My Great-Great Grandma was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My 2 times Great Grandma, Elizabeth Marsh was born December 31, 1841, in Chillicothe Missouri. Elizabeth was a religious woman, attending Church every Sunday and reading her Bible daily. She loved reading all the accounts in the Old Testament, and she would tell not only her children but the other children in the surrounding areas the stories that she found there. Her favorite one was about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We all know the account of how God created man, then from Adams rib He created woman. He set the two of them in this perfect Garden and told them they could eat from any tree in the garden except from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. This Garden was perfect and they wanted for nothing. One day Satan took the shape of a serpent (snake) and tempted Eve with the fruit from the one forbidden tree. Satan told her that she could eat from fruit, and she would not die but instead she would become like God and have great knowledge. She then ate from the fruit, and she did not die. She then took the fruit to Adam and told him to eat from it also, and he did. When God found out what they had done, he banished them from the Garden. Elizabeth came to believe that Satan inhabited ALL snakes, and she was afraid of them. She seldom ventured far from home on foot for fear of encountering one.

Elizabeth passed her fear of snakes down to her children and they in turn passed it down to their children and so on. My mom was raised in Missouri, and she knew about all the types of snakes that lived there and where they were most likely to live. She avoided any place where she thought a snake might be. When we moved to Arizona, my mom found herself with a new dilemma. She did not know any of the species of snakes that dwelt in the Desert, and she had no idea where they may hide. I remember once when we had relatives visiting us we took them on a cookout and hike in the Saguaro National Forest. Just so you know this is not a typical Forest with tall trees, it is filled with hundred-year-old Saguaro cacti. Some of these cacti grow to be 40-60 feet tall and can have up to 25 “arms” on it. While we were hiking up a hill, surrounded by beautiful cactus and Desert plants my mom decided to kick over a rock. Nestled beneath this rock was a very small snake, all coiled up trying to sleep. My mom took off running the opposite direction and didn’t stop until she got to our car. She then got inside and locked the doors. When we all finally reached the car it took a while before my Dad could convince her to come out. When she did she would only sit on the hood of the car! She tried to talk my Dad and my Uncle to go find the snake and kill it, but all they did was laugh.

We lived in a housing community just outside the Tucson City limits and the development was surrounded on 3 sides by Desert. A few years after this experience, early on a summer morning, I was taking a basket full of laundry out to hang on the clothes line. When I opened our back door and stepped outside I saw that there was a pretty large snake crawling along the wall of the house. I dropped the basket and jumped back inside, slamming the door. When my mom found out about the snake, she was hysterical. She started yelling that Satan was in that snake, and we had to kill it. I was 6 years old at the time and my sister was 10 so we were not going to be much help in the “snake killing” department. My Dad was at work, as was every other man in our neighborhood. So my mom devised a plan. I was to wait by the back door and wait for her to whistle. She was going to go out the front door, go into the shed and get a hoe and sneak up on the snake from behind.I was to open the back door and jump out and scream to get the snakes’ attention so that Satan would not see her coming at him. So it began…one…two…three…whistle…jump out…scream…my mom began hitting the snake with the hoe. She was crying and hitting and crying and hitting, and she didn’t stop until there was only a few recognizable pieces of the snake left. She then dropped the hoe, marched inside, crawled in bed and stayed there. When my Dad got home, and he saw what was left of the snake he just shook his head, told us to get in the car, and we went to Mc Donalds for dinner. My mom finally emerged from her bedroom two days later and by then the snake parts had been disposed of. She had another “episode” when she found out the snake had been a rattlesnake, but she got over it much quicker. From that day on until we sold the house and moved, which was 5 years, my mom never went out the back door again. Up until she died at the age of 80 years old she would remind us every chance she got that “Satan was in all snakes and it was our duty to kill them.”

BTW: I have never killed a snake in my life and in fact, I bought my Grandsons an Albino Corn snake for a pet!

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

If you drop a fork you will be having company

Lift your feet up when driving over railroad tracks for good luck

If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip or walk in a new place

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Mother was Superstitious ~ Dreams ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition -” A Friday night’s dream on a Saturday told will always come true no matter how old!”

