A superstition is an irrational belief that one forms due to lack of awareness or a misinterpretation of causality. There isn’t a single society, culture, or country that doesn’t have some form of superstitious belief. Though education and modern culture are thought to be capable of making such beliefs obsolete, there are still people, be it in urban areas or remote rural areas, who still believe in them. While some of these can be humorous and exist in milder forms mostly as an amusing aspect of extant traditions, some can be unsavory and even dangerous to those who believe. Here are ten weird superstitions from around the world that are both amusing and sometimes dangerous.
1. There is an Argentinian superstition that the seventh sons will turn into werewolves unless they are adopted by the president.
The superstition originates from the myth of Lobizón or Luison, the seventh and hence the most cursed son of Tau and Kerana. He was said to have a frightening appearance and was originally associated with death. With the coming of European settlers, Luison’s description changed into that of a werewolf. Around 1907, a Volga German immigrant couple asked the then president José Figueroa Alcorta to become the godfather to their seventh son as was the custom in Czarist Russia where the Tsar became the godfather to seventh sons. This and the Lobizón curse became a mixed tradition which then became a law in 1974 passed by president Isabel Perón who also included seventh daughters into the practice.
Though few actually believe the seventh son will turn into a werewolf, the tradition continues as Argentinian presidents become godmothers and godfathers to the seventh son or daughter. President Juan Perón, the husband and predecessor of Isabel Perón, had 1,982 godsons, and president Carlos Menem had 1,136. Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner set a precedent during her term by becoming the godmother of a Jewish baby as the tradition was previously limited to Christians.(1, 2)
2. In Japan, fans of the baseball team Hanshin Tigers believe that the ghost of KFC’s Colonel Sanders cursed the team preventing subsequent wins after they threw his statue in a river while celebrating victory in 1985.
The Hanshin Tigers, based in Kansai, Japan, are considered the eternal underdogs of Nippon Professional Baseball, and their rivals, Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo, are considered the kings of Japanese baseball. Despite their losses, Hanshin Tigers have a huge fan base who will flock to the stadium no matter how badly the team plays. To everyone’s surprise, the Tigers won the Japan Series in 1985 against the Seibu Lions, largely due to its American member Randy Bass.
The win caused a riot among the fans who gathered at Ebisu Bridge over Dōtonbori river in Osaka, and one fan resembling each member of the team jumped off the bridge. As they didn’t have a Caucasian equivalent for Randy Bass, they seized the statue of Colonel Sanders from a nearby KFC and threw it into the water in effigy. This followed a series of defeats for the Tigers over a period of 18 years causing the fans to believe the team was cursed by Colonel Sanders’ ghost.
In 2003, the Tigers managed to qualify for the Japan Series leading to the speculation that the curse has finally lifted. This time instead of one fan representing each member of the team, a total of 5,300 fans jumped into the canal resulting in the death of one fan. Nearby KFC outlets moved their statues inside until the Series was over. However, the Tigers didn’t win the Series. In 2009, divers were finally able to discover parts of the statue in Dōtonbori river. The statue’s glasses and left hand are still missing. It is believed that the curse could only be lifted when they are restored too.(source)
3. In some remote locations in India, there are people who believe that after being bitten by a dog in heat, they would become pregnant with a puppy. The victims, especially men who have to give birth to the puppy through their penis, are said to eventually die.
The superstition is prevalent in remote villages of northern India with little access to education. It is believed that those bitten and consequently impregnated by the dogs are said to bark like them. Some even reported being able to see puppies inside them when they look into water or hear them growling in their stomach. Most of them fear for their lives and consult witch doctors who claim their oral cures would dissolve the puppies and they would pass through their digestive system without their knowledge. Seeking proper medical care is also made difficult as the witch doctors warn that the cures won’t work if they consult doctors. Many doctors have tried to educate the public about the dangers of not getting anti-rabies treatment in time, and the sufferers are referred to psychiatric care.(source)
4. Some Chinese believe that younger brothers should not marry before the elder brothers. If an elder brother is dead, families arrange a ghost marriage with a female corpse to avoid incurring the disfavor of his ghost.
There are various reasons for some Chinese families to set up ghost marriages. One reason is the death of one member of an engaged couple. If the fiance dies, the bride could go through the wedding with a cockerel in the groom’s place, though many women were hesitant as it would mean they have to take a vow of celibacy, participate in funeral rites and mourning, and live with his family. Some rich families with a dead son could tempt a living girl to marry him and adopt an heir so that their family line is continued. A living groom could also marry his dead fiancee, though there haven’t been any records of the practice.
Another reason for ghost marriages is the belief no younger brother should marry before an elder brother. Sometimes, the ghosts from the afterworld are also said to request a marriage as they find themselves without a spouse. There are also matchmakers who arrange ghost marriages for deceased members of families.(source)
5. In Bhutan, people paint large penises on their doors because of the belief that they will drive evil away and be transformed into protective deities.
