Superstitions, in general, are pretty harmless beliefs. If you let a black cat cross your path or break a mirror, the worst you can expect is ten years of bad luck. But there are some superstitions and old wives' tales from around the globe that involve a little heavier payoff. In this feature, we’ll explore ten weird superstitions that people believe can actually lead to death. Better grab your lucky charms.
Here’s a very bizarre superstition from South Korea that is taken very seriously. Many people in that bustling, industrialized country have a very strange belief that going to sleep with a fan running in your room can kill you. It’s called “Fan Death,” and even the Korean media treats it like a real thing, running regular articles on supposed cases. Scientists from around the world agree that death by hypothermia or asphyxiation as a result of a home fan is basically impossible, but the superstition still holds a powerful grip.
In China, the number 13 doesn’t have the same connotation as it does here, but they make up for that with a whole world of number superstitions. The absolute unluckiest number is four, because its pronounced almost the same way as the Chinese word for “death.” The culture’s aversion to the number, which is believed to bring death and bad luck, goes so far as to omit every floor ending with 4 from some high-rise buildings. The fear is also present in other Asian countries, including Japan and Korea.
Here’s an unusual superstition from Mongolia that can really freak you out. In the local animistic religion, the soul is believed to wander around through the body, taking up residence in different parts and organs depending on the day of the week. You need to consult with a witch doctor to make sure that your soul isn’t in your hair if you plan to cut it, because if those scissors snip at the wrong time, you could die instantly. Maybe that’s why Mongols traditionally had such long hair and beards.
Middle Person in a Photo
There's a whole list of superstitions involving cameras, from primitive African tribes believing that the little devices could steal their souls to more modern wacko beliefs. One that is particularly prevalent in Japan and some other Asian countries is that it’s unlucky to take a picture of three people standing next to each other, because the middle person in the photo will die before the other two. Needless to say, this is total hokum, but it still freaks people out.
Hole in the Bread
Food is the source of many superstitious beliefs. Many of them come from traditional methods of food safety, so they have some basis in real life. Others, though, are just strange. In England, there has long been a belief that if you cut into a loaf of fresh-baked bread to find an empty space inside, it’s an omen of impending death to somebody at the table. The belief was that the hollow bread was symbolic of a coffin. It’s also unlucky to turn a loaf of bread upside down once a slice has been cut from it.
See an Ambulance, Touch a Button
The very presence of injury or death brings a superstitious mood on people – we really think that it’s possible to ward off misfortune with nothing more than a few token gestures. One of the most long-lasting of such superstitions is the belief that if you see an ambulance or a hearse, you must touch a button on your clothing immediately or you will be the next person getting a free ride in said vehicle. This superstition was first seen in Victorian times, and one variant was that you needed to grab and hold the button until you saw a bird fly by to be truly protected.
Transplanting a Cedar Tree
Here’s a superstition from someplace a little closer to home – the backwoods of Kentucky. There are literally thousands of aphorisms and beliefs from the American South about many topics, but this one is actually still believed to this day. If you transplant a young cedar tree to a different location, you are cursed to die when its lower limbs grow out to the length of your coffin. Some communities also believe that a willow tree bears the same deathly responsibility.
Burning a Cake on Christmas
Here’s another food-related superstition that doesn’t do any favors to women. During Christmastime in many parts of the world, it’s tradition to eat a special cake on Christmas Eve, saving a slice for Christmas day or else bad luck will fall on the household. But woe betide the woman who burns the Christmas cake – superstitious people in England believe that a culinary screw-up of that magnitude dooms the woman to die before the year is over. That’s why we just buy our fruitcake at Kroger.
Showering After a Meal
Here’s a superstition from South America that is pretty bizarre. In Brazil, especially the country’s northeastern states, you should never bathe or take a shower immediately after a meal. The results could be fatal. Needless to say, there’s no legitimate science behind this wacky belief – the worst thing that can happen is that the heat of the shower could draw blood away from your stomach, giving you a little tummy ache – but tens of thousands of Brazilians treat this superstition as absolute gospel and look in horror at anybody who dares question it.
Next: The Funniest Photos You Will See Today
Dreaming About a Penis
Most of these superstitions are things you can control. Sure, they’re ridiculous, but the situations that could lead to death are avoidable. However, in Turkey, you can be doomed to death just by the actions of a relative’s subconscious. There are plenty of Turkish superstitions, but the most absurd says that if a woman dreams of a penis, one of her male relatives is doomed to die. We’re not sure how this belief started, but hopefully all the women of Turkey are sexually satisfied on the regular, or else the bodies could hit the floor.