Aunt Nellie

In 1966 while we were living in Tucson Arizona my Dad received a phone call that one of his twin sisters, Nellie, just had a heart attack. Apparently it was a bad one, and they didn’t expect her to live more than a couple of weeks. It was a Thursday evening and the decision was made to leave the next morning and drive to Seattle Washington as quickly as possible. Because of the urgency, my parents decided to drive straight through, with them taking turns driving. The next morning we left before the sun came out and started the long 1650-mile one way trip.

The Long Trip

We headed toward Los Angeles so we could take Highway 5 straight up to Washington. My Dad and Mom took turns driving for 8 hours each. First my Dad drove while my mom slept then my mom drove so my Dad could sleep and so forth. My sister and I sat in the back seat reading, playing games, watching the scenery and sleeping. About 10 pm that Friday evening my mom woke up and took the wheel and my Dad found a comfortable way to recline, and he was soon asleep. My sister and I also fell asleep. It was hard to stay asleep because my mom had a horrible habit of whistling. It was never a tune, just a sound and it was never loud enough to actually hear it, but it was loud enough to be annoying. In the quiet of the car it made sleeping next to impossible, at least for me.

I guess I finally did fall asleep at some point because all of a sudden we were all 3 jarred from our slumber by a horrifying scream. The sun was just coming up over the Western Mountain range illuminating the gorgeous pine trees and making the sky appear red. Of course it was hard to enjoy these beauties because there was my mom, sitting in the front driver’s seat, both hands on the wheel, holding it so tightly her knuckles were white. She had brought the vehicle to a complete stop, and she had a look of terror on her face like none I had ever seen before. She just sat there screaming to the top of her lungs. My Dad tried everything to try to calm her down, and he even tried prying her hands from the wheel. Nothing helped. Looking behind us there was a line of cars and trucks piling up for miles and some of them were honking their horns. Remember this was the mid 60s, and there was only a one lane road going in both directions. There were no passing lanes. My Dad climbed out of the car, walked around to the driver’s side, opened the door and literally picked my mom up off the seat. He had to yell at her to get her to turn loose of the wheel. Finally, he was able to carry her around to the passenger seat and put her in the car. He then reached into the glove box and pulled out a large handkerchief and made a blindfold out of it. Once he made sure it was securely in place he then got in the car, and he drove off. It still took about 10 minutes for my mom to quit screaming. All my sister and I could do was to hold our hands over our ears.

When we got to the next town we stopped at a rest area and my Dad had us all get out of the car. After eating sandwiches for breakfast my sister finally ask “What happened?” My mom just shook her head and looked pathetically at my Dad. He told us that she had always been afraid of heights and never liked driving through any mountains. That night we had driven over the Sexton Mountain Pass just north of Grants Pass Oregon which was about 2000 in elevation. My mom had driven all night through mountainous roads but because of the darkness she didn’t realize it. Once the sun started to come up she could see where she was driving and panicked.

My Dad then told us that this is not the only thing that had frightened my mom. Apparently about a month before this, on a Friday night, she had a dream that she was driving down a foggy road, and she ended up having a bad accident. As a result she lost her legs. She then told my Dad about the dream the next day. This is where the Superstition comes in. Mom believed ” A Friday night’s dream on a Saturday told will always come true no matter how old!” She was convinced that she was going to have an accident and lose her legs. It didn’t matter that in her dream she was driving alone and on a flat road, she had told her Friday night dream on a Saturday so she was doomed! From then on, all the way to Seattle and then all the way back home again, my Dad drove. We did stop for the night on the way back so we could rest. My mom rode the entire rest of the trip with the blindfold on.

My Aunt Nellie did get better and went on to live a long and happy life!

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

If you lose an eyelash make a wish then blow it away

If you bite your tongue while eating, it is because you have recently told a lie

It is bad luck to open an umbrella inside

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Mother was Superstitious ~ The #13 ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My mom was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the “Fear of the number 13”. If you have been following this series of Blogs about my life with a mother who was plagued with Superstitions, you know that she had several “Fears of” things. Some had been passed down to her through her Ancestors and some she just developed on her own. I have no idea where she got this particular Superstition. All I know is this fear made life a little difficult.

