Part 4: My Mother’s Grandmother was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

part 4I 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.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My Mothers maternal Grandmother Asenath “Dolly” Walt was born February 27 1863 in Camden, Ray, 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.

ring of salt

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!

tombstone from Machpelah

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 SONY DSCnearby 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”.

Asenath McGowan HSAfter 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.  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.itchy nose

happy new yearIf your house is clean on New Year’s Eve you will have a clean house all year.

Walking over a grave pic

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

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

Come back on Friday for the next installment of “My Mothers Superstitions  – Tales from the Dark Side.”

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on 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.



Filed under Ancestry, Cemetery, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Story telling, Superstitions

4 responses to “Part 4: My Mother’s Grandmother was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

  1. I’ve been enjoying reading this series of posts. Your poor great-grandmother. It would be a confining life to have superstition impose limitation.

    I had never heard “If you get a chill up your back or goose bumps, it means that someone is walking over your grave.” It seems the oddest to me considering that if you feel a chill up your spine you’re still alive and what would it matter if someone walked on your grave (if you even had one!).

    Maybe I’ll do a post on superstitions, too. I think in our family they were mostly said in jest though we kids often watched in anticipation to see if anything happened.

    • Nancy

      If you do a blog on superstitions please let me know, I would love to read it. Sometimes I miss blogs on the feed!

      I always wondered the same thing, I am alive, how can someone walk over my grave? My Mother used to say it was someone walking across where you are going to be buried!

      Superstitions do confine us. My Mother was limited in what she would/could do because of them.

      I look forward to your blog!


  2. Really enjoying these posts! I know many present-day people here in Scotland who always clean their house from top to toe on 31st December before the new year comes in. I also had colleagues who would clean their house from top to toe and make the beds before going away on holiday in case they got burgled and the burglar was shocked by the mess!

    • Thanks for reading the blogs! This must be where my Mother got the superstition as we have Scottish Ancestors!

      Your stories made me laugh. I never heard of cleaning the house before going on Holiday so burglars don’t see a messy house! This is great! Thanks for sharing it.


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