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10 Freaky “Old Wives’ Tales”

Ian Harvey

When you were a young child, did your mother ever run around the house draping blankets over the mirrors when a thunderstorm was coming your way? Did she yell at you for opening an umbrella in the house? These are merely two examples of old wives’ legends that countless people hear growing up, even if you don’t choose to believe them. Superstition frequently arises more or less due to the things people are scared of most, so it’s no wonder why they are so freaky.

10 Pinky Pinky


The tale of Pinky Pinky is an old wives’ tale and urban legend formed into one. With the arrival of democracy in South Africa during the year of 1994, a tale began making the rounds in primary schools about a monster who silently waits for a little girl in the school toilet. Girls were cautioned by their friends not to wear pink at school because it would raise the wrath the creature, who would then try to attack and even rape them. The mania expanded and people were claiming to see the monster Pinky Pinky at countless schools about the country. It was stated to be like a bogeyman or a tokoloshe, which is an African mythical creature, and it had one claw and one paw. Boys cannot see the creature, though some claim they were attacked by it and been left bruised and scratched. Of course, no exact information proves that the monster is real.

Nobody actually identifies what prompted the Pink Pinky legend. Suggestions made were that it’s the embodiment of the young girls’ fear of going to the restroom by themselves, in a society where rape and other sexual abuse was, and still is, very common.

9 Corpse with open eyes

A human skull, widely used as a symbol of death and decomposition Photo Credit
A human skull, widely used as a symbol of death and decomposition Photo Credit

At one point in time, it was popularly thought that if a person passed away with their eyes open, they were attempting to take someone with them to their own final destination. This was normally thought to occur within the family of the departed person. To stop this from occurring, the British would shut the eyes of the individual, and then set pennies on the eyelids to keep the eye from opening one more time.

The Greeks would place a coin in the deceased’s mouth to help them pay for the ferryman to return their souls across the river Styx, so they could get into Hades. This thinking would spread to the British practice also. In the beginning, it was as well thought that if a person passed away and their eye would not shut, it was evil spirits that were not letting them rest, or it was a sign of an unfulfilled life that was left.

In a strange turn of events in a little village in north-east Namibia, a corpse stopped his own funeral for the reason that his eyes refused to keep shut. The man, who passed away in his eighties, agonized from a long drawn out illness before he finally passed away. When his loved ones came to the morgue to ready his corpse for the funeral, they were appalled to see his eyes blinking numerous times.

8 Dead hands

Hand Photo Credit
Hand Photo Credit

Legend tells that the hands of the deceased have healing powers. No matter what type of disease a person had, it was believed that placing the hands of the dead upon them could cure their disease. Britain thought that the dead person’s hand was helpful in reducing swelling. Countless times in an Irish household when they experienced a death within the family, the disease that killed them would spread to the rest of the family as they jostled to get close to the corpse. It was believed by some that the dead person had to be the opposite sex of the person who wanted to be healed. After touching hands with the deceased, the person would lie down in their bed, aligned north to south.

It was also believed that the bedding of a deceased person would hold some of the magic from their hands, so people used to wrap themselves in the bedding of the dead in order to help reduce pain and cure disease.

7 Chewing gum after midnight

 chewing-gums Photo Credit
Chewing gum Photo Credit

Not one culture is free from superstitions, and countless of them are linked with the fear of death. For example, in several cultures, they still believe when a baby constantly cries, someone in the house will perish soon. If a corpse is taken into a house, it is believed that three members of the household will pass away. Putting your sock at the foot of the bed is seen as an additional way to arouse death into the house.

A far more gruesome old wives’ tale from the country Turkey cautions against chewing gum after midnight. In English countries, superstition is that a chewing gum remnant remains in your digestive system for about seven years. In Turkey, though, children are told that chewing gum after midnight transforms it into rotten, decomposing flesh. Within several parts of Turkey, the gum does not wait until the witching hour to become dead flesh, but any time after dark will do the trick.

6 Evil spirits follow you


In Korea, individuals who take old wives’ stories earnestly go out of their way to make sure no bad luck comes upon them. For instance, it is thought that when you come into a new home you purchased, the evil spirits and ghosts from your previous home follow you. It is believed they attach to your objects to ensure they come with you to the new home.

According to the old wives’ tale, there are “safe” times within every month when you can trick the evil spirits. Korean removal companies often mark these days on the calendar. Occupants will hurriedly move to their new homes on these days. To try and trick the spirits further, they will not clean up behind them before leaving for the new home. It is thought that this throws off the evil ghosts, tricking them into thinking that the residents have not moved. By the time the spirits realize that the owners have moved house, it is to late to follow them.

5 Seeing your future husband

standing in front of a mirror
Woman standing in front of a mirror

This was an old wives’ tale for women who were too impatient to wait to see who their future husband was.

