When it comes to superstitions, there’s one blanket statement that can definitely be made: people are easily, and unreasonably, spooked. Whether it’s avoiding anything related to the number 13, or playing life-or-death hopscotch when on a broken sidewalk, some folks do ridiculous things in the name of avoiding bad luck and/or evil spirits. In honor of Halloween, that spookiest of spooky holidays, we’ve compiled a list of the 13 Stupidest Superstitions, along with a little common-sense love tap for each.
13. Trick or Treat
The Druids had some interesting beliefs. For instance, they were convinced that on October 31st, the dead rose from their graves to revisit their old homes. We’d like the recipe for whatever forest mead these folks were drinking, if it made them forget, year after year, that those things never happened to anybody, ever. The scaredy-cat villagers, however, would put out offerings of fruits and nuts to keep the tortured, roaming souls from destroying their homes and crops. We modern folk honor that ridiculous superstition by dressing our children up as those dead folks (or princesses, or Batman – whatever) and sending them out to collect the fruits and nuts (candycandycandy) the neighbors have to offer.
12. Black Cats
Hundreds of years ago, black cats were believed to be a witch’s best friend, eventually turning into witches or demons themselves. Nowadays Hot Topic is all a witch needs to get by in life, but some people still see black cats as a sign of bad luck. Hopefully they don’t work at the Humane Society.
11. Friday the 13th
There were thirteen people at The Last Supper. Judas, Christ’s betrayer, was supposedly the 13th guest. And Christ died on a Friday. It was also supposedly a Friday when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (didn’t you know? On the 9th day God made calendars) and it was also a Friday when the big flood began and Noah’s boat set sail. So naturally, the combination of Friday and the number 13 was deemed the unluckiest day of the year. Never mind that it happens a couple times a year, and that it’s just like any other day, every single time. Except for those stupid movies about the dude in the hockey mask.
10. No 13th Floor in Office Buildings
Sorta goes hand in hand with Friday the 13th. Grown adults in an advanced modern society still act like scared little children, so afraid of a "bad luck" number that they’ll pretend the 13th floor is actually the 14th floor, so everybody can feel better. Next up: round up all 13 year-olds for extermination. Satan’s children can’t be allowed to roam free.
9. Breaking a Mirror
When someone breaks a mirror, the running tale is that they’ve just brought 7 years of bad luck on their own sorry asses. Which pretty much means that garbage men are the unluckiest people on the planet. Oh, what, are there exceptions now? Come on. Break all the mirrors you want. Just don’t cut yourself. Unless that’s the goal, in which case you’re most likely not too worried about bad luck.
8. Walking Under a Ladder
A very long time ago, before the great Desensitization and Homogenization movements, triangles were considered a symbol of life. Walking through any triangular shape, ladder leaning against a wall or otherwise, was considered to be pushing one’s luck. This whole business about the ladder comes only from the shape it makes when it’s standing upright, and not some magical ladder luck powers. Common sense would tell you to just walk around it, but the words "superstition" and "common sense" don’t often go hand in hand.
7. No Peanuts in the Nascar Pits
Legend has it that a racing mechanic who was told that eating peanuts in the race pits are bad luck laughed, then tossed peanut shells on the hoods of five different stock cars. All five supposedly crashed, and according to one variation of the story, three of the drivers died. Peanuts. Racecars. Retarded. This might be less ridiculous if, say, "peanuts" was replaced with "cutting the brake lines," but no sense haggling over details. This is just another in a long line of stupid single-event-related superstitions.
6. Break a Leg
Dilemma: After you tell an actor "good luck" before a show, they forget their lines, split their pants and fall into the orchestra pit. You were the last person to wish him well, so naturally this is entirely your fault. Solution: Whip out some of that reverse psychology action you learned in middle school, and trick that ugly bitch called fate. Instead of "good luck," it’s better to say "break a leg" or "hope your heart explodes and kills you!"
5. Stepping on Cracks
Come on. Until the leading cause of death among women with children is broken backs, everybody can shut the hell up about this nonsense. Thankfully, there aren’t too many grownups who put any stock in this one.
4. Knock on Wood
Once upon a time, before people parted seas and talked to burning foliage, it was thought that trees were the homes of the gods. When in need of a favor or some good luck, a person prayed to a tree and then touched the bark, representing the first knock. The second knock was to give thanks. Forgetting to knock would supposedly bring you bad luck. Yeah, people were hard up for shit to do before TVs came around.
3. Spilling Salt
Some people believe that Judas spilled salt during the last supper. Those people made that shit up. Salt was very precious and expensive in the middle ages, and it was widely used for medicinal purposes. If one were to spill any salt, the custom was to then to immediately throw some over your left shoulder to strike the evil spirits lurking behind you and… make them… salty. So yeah, we’ve got some pretty stupid superstitions.
2. Shooting Star
When you make a wish on a shooting star, it will come true – at least according to Walt Disney and a bunch of other people intent on making your children believe in total nonsense. How many jillionaire astronomers do you know? I’ve seen hundreds of shooting stars in my lifetime, and not one of them has slammed into the earth with unimaginable force, sending such thick clouds of dust into the atmosphere that they blot out the sun, purging the world into darkness and another great die-off. So to hell with all that ‘wishes coming true’ nonsense.
1. God Bless You
In the sixth century, it was believed that a sneeze forced evil spirits out of the body. Hundreds of years later, when one of history’s great plagues was taking care of any overpopulation issues in Europe, the Pope passed a new law mandating people to bless any sneezer, in order to protect them from the plague. There’s a hundred variations on these stories, but the reason we say "Bless you" or "God bless you" or "Gesundheit" these days is out of consideration for respectful etiquette. If a person has a mini seizure and blasts snot and spit into whatever they’re (hopefully) covering their mouths/noses with, rather than giving you a germ shower, the least you could do is say "bless you." Or "thank you for not spraying me with your mucous." Social graces, kids. Look ’em up.