This fear of the number 13 was pretty well ingrained in my mom. If we went to the grocery store and her purchases came to a total that had the number 13 in it, she had to either buy one more item or put one back. If we went into a building, and we had to take the stairs to another floor she would stand at the foot of the stairs and count the steps before walking up them. If there were 13 steps we had to take the elevator or leave. She would not do business with any store that was located on 13th street or avenue or one that had the number 13 in their address. When my Dad built the enclosure for our patio he used long 2 x 6s horizontally placed around the cement area. When he was finished my mom came outside to see it and after looking at it for a few minutes told him he had to either add one more 2 x 6 or take one away from the one side. Why? Because there were 13 boards. She also had the habit of staying in bed on whichever day the 13th of the month landed on.

Mary aged 10

I learned early on that I was not my mom’s favorite child. She never paid much attention to me and was always harder on me than she was my older sister. There was none of this “Isn’t she cute, she’s the baby of the family”. Looking back now I can assume it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was born on the 13th of January. Not only that, but my first and last names had a total of 13 letters in them. Growing up I do not remember ever celebrating my birthday at home on the 13th. It was always the day before or after. My mom had imparted a lot of her fears unto my sister, Mary. The number 13 happened to be one of them. Mary loved parties, especially birthday parties. She would throw a tantrum because she didn’t receive any gifts so my mom would go out and buy her something. Mary knew that the chances of me ever having a birthday party were slim because of the date, so she thought she would try having one on a different date. My 6th birthday had fallen on Friday the 13th that year! So not only was the party planned for a different date, but it was in an entirely different month as well.

This year my sister threw me a 6th year birthday party on June 10th. The problem was she forgot to inform my parents about the party and to make things worse my brother was home on leave from the Air Force! So at 2 pm the doorbell rang and there stood the 4 kids from next door standing there all dressed up, each with a gift in their hands. My brother invited them in, he had no clue what was going on. Next thing he knew the doorbell was ringing again and in came more kids. When Mary told him and mom what was going on they were both upset but didn’t want to spoil the time for the kids that had come to the “party”. As my brother went to the grocery store, my Mom pulled down the pin-the-tail on the donkey game, and we started playing games. When my brother returned there were prizes for the games, ice cream, cake and even a gift for me. Mary decided to have a talent contest. The winning prize was a large chocolate candy bar. Since she was not only a participant in the contest but the only judge she won and got the candy! Even though it wasn’t really my birthday, I had a great time. It was the first and only birthday party I had until I became an adult.

I have always loved the number 13. After all it is my birthdate, how can that be unlucky?

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

Ivy growing on a house protects the inhabitants from witchcraft and evil.

Cover your mouth when you yawn, or your soul can go out of your body along with the yawn.

Rosemary planted by the doorstep will keep witches away.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Great Grandma was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My Great Grandma, Asenath “Dolly” Walt was born February 27, 1863, in Camden, Ray County, Missouri. Dolly was said to be a very superstitious woman. Anyone who visited her home knew that she did have what they considered unusual quirks.

It is said that Dolly was petrified of “demons”. She believed that at night they would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon”, they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon” would probably not come knocking on her door, he would just kick it open and come in!

Machpelah Cemetery

Dolly’s fear of “demons” began at a young age. She had lived her entire life within the 16-mile radius between Camden and Lexington Missouri. Most of her relatives who had passed away were buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Lexington. Even as a young girl, this cemetery was considered an old one as the first burial there was in 1839. When Dolly was about 6 years old, her younger sister Naomi passed away at the age of 1. In those days visiting a cemetery, especially one that was so far away, was an all day event. This day was no exception. After the small service for Naomi the women went about laying out the picnic lunch for the mourners on the edge of the grounds. Dolly and her other siblings were racing around, darting in and out of the nearby woods. Dolly, in an attempt to hide from the others ran out of the woods and hid behind a large Headstone. That is when she saw it! A large man/beast come out of a grave and began walking slowly towards her. She ran terrified, screaming, all the way across the cemetery and into her Mother’s arms. When Dolly calmed down enough to speak, she told the adults what had happened. They tried to convince her that what she saw was the grave digger climbing out of the hole he had just dug. Try as they might no one could convince her that she hadn’t just seen a “demon”.