It was said a woman should wait until midnight on Halloween, stand in front of a mirror in the dark, and light a candle. While staring at her face, she was to take a bite of an apple then slowly brush her hair at the same time. Focusing hard, her face will slowly start to morph into that of the man she’s supposed to marry. An additional way is to peel the apple into a single strip, and then to throw the peel over your left shoulder. The peel will then turn into the initials of your future husband. In other versions, the woman’s face will not morph, but a vision of her husband will materialize behind her and gaze at her in the mirror.

This legend dates back to the ancient Celtic time, and the festival called Samhain on November 1st, which was considered the traditional Celtic New Year. Samhain is just about the same as our modern day Halloween. The Celts thought that through the duration of this celebration, time ceased to have any meaning, and spirits would cross over into our world. These spirits included fairies, demons, and ghosts. Individuals would light bonfires to protect themselves until the Samhain was over. It was also thought that apples were a magical fruit from the spiritual realm.

4 Doorbells of death


Superstitions surrounding door knocking feature in countless various cultures, and it’s no amazement that when doorbells were invented, they were included in the superstition also. For example, in some places, it is thought that if a doorbell rings endlessly for no reason at all, something horrendous has occurred or is waiting to happen. Whitney Houston’s mother disclosed in a letter that her doorbell had mysteriously commenced ringing the day her daughter passed. She firmly had faith that Whitney came to visit her, and was causing her presence to be known.

A woman in Tennessee claims to have had a similar chilling occurrence. Emily Miller moved into a new house, and was awakened by the noise of her doorbell ringing at three in the morning. She got up, groggy, only to see that no one was at the door. For the next weeks, the bell would ring every second morning at three o’clock. No logical reason could be discovered, although she installed a motion sensor camera and called the local police multiple times. No person was ever there. Weeks turned into months and then years, until Emily ultimately had enough. Her son ripped the doorbell out of the mounting and thew it away. That night the missing doorbell rang once again.

3 Risks of falling asleep

sleeping girl
sleeping girl Photo Credit

There are countless old wives’ tales about the alleged danger of sleep, as you are vulnerable during that state. Numerous people believe that having plants on your bedroom is an awful idea. It was believed that the plants would suck up all the oxygen in your room, eventually suffocating you. Additionally, it was thought that the soul abandons the body during deep sleep, so if you’re awakened by being startled, you might die immediately. This story is most likely where the urban legend about waking sleepwalkers originated.

Sleeping under the direct moonlight was believed to lead to blindness or even madness. Sleeping with a mirror facing you was as well considered a bad idea. Negative energies were alleged to be caught in the mirror and reflected back to the dormant person throughout the night. Another old wives’ tale states that whoever falls asleep first on their wedding night will first be the one to die.

2 Newborn babies

A crying newborn, a few days after birth
A crying newborn, a few days after birth

Since there were high infant mortality rates in ancient times, countless superstitions have come up concerning the months after childbirth. In Russia, it was strongly thought that new mothers shouldn’t show off the baby to strangers or take it into public for about 40 days. This was to guarantee no negative energy or evil presence would attach to the newborn. The mother and father were the only ones allowed to see the baby throughout this time; not even family could come visit the baby. In countless Christian traditions, the time between birth and christening was an especially hazardous time, since it was thought that unbaptized babies would not be granted access to heaven.

An especially alarming old wives’ tale from the Dominican Republic cautioned new mothers to keep an eye on their newborns, so they did not fall prey to the Bruja. The Bruja was a legendary witch that would shape-shift into an enormous bird. For her to turn into the avian creature, she had to remove her own skin. While she was in the bird form, she could suck the blood of a newborn through its navel or big toe.

In the Dominican Republic it was also feared that if a mother rocked her baby boy’s crib when he was not residing in it, it could cause the child to become insane. But if they left a baseball glove hanging above the crib, the boy could possibly become a gifted baseball player. In other parts of the world it is feared that when a pregnant woman gets frightened during her pregnancy and touches her face, the baby will be born with a reddish-purple birthmark located in the same place the woman’s hands rested.

1 Whistling at night

Various finger techniques

The noise of whistling appears to be displeasing for countless people around the world, and is the focal point of countless old wives’ tales. Constant whistling at night can be very annoying to those who have to bear it, but some believe that it has deadly repercussions, such as inviting ghosts and snakes into your home.

In Japan, it was feared that children who whistled at night would attract child traffickers, who would kidnap them and sell them into slavery.

In Korea, it was thought that if whistling at night would attract for ghosts or snakes, people would play Korea’s traditional pipe flute as an alternative. In Turkey, individuals were cautioned against whistling, for it was believed that it would summon the devil himself.

Whistling during the night in Hawaii was not a good idea either, for the reason that you might anger one of the greatly feared Nightmarchers, the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News