Dear Barb – Very Superstitious, Writings on the Wall

Dear Barb:

Soon it will be Friday the thirteenth and I wanted to share a story about my aunt. She is in her fifties and very superstitious. I get that some of us are a little superstitious, but she is over the top. For example, if a black cat walks in front of her she will turn around and start walking the other way, even if she has to go all the way around the block to avoid walking across its path! If someone opens an umbrella indoors she will freak out and snap it closed immediately. I remember as a kid breaking a small mirror. She was devastated, and made me say and do all these weird things, like turn around three times while chanting something that I can’t even remember now. She said this was to get rid of the seven years bad luck. She also claimed that walking under a ladder would cause a person to enter into the devil’s domain. Honestly, she is so weird when it comes to superstitions, but otherwise is a totally normal person. I think the worst thing was when her sister, my aunt Rose, died and was cremated. Aunt Rose had no children or husband, so we made all the arrangements. We decided to inter her ashes with another family member who had predeceased her. The date for the internment just happened to be Friday the 13th. My aunt begged us to change the date, and we actually tried to do it too, but that was the only available date that would work for everyone else. My aunt chose not to attend and has not spoken to any of us since. We’ve invited her to family events, but she refuses. Everyone feels bad, but we don’t know what to do. Were we wrong in going ahead with the internment in spite of her feelings? Thanks, Erica.

Hi Erica:

Sounds like your aunt is a bit of an eccentric, but, according to research, over half of American’s believe in some type of superstition. It’s unclear why people fear Friday the 13th. It may have began back in the 19th century when Gioachino Rossini, an Italian composer died on Friday the 13th. That seems to be the first recorded mention of Friday the 13th bringing bad luck. In 1907 Thomas Lawson, a businessman, published a book titled “Friday the Thirteenth.” The fear of Friday the 13th even has a name: frigggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia. This fear of Friday the 13th causes airlines to experience tremendous losses on this day. Also, many high-rise buildings, hospitals, and hotels do not include the 13th floor because of the bad energy associated with the number 13. Cornell University psychology professor Tom Gilovich who says “our brains are wired to believe this nonsense and to find cause and effect where there is none.” So your aunt is not alone in her beliefs, but perhaps she is taking things too far. I don’t think you were wrong to proceed with the internment, as you can’t please everyone. You most likely wouldn’t change the date if only one person had something else planned either, so I don’t think you needed to change the date for your aunt’s belief system. Keep inviting her to events and keep in touch; hopefully she will come around. Thanks for your letter Erica.

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