The tradition of phallus paintings can be traced back to the Chimi Lhakhang monastery near Punakha built in honor of 15-16th century Lama Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman” or the “Mad Saint” because of his unorthodox teachings. Historians believe that the symbolic importance of the phallus in early ethnic religions became mixed up with Buddhism after it became the state religion. It is a routine practice, though not in urban areas, to paint phalluses on the walls of new houses or number plates of trucks.
Wooden phalluses are hung on the eves of new homes and are also driven in fields like a scarecrow when crops start to sprout. The paintings are a common sight on whitewashed walls of shops, homes, and eateries on the road from Paro airport to Thimpu. Pilgrims who visit the Chimi Lhakhang monastery to seek blessings for their children or to bear children are often blessed using wooden phalluses.(source)
6. In South Korea, there is a well-known superstition that running an electric fan in a room with closed doors and windows can lead to death.
No one knows how or why the myth came into existence, though the initial mentions of it date back to stories in the 1920s and 1930s that warn consumers of nausea, asphyxiation, and facial paralysis after using fans. There is a conspiracy theory that the South Korean government perpetuated the myth to discourage people from spending too much energy during the 1970s energy crisis. Some even went as far as to propose scientific causes such as hyperthermia during hot climates, hypothermia during nights, and asphyxiation by oxygen displacement and carbon dioxide intoxication. The Korean Consumer Protection Board, a government-funded public agency, even issued warnings in 2006 stating that electric fans and air conditioners are among the five most common causes of summer accidents and injuries.(source)
7. At least six ravens are kept in the Tower of London at all times due to an old superstition that without them “the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” The Tower ravens are enlisted soldiers and are occasionally dismissed for bad conduct.
There are several legends that connect ravens with the Tower of London. According to folklore, wild ravens have always inhabited the Tower for centuries mostly due to the smell of corpses of people executed there. Allegedly, the ravens fell silent and immovable when Anne Boleyn was executed in 1535 and pecked the eyes of the head of Lady Jane Grey in 1554. However, some historians believe that first captive ravens may have been introduced as pets for the staff after Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven,” and the fascination with the bird increased.
The Tower ravens are issued attestation cards in the same way as soldiers and police. They are treated like royalty and receive a nourishing diet of fresh fruit, cheese, meat, as well as vitamins and other supplements. Unlike wild ravens that typically live for 10-15 years, Tower ravens live for over 40 years.
Though Londoners are fond of them, they often fall out of favor. On September 13, 1986, Raven George was discharged and posted to the Welsh Mountain Zoo for attacking and destroying TV aerials. In 1996, two other ravens were dismissed for “conduct unbecoming of Tower residents.” The ravens are also known to “desert their duties.” Raven Grog, after 21 years of faithful service, left the Tower for a pub. Raven Edgar Sopper played dead to trick the raven master before flying away “croaking huge raven laughs.”(source)
8. In Papua New Guinea, there is a tribe that believes that young boys must ingest the semen of their elders daily from the age of 7 until they are 17 to achieve adult male status, properly mature, and grow strong.
The people Etoro or Edolo tribe are located south of the central mountain range of New Guinea near the Papuan Plateau and are known among anthropologists for their ritual homosexuality. They believe that each individual possesses a certain amount of life force, a considerable concentration of it said to be present in semen, which passes through others through sexual relations. It is also believed that people become weaker as they age because of the depletion of life force. Women are thought to have wasted life force if they do not get pregnant after having sex. According to anthropologists Dennis O’Neil and Conrad Phillip Kottak, most men believe homosexual relations prolong their life and fear that heterosexual relations cause them to die earlier, which meant that heterosexual relations only focus on reproduction.(source)
9. Some homes in Vermont build diagonal windows, also known as “witch windows,” because of the superstition that witches cannot fly their broomsticks through slanted windows.
“Witch windows” are almost exclusively found in Vermont and mostly in the farmhouses from the 19th century. There are various explanations for the orientation of witch windows apart from witches and their broomsticks. They are also known as “coffin windows” though it is unclear if coffins really were removed from the windows to avoid a narrow staircase or because the odd placement is suggestive of coffins. Another explanation is that when the house is expanded by adding, for example, a kitchen wing or a shed, there might not be enough space for constructing a normal window on the wall. So instead, the window is constructed by changing its orientation making its long edge parallel to the roof.(source)
10. There is a superstition called the “Oscar love curse” in which soon after an actress wins the Academy Award for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress, her husband or boyfriend divorces her or cheats on her.
The “Oscar love curse” is well-known in film business which saw many actresses lose or break up with their husbands or boyfriends soon after they won the award. Some of these actresses include Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Helen Hunt, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, and Rachel Weisz. There have also been actresses who “broke” the curse, and some of them are Sophia Loren, Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Maggie Smith (remained married to her husband the second time she won), and Dame Judi Dench.(source)