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 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.

7 thoughts on “My Great Grandma was Superstitious ~ Tales from the Dark Side

    1. I think he had her buried there because that is where all of her husband’s family is buried. Her husband outlived her by about 26 years so I believe maybe he might have suggested burying her there so he could be laid to rest there too. But then again, who knows?

  1. Bit of a scary experience to have as a kid, and once they’ve got an idea in their head that something’s happened there’s no changing their minds.
    My Nan passed down superstitions from her own family, if your nose itched then you were due a surprise, if your foot itched then you’d be going on strange ground.

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