Here are a few superstitions about death and dying that I learned about from a pamphlet at the Missoula Cemetery.
PASSING A CEMETERY: Hold your breath when passing a cemetery or you will breathe in the spirit of someone who recently died. Tuck your thumbs into your fists when passing a cemetery to protect your parents.
MIRRORS in the house with a corpse should be covered or the person who sees himself will die next. If a mirror should fall from the wall and breaks itself then someone in the house will die soon.
EYE TWITCHING: If a person’s left eye twitches there will soon be a death in the family.
THUNDER following a funeral means the person’s soul has reached heaven.
PREGNANT WOMEN attending a funeral who walk on the grave will result in a child born with club feet.
PHOTOGRAPHY: If three people are photographed together the one in the middle will die first.
REMOVING A CORPSE: A corpse should be removed from the house feet first to prevent his or her spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow.
CURES: Being near or in an open grave cures all manner of illnesses including toothache, boils and incontinence.
WITCH: A witch must be buried face down to prevent the community further supernatural spells. If this doesn’t work, unbury her and turn her clothes inside out, then re-bury her face down. This should do the trick.
DOG HOWLING: If a dog howls three times it means someone is going to die. If a dog howls at night when someone in the house is sick it is a bad omen. This omen can be reversed by reaching under the bed and turning over a shoe.
BELLS ON A GRAVE (This is actually a fact): The fear of someone being being buried alive led coffin makers to design caskets with an internal chain attached to a bell on the grave. If the person should awake they would pull the bell and alert the community to their premature burial. Hence the saying “Saved by the bell.”
SHOES ON THE TABLE: Leaving shoes on the table will bring sickness and possibly death by hanging.
TOUCHING THE DECEASED: If you touch a loved one who has died you won’t have dreams about them.
MAZES were placed at some cemetery entrances to prevent spirits from returning to the world as it was known that ghosts could only travel in a straight line.
(Researched by Mary Ellen Stubb, Missoula Cemetery Sexton)