Growing up in England I heard many superstitious mantras from my Nana. Whether or not she really believed them, she certainly seemed to have a tip for averting bad luck in even the most mundane of situations. There were the well-known adages like not giving someone a wallet or piggybank without first inserting a penny, not placing newly purchased shoes on the table, making sure to throw spilled salt over your left shoulder, not walking under a ladder, and avoiding black cats before they cross your path. I even remember a period of time during my childhood when I refused to walk on top of the cracks in the sidewalk -- something that drove my mother to despair, especially when she was in a hurry to get somewhere.
Now with Halloween fast approaching, we are surrounded by decorations and activities that are deeply rooted in superstition; from the aforementioned black cat, to the Jack-o-Lanterns that people painstakingly carve out each year. Even the Halloween games that children play, like bobbing for apples, typically originate from one supernatural myth or another.
But superstitions aren't just for Halloween. In fact one of the most ritualistic behavior-inspiring activities today is flying. It doesn't matter whether you believe in ghosts, ghouls or any other superstition for that matter. The simple truth is that many people adopt a special good luck routine before they fly.
When I first met my husband I noticed that he would always tap the side of the plane as he boarded. But when I asked him why he did it, all I got was a shrug and a non-committal response like "I don't know; for good luck I guess."
At the time I thought it was a little idiosyncratic. Cut to a few years later and I confess that, every time I fly, I wear a pendant with my children's names on it. Moreover, during take-off and landing, I rub my pendant with my thumb as if it were my own personal talisman. Why do I do it? "I don't know; for good luck I guess."
So, in honor of Halloween, here is Fly.com's countdown of the 10 weirdest superstitious rituals (designed to ensure a safe flight), that we have heard. In the interest of preserving the dignity of those who were kind enough to share, however, we are keeping all quotes anonymous!
1. Hold hands -- even when traveling alone
"While growing up, flying always scared me so my mother would hold my hand during take-off. Now that I travel alone 95 percent of the time, I always hold my hands together and pretend I am still holding my mother's hand. Weird, but it makes me think she is with me, even at 29 years old."
2. Repeat a special saying
"I must say 'Happy Landings' if I'm flying with someone, as well as have someone say it to me before I fly. It can be before I get to the airport, or said via text... My grandparents always said this before they flew and passed it along."
3. Be safety conscious
"I have to watch the safety informational video and read the entire safety information card before the plane takes off. It's become second nature to me and barely registers in my head because I've been doing it my entire life. And the few times where there wasn't an informational card in my seat pocket, I've requested one from the flight attendant."
4. Stay seated
"I always arrive two hours early and pace the entire airport back and forth. I find this keeps me relaxed and able to sit in the tiny airplane seat for hours without having to get up during the flight."
5. Count to 100 and then keep on going
"I'm not a particular fan of take-off, so the way I get through it on every flight is to count. Usually I know that, by the time I get to 800 or so, I will hear the happy little ping that lets you know that cruising altitude has been reached. I figure if the captain is casually telling us we can walk around, all is going well in the cockpit."
6. Take a picture of the airplane and send it to a loved one
"Capturing it in a photo and sharing it with them makes me feel like the flight I'm about to take will be safe, comfortable and quick."
7. Order a special drink, just for air travel
"The only time I ever order a Bloody Mary mix or a tomato juice is when my butt is planted on a plane seat."
8. Rub the rivets
"As I board the plane, I always reach out with my right hand and touch the rivets around the door. If they are smooth, I take it as an indication that the flight will be smooth and safe. But, if they are rough, I spend the whole flight fretting."
9. Get organized... with the laundry
"Before flying anywhere, I must do all of my laundry -- even if it means staying up all night to do it. Bottom line, my laundry hamper must be empty before I take off. I guess this is to avoid other people having to deal with it if something were to happen to me."
10. Wear your socks inside out
"I always wear my socks inside out when I need a bit of good luck. This includes every time I fly. It is a ritual that started after a particularly amazing basketball game that I had back in high school. After the game I discovered that my socks had been inside out."
- - Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at Fly.com and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.