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The Weird World of Death

Updated on February 6, 2018
Seeker7 profile image

Helen is from Fife, Scotland. She was a registered nurse for many years before becoming a care manager and trainer for health workers.


Why do we fear death?

"The difficulty about all this dying, is that you can't tell a fellow anything about it, so where does the fun come in?" Alice James

It’s the ultimate ending for us all. We can't duck it. We can't shy away. We can't pretend it doesn't happen. We are of course talking about death.

Is it just physical? Is it a spiritual transition? Perhaps we will never know. Nevertheless as humans we strive to see deeper into this weird world of death - trying to grasp some meaning from its mysteries.

Mirrors have all kinds of superstitions and legends attached to them.
Mirrors have all kinds of superstitions and legends attached to them. | Source

25 Most Popular Superstitions Around the World

The most common death superstitions

"It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens." - Woody Allen

Let's have a look at some of the most common superstitions that have arisen around the subject of death.


The tradition of covering a mirror with a black cloth when someone dies initially goes back to ancient times.

When a person had died – especially when it was a violent death - all the mirrors in the home would be covered immediately by cloth.

The reason for this was the belief that a returning spirit could use a looking glass as a portal.

In the case of a violent end, a cloth covering the mirror would ensure that the enraged spirit could not find a living person to possess in order to revenge his premature demise.

In later times, mirrors in the room of the dead person were covered – even if the death was not brutal - as it was believed a living person seeing their reflection would join the dead person soon.

It was also believed that a mirror falling and breaking of its own accord was a sign that a death in the family was due to take place.

Many household objects have old superstitions attached to them.
Many household objects have old superstitions attached to them. | Source

Objects and Death

"Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it." Somerset Maugham

The following are traditional beliefs surrounding death and dying. Some may be familiar others might be new:


Ladders have always been associated with superstition even in the present day. As we all know walking under one is deemed to be unlucky.

However going back in time prisoners were sometimes hanged from the top of a ladder. It was believed that their spirit would then linger within the space created by the ladder and prop. Therefore it was unlucky to walk underneath as you would encounter the evil spirits of the executed prisoners.

Items In The Home

Many of these beliefs date back to the time when the majority of people died in their own homes.

The body would also be washed and prepared by the family. Finally the deceased member of the household would make their last journey to the cemetery from their home. It is not unusual then to discover many superstitions have grown up around common everyday items.


Candles are often used as a symbolism for the spirit and were used frequently in the past as part of celebrations for certain times of the year.

For example a very old tradition was to place a candle in the window on Halloween in order to guide the spirit of the ancestors back to the home. The family would also leave food and drink in their honour.

On November 1st people would often light candles to pay tribute to the dead. One candle would be lit for every person who had died in the home and it would be placed in the room where their death had occurred.


An umbrella put up in the house has for many years been frowned on as it attracts bad luck. However be wary about also dropping one in the home as this was seen as a sign that a murder was about to take place.


When someone in the house died it was customary to stop the clocks immediately. Not to do so would mean bad luck for everyone in the home.

It was also believed that a broken clock that suddenly begins to work is a sign that someone in the family will soon die.

Numerous people would not wind their clocks until the body had left the house.


Photographs, for obvious reasons, are a more recent superstition. It’s believed that if a photograph is taken of three people the middle person will die first.

Dinner invitations

Ladies in the past had to be very cautious about how many guests were invited to dinner. You could never invite thirteen. To do so would mean that one of them would die before the year was over.

People as well as animals are associated with graveyards both as protectors and as spirit hauntings.
People as well as animals are associated with graveyards both as protectors and as spirit hauntings. | Source

Customs and superstitions

Where you live are there any specific customs or superstitions relating to death?

See results

© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell


Submit a Comment

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Phil,

    Lovely to hear from you. Glad that you liked the hub.

    Maybe it's because of my profession - nursing - but death is something I have dealth with since I was 17. Most of my career has been working with elderly people. For the most part they are very accepting that their time is near. Many have often said to me that they are tired and ready to go. This I can understand. They have reached a time in life when they feel they have achieved what they can. Many of their loved ones and friends are gone and I think they just want to be with all those they miss once again.

    Many thanks again for stopping by and for your interesting input.

  • Phil Plasma profile image

    Phil Plasma 

    7 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

    Of course, as we get older we tent to think more about our mortality. I'm 38 years old at the moment and so far am not giving it too much thought. How much does someone who is 70 or 80 years old think about it?

    Very interesting hub, earning you a vote-up, awesome and interesting.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Lobo,

    Many thanks for your lovely comment and for stopping by.

    Yes I have had a few experiences over the years, both on a personal level and while working as a nurse, looking after terminally ill patients. I think I always have the idea that my experiences are maybe too boring for people to want to listen to. But for what it's worth here is one of the strongest experiences that happened, not long after my Mum died.

