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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

Ghosts, witches, graves, black cats, Halloween, Friday the 13th ...
SUPERSTITIONS

Never slam a door. You might hurt a ghost, who'll haunt you for the rest of your life.

by Bob Bowman

Bob Bowman
With Halloween just around the corner, this may be a good time to remind ourselves that early East Texans had a healthy regard for ghosts, strange lights and things that go bump in the night.

This regard led farm families, as well as some city dwellers, to develop what they felt were remedies for supernatural ills. Some of them offered protection from ghosts:
  • Carry a lump of bread in your pocket when walking in the dark. It will serve as an offering to ghosts.
  • If you see a ghost, walk around it nine times, and it will disappear.
  • If you can't walk around the spook nine times, crow like a rooster. The theory is that ghosts don't wear watches and they'll flee if they think daylight is coming.
  • When passing a graveyard or a house where someone has died, turn your pockets inside out to make sure you you don't bring home ghost in your pocket.
  • Never slam a door. You might hurt a ghost, who'll haunt you for the rest of your life.

If you're convinced that witches exist on Halloween, here are some remedies
  • If a witch somehow infects you with a spell, drink water from a running creek, using a cup made of cypress wood, for nine days straight.
  • Bury a knife under your doorstep to protect your home from witches, who supposedly cannot pass over cold iron.
  • Witches also hate brass. To prevent a witch from making your milk cow go dry, make a bell out of brass and hang it around the cowıs neck.
  • Put a witch's nail or hair clippings in a small glass bottle. Burying the bottle will break a witch's spell. Hanging the bottle in the fireplace will keep witches from flying into the room. And placing the bottle in a fire will kill the witch.

East Texans have always been a little uneasy about graves, and have developed a number of appropriate superstitions, such as these.
  • Don't point at a grave or your finger will rot off.
  • Don't count the number of cars in a funeral procession or youıll have bad luck.
  • Always pick a rainy day for a funeral so the deceased will go directly to heaven.

Halloween wouldn't be half the fun without black cats, but you should handle them with care, as indicated by these admonitions.
  • Deadly diseases can be given to a child by a black cat sucking its breath.
  • If a baby plays with a black cat, it will have worms. Every cat hair it swallows will become a worm.
  • Kill a black cat on Halloween and you'll have seven years of bad luck.
  • If a black cat meows on your porch or near a window, a death will soon occur in the family.

Once Halloween is over, you can relax - that is, until Friday the 13th, which arrives in February. Then, you can worry about a new set of superstitions.
  • If you leave your calendar turned to Friday the 13th, a witch will claim you on the 14th.
  • Donıt consult the stars on Friday the 13th.
  • Never start a new business on Friday the 13th.
  • On Friday the 13th, to sleep without bad luck, fold the pantyhose or stockings of a woman across the foot of the bed with a straight pen inside one of the folds.
Okay, now you're ready for Halloween - and Friday the 13th. Don't blame me if your finger rots off.
All Things Historical > October 26 , 2003 column
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
Bob Bowman is the author of 40 books on East Texas history and folklore, and a past president of the East Texas Historical Association

Related Topics: Ghosts & Superstitions

 
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