Southern Appalachian Death Superstitions and Omens

Omens of Death
A bird flying into the home.

A black hound following you.

If you dream of a birth or marriage.

If the oldest person at the supper table sneezes on Sunday.

A picture falls face-down and breaks.

A hen crows.

Hounds baying in the night.

Three hoots from an owl or seeing an owl in the day time.

A Death Watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) starts making noise.

Cows mooing after midnight.

A white mist appearing in the home.

The presence of blackbirds soon after a death is a portent of another
death in the family.

A broken clock suddenly begins to work again.

A bird flies into the windshield of your car.

Death Superstitions
The next person to look into a mirror after someone's death will die.
Mirrors should be covered or turned around to prevent this.

All clocks must be stopped.

Unlock all locks in the house or the deceased won't be able to move on.

All windows must be opened at the time of death so that the soul can

It is believed that at a person's death a great wind will come to
escort their soul away.

Sweeping under a sick person's bed will cause them death.

Leaving a rocking chair rocking will bring death.

If you see an ambulance or hearse, you must touch a button or you will
be next to die, unless they are empty.

If the deceased eyes are left open, they will find someone to take
with them.

If you drop an umbrella in a house it means there was a murder there.

A corpse must be carried feet first or the soul will return to haunt
the family.

Touching the deceased will prevent the soul of that person from
haunting you.

To be in the dead's good graces, light a candle in the room where the
person died on November 1.

If you don't hold your breath as you go by a cemetery, the spirit of a
person buried there will enter your body.

If a woman is buried in black, she will haunt the family.

No grass will grow on the grave of someone who was inherently evil.

If there are three people together in a photograph, the middle one
will die first.

To leave a funeral before it is over will bring you bad luck.

If you spill salt, quickly throw a pinch over your left shoulder to
avert bad luck and death.

Leaving the house through a door you did not come in through will
cause bad luck and death.

Leaving shoes on a table or hats on a bed will bring death.

Water in an open grave means the person who is buried there will be

Nothing new should be worn to a funeral, especially shoes.

A spirit cannot cross running water.

A pregnant woman would never attend a funeral.

If a beekeeper dies, the wife should tell the bees and ask them to
stay, or they will quickly leave.

A soul cannot rest if the corpse is laid across the direction of the

You can find a murderer by having his touch the fatal wound on the
body of the person he is accused of murdering. If the wound bleeds,
the murder has been found.

A body must be sat with for 24 hours, or the spirit of the deceased
will come back to haunt the living.

It's bad luck to leave a grave open overnight.

Bodies were once buried facing the east, where it was believed on
Judgment Day the angels would sound their trumpets. Someone who was
unanimously believed to not be righteous was buried the opposite
direction. Suicides, on the other hand, were often feared because it
was believed that they would return to haunt the living. Being unable
to bury the body on sacred land, the corpse had to be buried at a
crossroads (a symbol of the cross).

To keep a body from sitting upright in its coffin after rigor mortis
had set in, old folk believed in “saining:” A candle would be lit and
passed over the body three times, then three handfuls of salt would be
placed in a wooden bowl and placed on the corpses chest.

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Here is a  short video on how the death beetle looks and sounds :) Very interesting .. 



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