Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grave Superstitions

Today is the ‘Ides of March’ and that seems the perfect time to cover grave superstitions.  A soothsayer, who knew what he was talking about, gave the warning “Beware the Ides of March” to Julius Caesar. Caesar was stabbed 23 times on March 15th, 44 B.C. by 60 senators – including his best friend, Marcus Julius Brutus, (“Et tu Brute?” –Thank you William Shakespeare.)

My grandmother, Ethyl France Dellinger & Florrie.
Superstitions are actually beliefs we hold without any true or rational basis, beliefs that may be exaggerated or simply false. Superstitions exist for all aspects of life – love, luck, weddings, pregnancy, money, theatre, weather, and, of course, death.  They are passed on from person to person, generation to generation. Call them old wives tales, folklore or prophecy, superstitions foretell or fore sway future events. Growing up in Indiana, I learned my fair share of ‘tall tales.’  My grandmother, Ethyl Dellinger, passed on many family superstitions to me.  Some that I remember that had to do with death include:

Never county the number of cars in a funeral procession. 
(I was a notorious counter.)

Never point at a funeral procession, its bad luck.

Never take flowers from a grave.

If you spill salt, immediately throw some over your left shoulder to keep the Devil at bay.

An owl hooting outside of your window for three nights in a row foretells a death – yours of someone close to you.

Here are some other death superstitions you may have heard.

Death superstitions involving nature:

Flowers will grow on the grave of someone who lived a good line.  Only weeds grow on the grave of someone who was evil.

If a bird flies into your window, there has been a death.

If you see an owl during the day, there will be a death close to you.

An owl hooting outside of your window for three nights in a row foretells a death, yours of someone close to you.

If lightening strikes near the house when someone is dying, the devil has come for their soul.

If it rains in an open grave, it’s bad luck for the family.

If there is a thunderstorm during a funeral, the deceased has gone to hell.

If there is thunder following a burial then the deceased has reached heaven.

Physical death superstitions:

Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so evil can’t enter. 
Another version is:  If you don’t hold your breath when passing a cemetery, you will not be buried.

If you have an involuntary shiver, someone has just walked over your grave.

If you cast a headless shadow then you will die in the next year.

If you lie down in a coffin you are taunting death to come and take you.

Never whistle in a graveyard, you are summoning the Devil.

Never wear anything new to a funeral.  (Shoes seem to have particular significance.)

Coins should be placed on the eyes of the deceased to pay the ferryman, Charon, to row the departed across the underworld river Styx.

Death superstitions in your home:

Howling dogs in the night signify that someone ill in the house will die soon.

If a picture suddenly falls off of the wall, someone you know has died.

You should stop all clocks in the house where someone dies or it will bring bad luck.

Open a window in the room when someone dies so that they can move on.

Cover all mirrors after a death – so that the soul doesn’t get trapped in them.

A casket must be carried out with the deceased’s feet first.

Death and the number 3:

If you hear three knocks and no one is there, someone close to you has died.

If only 3 candles are lit in a room, the person closest to the shortest candle will be the first to die.

Death comes in threes.

Death superstitions about the graveyard:

A metal cross on a grave will hold the spirit there.

A body should be placed in the grave with its head to the west and feet to the east so that when it rises up it will face the sun.
Never remove anything from a gravesite.

It is bad luck to walk on graves.
It is bad luck to trip when you’re in a cemetery.

Being buried on the north side of the church is considered unlucky because of the lack of sun.   That area is usually reserved for criminals and suicides.

It is bad luck to go into a cemetery at night, or to be there at the stroke of midnight.

And I just have to mention – Grave Superstitions is my 13th blog post for A Grave Interest.  (Wish me luck while I search for that rabbit’s foot…… ; )

~ Joy


  1. why number 113 brings bad luck and family deaths for me?

  2. Tonight I took a broken head stone home with me. I feel like I should return it.

    1. Then I would suggest, maybe you should...

    2. Why would you take a piece of a headstone? That's rude!


  3. "It is bad luck to trip when you’re in a cemetery."

    How about if you trip *into* a grave and brake your arm?

    1. I haven't heard where it's bad luck to trip in a cemetery, but apparently if you broke your arm, it wasn't exactly good. But it is bad luck to walk on a grave ...

  4. There's a particular grave yard that seems to bring me bad luck, although I don't "sense" anything bad at all while I'm there. Once, when I was there helping to clean up after a storm, I fell, twisting my ankle badly, and before I left there that day a wasp stung me! What are the odds of spraining your ankle and being stunk by a wasp in the same day, let alone within an hour of each other and in the same location? I was there yesterday and started feeling unwell almost immediately after leaving, like I had gotten into something to which I am allergic. Today, I don't feel well at all- definitely allergy symptoms. How odd.

    1. I, too have been in cemeteries where I've felt odd; nothing feels wrong, I'm just "out of sorts." For what ever reason, I believe I would avoid this one.

    2. Don't take anything sure is right! Unsure how many can believe this, because it is tough! But since you are here, reading... Perhaps you know what I'm saying! I was around 16 or 17. My friends, Steve and Mike, called me from a payphone at a store nearby this old abandoned property and previous site of an old gambling house, said to have been frequented when passing through, by Bonnie and Clyde. That's a side note, and probably irrelevant to this story. But I think interesting, nonetheless.