After this experience she refused to set foot in the Machpelah Cemetery. When her own daughter Ella (My Grandmother) died in 1921 she pleaded with her son-in-law not to bury her in Lexington and so Ella was buried in the Buckner Cemetery in the town of the same name about 25 miles west. Dolly spent 61 years of her life afraid of the “demon” that came out of the grave and was convinced that he was out to get her. Upon her death on February 19, 1931, Dolly’s husband John McGowan, had her buried in the Machpelah Cemetery.

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

If your nose itches, you will soon be kissed by a fool.

If your house is clean on New Year’s Eve, you will have a clean house all year.

If you get a chill up your back or goose bumps, it means that someone is walking over the place where your grave will be.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

My Grandpa was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition: Watch what you eat!

My Grandpa was John Pleasant Smith Sr. born September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill Missouri. On John’s mothers side his roots grew deep into Ireland’s fertile soil. He had all the superstitions of your typical Irishman, but he also had some that was passed down from his father’s side. Pleasant Smith was said to be a Creek Indian. I haven’t been able to prove nor disprove this since he is my biggest brick wall. I do know that my beloved Grandpa had one Superstition that I have never forgotten.

John Pleasant Smith Sr and my mother Emmajane, 1967

When I was 12 years old, we had just moved back to Missouri, and we settled in the quaint little town of Oak Grove, Missouri. It wasn’t a permanent situation, but we were there long enough for me to finally get to know my Grandpa. The house we rented was only 6 blocks from his home. I would go visit him after school and on Saturdays. He taught me a lot about growing vegetables and taking care of fruit trees. I always thought some of his planting ideas were really just Superstitions. He taught me to plant anything that grows on top of the soil when the Moon is full and anything that grows beneath the soil should be planted in the dark of the Moon. Over the years I have had bumper crops of veggies by following his instructions and I recently discovered that this is even written about in the Farmer’s Almanac. Oh well, so much for that Superstition.

He did other things because of his belief in Superstitions. One was if he left the house by the back door he would have to re-enter the house by that same door. To do otherwise brought bad luck. He believed that if the Moon had a ring around it then it was sure to rain within 3 days. I distinctly remember one day while I was visiting, my Grandma and I were sitting in the living room shelling peas. My Grandpa came in and asked me if I wanted to see a Yellow Headed Blackbird. I was so excited I jumped out of the rocking chair I was sitting in and ran towards the door. My Grandpa froze in place and told me to go back and stop the chair from rocking. He believed if you leave a rocking chair rocking when empty, it invites evil spirits to come into your house to sit in the rocking chair.

Although I remember these Superstitions, they are not the strangest one that he had, the one that has stuck with me all these years. It all started the first time we went to eat at my Grandparents home. We were all sitting around the kitchen table and after my Grandpa said “Grace” my Grandma and mom served our plates. I sat in astonishment as my Grandma brought a plate with only 2 pieces of chicken on it and set it in front of my Grandpa. She went back into the kitchen and came back with 2 smaller plates, one with mashed potatoes and one with green beans, and she placed these in front of him. By the time all the plates were placed on the table Grandpa had 5 separate plates with just one specific food on each one. I had never seen anything like it. I looked at my own plate. I had all the same things as he did but it was all on just one plate. I watched as Grandpa slowly ate each plate of food, one right after the other. After dinner, I asked him why he ate his food like that. He told me that he was raised to believe that if you let your food touch each other on your plate that you will get sick and die. My Grandpa was 84 years old so it made it easy for me to believe it too!

I decided to eat the same way; I mean why risk it, right? When I told my mom about my decision she said if that is what I wanted then go ahead and do it, but I would have to wash my own dishes afterwards. Eating this way only lasted a couple of days. It just wasn’t worth adding all those extra dishes for me to wash!

Here are some other Superstitions held by my mom and Grandpa.

Finding a penny brings good luck. When you pick it up you MUST say “Find a penny, pick it up all the day you’ll have good luck!”

Crossing your fingers for luck or to ward off evil or to not have to tell the truth

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.