    They are very personal and I'm sure most sceptics would put the experience down to grief/wishful thinking and/or hallucination/temporal lobe epilepsy and god knows what else - my experiences were neither. Anyway, the bottom line is, I saw Mum physically and also in a very lucid dream state that same night. She was carrying a small baby, who had very dark hair. My Mum looked both sad and happy. She said to tell my sister Tricia not to worry that her baby girl is ok. But I didn't really know what she was talking about but I felt uneasy - (also we didn't know what sex the baby was, since my sister and brother-in-law didn't care what sex the baby was going to be). When I got up the next morning I received a telephone call from my Brother-in-law to say that Tricia had unexpectedly miscarried a baby girl. When I spoke to my sister later that day, she was obviously traumatised, but did tell me that the baby was a beautiful wee girl with a mop of jet black hair like her Dad. It was actually a few days later before I told her about what Mum had said.

    I've had very similar experiences over the years, as I said earlier, both personally and at work - and I know that scientifically etc., it probably doesn't add up to much. But frankly I really don't care what science says or what science professes to know. The experiences I've had happened, the people or spirits were there. I don't know how the spiritual works or why it works, but it does. Anyway, huge apologies for the 'novel' and hope I haven't bored you. Many thanks again for stopping by it really is appreciated. Seekr7.

  • lobonorth profile image


    7 years ago

    What a lot of fascinating information you have assembled Seeker7; I must admit that I was looking for some of your own experiences after you have spoken of them in a comment.

    Death does seem a topic that can be mined endlessly for good reason. And your Hub is a fine addition to all of us who take an interest in such things.

    Thanks, Lobo

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Ashantina, many thanks for leaving such a nice comment. I have to say that the 'humorous' bits of the article were the most fun to research and write.

  • Ashantina profile image


    7 years ago

    This is probably the most interesting and comprehensive hub article I've ever read on the subject of death!! I've always wondered where those superstitions originate and if there was any truth to them..... and I love that quote by the henpecked hubby :)) Up

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Minnetonka Twin, great to hear from you and thanks for stopping by. Hope you managed to get to sleep after being spooked???? I have to admit that a couple of the things I was writing about definitely sent chills up my spine so you are not alone.

  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 

    7 years ago from Minnesota

    Very fun and mysterious hub. I probably shouldn't of read it this late. Every noise I hear makes me jump. Nice writing and you did a good job of spookin me. :)

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi toknowinfo,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment. I was a bit shocked myself at the amount of superstitions around!! And yes, I agree, very glad that Scotland's trials are a bit more moderate.

  • toknowinfo profile image


    7 years ago

    Well done hub! I never thought about how much superstition and history there was to this topic. Very well put together article. Am glad they don't do those kinds of trials in Scotland anymore. Thanks for sharing this info. Rated up awesome and funny

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi vox vocis,

    Hi thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment.

    The superstition relates back to times when people were in smaller communities. It was unlucky to walk over any ground that was going to be used for future buriels. If this did happen then the person who was due to be buried in the spot walked over, would feel a chill up the spine. Whether accidently or not, someone walking over 'your patch' meant your death was going to be soon. Alternatively spirits were suppose to give 'warning' to a person who was about to join their realm and they did this by the 'chill up the spine', but it was believed they also visited the area where your bones were to be laid and this also caused the 'chill up the spine'. There are so many superstitions relating to this that I really had to cut it down drastically. But thanks for the question.

  • vox vocis profile image


    7 years ago

    Interesting hub! I do not understand one superstition though - the one of a chill running up the spine - how can a spirit walk over the grave if the person is not dead yet?

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hello again TnFlash,

    Thank you so much for you smashing comment - makes the the hard work really worth while if folks get something out of what you've written. Many thanks again.

  • TnFlash profile image


    7 years ago from Tampa, Florida

    Great Hub! This has been interesting information. Rated-up, awesome, followed, and twittered.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Kashmir56,

    Really glad you enjoyed the hub and many thanks for stopping by.

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 

    7 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Seeker, A very interesting hub which i enjoyed reading thanks for sharing it !

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi, g82hug - many thanks for stopping by and your smashing comment - it really is appreciated. Thank you!!!

    Hi, Christine Ritter - thank you as well for stopping by and for such a great comment - it makes it all worthwhile if readers enjoy the hubs. Thanks you!!!

  • ChristineRitter profile image


    7 years ago from Ohio

    WOW! I LOVE this hub, even bookmarked it for further reference. Thanks for sharing. Will be reading all your hubs, as they look equally intriguing. Kudos!

  • g82hug profile image


    7 years ago from San Pedro, CA

    Great Hub! Loaded with information. I'm going to read it again :-)

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi ImChemist,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for such a great comment - glad you enjoyed it!!

  • ImChemist profile image


    7 years ago

    Wow very helpful informative hub , thanks for sharing it.


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