Folklore & Superstition

Folklore and Superstition covers the topics of good luck, bad luck and uncommon wisdom. Discover more about topics like conspiracy theories, urban legends or voodoo.


In the famous words of Bill Murray's character in the movie "What About Bob?", traveling is all about "baby steps." So if you're eager to start off on the right (or left?) foot, you may want to read up on these common travel superstitions.

Ah, birthdays: a chance to celebrate with friends and family and ring in years of good fortune ahead. But if you're a little on the superstitious side, here are some things to avoid so that the coming year doesn't bring any unpleasant surprises.

What's your lucky number? Would it jinx you if you told us, or would it bring you good fortune? It's a funny thing, but whether for cultural, regional or religious reasons, we humans tend to put a lot of hope — and a little fear — into numbers.

While that witches brew seemingly comprised of bizarre animal body parts sounds scary and gross, odds are you've actually put "eye of newt" on a hot dog at some point. Learn why witches used frightening terms for common herbs, flowers, and plants.

Triskaidekaphobia, or, fear of the number 13, comes in many forms, but in restaurants, it means that a "table for 13" will result in a death of one of the diners. Learn about the origins of this superstition, and skeptics' amusing counterarguments.

Superstitions involving cameras have been around for centuries. From bad luck to the loss of your soul, myths abound about photography. Why do some cultures believe in deadly consequences for the middle person in a photo taken of three people?

The mysteries surrounding the U.S. government's Area 51 have been revealed to be mostly mundane, but that hasn't prevented a bevy of believers from coming up with outlandish theories about the secret desert base.

While it might be strange today to show up at a baby shower with a giant wheel of cheese, this wasn't always the case. Find out how "groaning cheese" came to be a symbol of good luck when celebrating a newborn's arrival into the world.

Superstitions come in all shapes and sizes. On the credibility scale, it's unlikely that stepping on a crack will break your mother's back or that your soul will escape when you sneeze, but some superstitions might actually have a basis in reality.

Superstitions come in all forms, but what about the fortunes some expect when a baby is born with a piece of the amniotic sac still attached to its head or face? What are some ways numerous cultures consider birth cauls to be good luck?

Jeffrey Dahmer, Albert DeSalvo, Aileen Wuornos: all serial killers, and three of many with 13 letters in their name. Some conspiracy theorists see a direct correlation. Is there a link, or is it just another myth surrounding the maligned number 13?

Through a mix of the superstitions of the past and the sexism of today, some believe that being a bridesmaid three times leads to becoming "an old maid." How did this matrimonial myth develop, and why does it persist?

If you're a smoker traveling through Europe, you might get dirty looks when trying to light a cigarette with a candle. What are the origins of this seafaring superstition, and how is it rooted in the off-season work sailors did to make ends meet?

From athletes growing beards during the playoffs to pedestrians not stepping on the cracks of sidewalks, some scientists believe our superstitions are the product of evolution. How are we hardwired to believe in luck in situations beyond our control?

Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse are just a small sample of the dozens of famous musicians who passed on to "the great gig in the sky" at the age of 27. Is 27 a "cursed age," or is it part of a larger trend for many who play music?

The toast is a player in so many parties. But raising an empty glass to wish someone good health and good cheer? Don't even bother.

In the play "Macbeth," almost everyone dies. It's not exactly a comedy. But the curse hovering over The Bard's work isn't about the plot — although murder does play a part.

Carrying around an animal's body part is pretty creepy. But many people don't bat an eyelash at the idea that a rabbit's foot brings good fortune —for humans, anyway.

You're not supposed to cry over spilled milk. But a broken mirror? That's another matter. Will breaking a mirror really heap misfortune upon your head?

If you're one of the clueless citizens who's laid a hat on a bed, welcome to the club. Apparently, we've all doomed ourselves to evil spirits as guests. According to this superstition, anyway.

Giving flowers is a thoughtful and appreciated gesture in all cultures. But if you're looking to brighten someone's day, you might want to avoid giving an even number of flowers.

Perhaps you've heard it's unlucky to light three cigarettes with one match. It might not seem unlucky — in fact, it seems downright practical. So why is it considered a bad omen?

Many people believe that a handshake from a chimney sweep brings good luck, even though the history of the chimney sweep is actually quite dark (or sooty, if you will). How did the chimney sweep become a good luck charm?

Have you ever watched a baseball no-hitter in progress and wondered why nobody would talk about it? Blame superstition, and this is a big one — it holds that talking about a no-hitter is bad luck.

If you spill some salt while you're cooking, you might fear a wave of oncoming bad luck. Why is toppling over some salt an omen of misfortune?

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