soul receives a seven-year sentence of bad luck.

3. Walking Under a Ladder Draws Misfortune

This superstition originated with the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred because they signified the trinity of the gods. So, someone passing through a triangle desecrated the gods, inviting misfortune. Another theory is that criminals sentenced to hanging had to climb a ladder to the gallows, and then the spirit had to descend the ladder after dying, leaving the person’s lingering, restless soul lurking beneath the ladder.

4. Tuck Your Thumbs in at a Cemetery

Nothing raises old, creepy superstitions from the dead like wandering around a cemetery. And if you’re attending a graveside service or standing near a funeral procession, you might want to take a few extra precautions. That’s according to the Japanese superstition of tucking your thumbs into your fist to protect your parents from death, since “oya yubi,” in Japanese means “parent” (oya) and “finger (yubi), hence the parental thumb.

5. Don’t Trim Your Nails After Sundown

You may want to cancel next week’s evening pedicure once you read the origins of this superstition. In Turkey and India, there is a superstition that cutting your nails after sunset will bring bad luck. Japan takes that creepy superstition seriously, warning that trimming your nails at night can cause premature death. But the Koreans go all out, believing that discarded clippings will be eaten by rats who morph into monsters to terrorize you as you sleep. In other words, you might want to consider trimming those toenails on a sunny afternoon instead.

6. Singing at the Dinner Table Summons Evil Spirits

Next time you feel like breaking out into song over the mashed potatoes, you may want to hold off until you leave the table. Otherwise, you could attract evil spirits, according to a Dutch superstition that’s also common in Bohemia and North Carolina. The origins of how this belief came about are uncertain, although some speculate that someone may have wanted to silence a dinner mate with a less-than-melodious voice.

7. Whistling Attracts Tragedy

If you’re one of those people who just can’t get the whistling thing down, you may be luckier than you think. In Turkey, there’s a superstition that whistling at night summons the devil. In Estonia and Latvia, the superstition takes a different twist. There they believe that whistling indoors can bring bad luck, causing the house to burst into flames. Some Russians believe that whistling can cause financial ruin. So next time you feel like whistling the day — or even worse, the night — away, maybe hum a few bars instead.

8. A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Is Unlucky

The ancient Egyptians revered cats, linking the sleek companions with deities, women and a prominent place in the household. Cats toppled from their revered pedestals around the 13th century, however, when Pope Gregory IX issued a warning against having or associating with cats. He portrayed the felines as Lucifer in disguise, cavorting with witches to place curses while purring beside a bubbling witch’s cauldron.

9. Hold Your Breath When You Pass a Cemetery

You might think that practicing deep breathing when you pass a cemetery on the way to work is a good way to get grounded. But you might also inhale an evil force or a recently departed spirit looking to take up residence in your body, according to an old superstition with origins in the South. The superstition, which advises holding your breath when passing a cemetery, is still common today in some Southern states.

10. Never Rock an Empty Chair

You may be tempted to rock that empty rocking chair just for the heck of it. If you do rock an empty chair, however, you may as well hop right on and rock to your heart’s content with the evil spirit you just invited into your life. That’s according to another Southern superstition. In a different version, standing up from a rocking chair that you allow to keep moving ensures that you’ll get sick within the next year.


Now you know the origins of enough creepy superstitions to impress your friends, but there are still plenty we didn’t cover. Are there any superstitions that give you pause, at least just a little? If so, share them with other readers in the comments.

Who knows? You may keep someone from picking up an evil spirit passenger or attracting bad luck — or you could just make someone the life of the Halloween party.

9 Responses to "10 Creepy Superstitions and Their Origins"
    • Linda Leas | November 1, 2021 at 5:51 pm

      I do not believe any of these superstitions. Most made me laugh.

    • Carmen | November 1, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      My family moved from New Mexico to Colorado when I was two years old. When we would go visit my Grandparents in New Mexico, I would start counting the cars on the highway. My mother would tell me don’t count the cars because that means that, that will be the number of people that would die that day. My mother was very superstitious.

    • Raymond Whitehead | October 28, 2021 at 11:25 am

      Knocking on wood for good luck or to summon good luck comes from the Druid religion as they believe that spirits inhabit trees and the furniture made from those trees. To knock on wood summons the spirit to do your bidding.

    • Scrynt Cauldein | October 24, 2021 at 10:03 am

      These aren’t ‘creepy’ as much as they’re goofy.

    • Barbara Gallagher | October 24, 2021 at 9:35 am

      I believe is some superstitions – my Polish grandmother believed that when a blackbird hits a window that someone in the family will die soon. One morning a blackbird hit the kitchen window and we all had to get down on the floor and she prayed.

    • Aubrey Bryan | October 23, 2021 at 6:23 pm

      Currently, I have close-by neighbor who has a contract to sell his home for personal reasons; But I learned privately from his mother that he had totally vacated the property because he heard voices or spirits in the walls. He is afraid to stay overnight in his own house, therefore a sad way to lose a good neighbor. actually happening now… creepy.. or not

    • Ed Campana | October 23, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      Thank you so much for the fascinating, interesting, and informative article.

      Sincerely,
      Ed Campana

    • Junette Bealby | October 23, 2021 at 11:27 am

      I had made contact with a Sheetrock worker to give us an estimate on sheet rocking our new construction home. He had asked for address location and told me that was Indian Ground and the homes being built there, should not have been built on sacred ground. All the homeowners will have trouble in that area.
      We had a game camera on the porch area of our barn where my horse ate and drank before he entered his stall. The game camera caught around a dozen photos of what is considered by some a paranormal sighting. It is the biggest orb I have ever seen in pictures and several times it has rays or bursts of light streaking out from it

    • Frederick Lange | October 21, 2021 at 10:07 am

      The black cat superstition probably comes from West Africa where people believe black cats trail behind them a trip line sort of the way spiders trail a gossamer line.

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.