      They told me on the phone, that they needed me to come out there and get them, mid afternoon sunny day, to return a headstone they had taken from this property. (don't ask me why).... I said, you did WHAT? It was stupid, I know, but we're trying to put it back now. He goes on to say that both his, and mikes car, seem to have broken transmissions, while carrying the stone. On the service road, not a mile down from the gate to the property. They took it in Steve's mom's car, had it in the trunk. (1984 Pontiac Bonneville) made it about 100 feet from the property, and without warning, ceased to move forward anymore. They went and got Mike's car (1971 Chevrolet Chevelle) and put it in his trunk and without warning same thing happened about 100 feet further.

      They wanted me to come in my '77 Camaro and take it back. I said, hell NO! Are you crazy? He insisted that since we weren't trying to take it now but instead, take it back, that it should be fine. I said No again, he pleaded with me and talked me into it. I guess part of me wanted to see if it was real. Two perfectly good automatic transmissions giving out in the same exact way, at about the same length of distance driven from the site. I guess could be somehow just coincidence, albeit rare to say the least.

      We put it in my trunk made the U turn under the bridge and back the other way down the service road. And mine quit too. ..... We then called Mark, Steve's older brother. Told him everything, and he sneered, "I dont believe in any of that bull%^&. You are gonna owe me some gas money, I'm on my way." He came in his 1970 Camaro (4 speed manual transmission), put it in his trunk and took it all the way back no problem.

      That's as I remember it. I had once seen the grave site before they took it. There was remains of a tiny cottage, single square box of a house. The roof had fallen in, and off to the side of the house was this grave with two headstones that you couldn't even make everything out that it said on them. Year ,18 something. small rock outline indicated infants or toddlers.

      Stupid? Yes!!! ...Real?... Yes!....My car had within a month prior, had the turbo 350 transmission rebuilt by an expert. He told me the second gear sprag had broken, for no apparent reason, and the other two took theirs to different shops, but were told the exact same thing.

  5. Is it bad if a shadow reflection to show up on a child grave when the parents go visit

    1. I have read that shadows n the grave yard maybe an extension of the departed. If a child's shadow shows up on his or her grave while the parents are visiting, I wouldn't say that was bad at all.

  6. is it bad luck if you transfer the bones of the dead and leave behind the gravestone?

    1. I hope that when moving a body, you have a cemetery involved in the process. As to not taking the stone, I'm not sure why you would leave it. Stones are a way to identify who is buried there. I wouldn't be too happy if my remains were moved but my stone was left behind...

  7. I had a friend pass away 2 yrs ago. But I always make sure his gravesite has nice floral arrangements. But whenever I bring him some new ones...I will take the old ones clean them up and reuse the old flowers in a new arrangement or if they are too bad gone then I will toss them. My mom said I should NVR take them from the grave once I put them there but NVR said why. Can someone explain this one to me because I do not understand.

    1. It is considered bad luck to take anything from a cemetery. That includes flowers, stones, mementos, etc. The best piece of advice on the subject is to "Take only photos, leave only footsteps."

  8. I lost the love of my life 2 weeks ago, and I'm going to go visit his grave site this summer what I wanted to ask you was I bought a locket and would it be bad if I was take a piece of grass from is grave but I can carry with me?

    1. So sorry for your loss, Cee. A blade of grass for the intensions you express should not be a problem. You might even consider leaving a stone on his grave as a remembrance.

  9. Just attended a funeral of a friend of my sons. Strange I hear a whistle to my right. Then a moment later a whistle to my left. I looked around and there appeared to be no source for the sound. At the time a graveside rendition of Amazing Grace was preformed on bag pipes. Finding the incident odd. I find a superstition of don't whistle in a cemetery ( it summons the devil) I found that very disturbing. Wonder if theres more information on the origin of that particular superstition? Thanks for any input.

    1. Whistling in the cemetery is said to be a way to summon evil spirits but also lonely souls. Maybe your son's friend was letting you know that he was there, and that he felt alone, scared and "left out." There is also the idiom of "whistling past the graveyard," a manner in which to project confidence when you're actually afraid. My guess is that your son's friend wanted you to know he was there but doesn't understand what happened. You might consider going to his grave and talking to him about it.

  10. Grandmother was buried this past 2 Saturday’s, I took 4 single flowers from the gravesite to put in a memory box with our pictures together so future grandkids can remember her and our favorite flowers... someone told me it’s bad luck to take from a gravesite, but is it when it’s family with good intentions?

    1. It was actually my grandmother who told me that to remove anything from the grave would bring bad luck so I understand your concern. But I think that since you are doing this for future generations as a remembrance, she would understand and it should be alright.

  11. When I was a young child,I went with my father to the local church as he was cutting the grass there that. day i was on my pedal tractor with trailer collecting the cuttings for him. He warned me not to ride over any graves as this was disrespectful. I set off on my tractor with grass cuttings in my trailer, as I approached a large cross headstone something compelled me to stop right infrount of it. As I stopped and looked up at the large cross it feel towards me knocking me off my pedal tractor and smashing my collar bone and pinning me to the ground. Dose this have any meaning?. And ever since i have had a sixth sense, and have felt very in tune. And since the passing of my parents owls have become a very significant sign to me,and of late it seems like my senses are becoming stronger.

  12. Wow! You ask "does it have meaning?" Some people would say that the meaning is to always keep an eye on kids in the cemetery, which is true. Old stones can topple. You could trip on a stone. etc. But in your case, if you feel more in tune with the spirits then you should pursue this. There are several suggestions on how to raise your intuition level on the internet. Jack Canfield is well known for his personal enrichment seminars but also has suggestions on raising your intuition level here: https://www.jackcanfield.com/blog/cultivating-intuition/ Talk with others who have this ability and see what suggestions they might offer. Bottom line - trust your instinct on what makes sense for you. Good luck!