25 Bad Luck Superstitions from Around the World

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iStock

Spilling pepper, complimenting a baby, and cutting your fingernails after dark are just a few of the things that will earn you bad luck around the world.

1. PUTTING YOUR CLOTHES ON INSIDE OUT IN RUSSIA INVITES A BEATING.

A blue item of clothing inside out with the blank tag showing.
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If this does happen to you, though, all hope isn't lost: Put your clothes on the right way immediately and have a friend symbolically hit you, which will minimize the potential threat.

2. MIXING BEERS IN CZECHIA (A.K.A. THE CZECH REPUBLIC) IS BAD LUCK.

A row of different beers in glasses on a bar.
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When you're visiting Czechia—the world's number one per capita beer-consuming country—do not pour a beer into a glass that has beer of a different kind in it; bad luck will surely follow.

3. TUESDAY THE 13TH IS UNLUCKY IN GREECE.

A lot of signs reading
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While Americans are generally superstitious about Friday the 13th, Greeks are traditionally wary of Tuesdays, and especially Tuesday the 13th. The rationale for the superstition goes all the way back to Tuesday, April 13, 1204 (on the Julian calendar), when Constantinople completely fell to the Crusaders. That wasn't the only unlucky Tuesday for the Greeks: On Tuesday, May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. One 19th-century travel writer said that he heard that Greeks even avoided shaving on a Tuesday.

4. IN SOME LATIN AMERICAN CULTURES, IT'S UNLUCKY TO GET MARRIED ON A TUESDAY.

Close-up of a bouquet of flowers being held by a bride.
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The unluckiness of Tuesday is also present in several Latin American cultures, to the point that in some South American countries the movie Friday the 13th was Martes 13, or Tuesday the 13th. There’s even a saying: “En martes, ni te cases, ni te embarques, ni de tu casa te apartes,” which means that on Tuesdays you shouldn't get married, go on a trip, or leave your house.

5. IT'S BAD LUCK TO SHAKE YOUR LEGS IN SOUTH KOREA.

A close-up of a man's legs under a table.
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In South Korea, people are told not to shake their legs, otherwise their wealth and good luck will fall out.

6. IN SOME FISHING REGIONS OF CHINA, IT'S BAD LUCK TO FLIP OVER A COOKED FISH.

A whole grilled fish on a plate with lemons.
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It’s thought that this will lead to a ship capsizing. If it’s a whole fish, some families will use chopsticks to pick meat from the bottom of the fish when they're done with the top.

7. IN SOME PARTS OF EUROPE, LIGHTING A CIGARETTE FROM A CANDLE IS BAD NEWS FOR SAILORS.

A single candle burning on a black background.
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Another piece of sailor-related bad luck from parts of Europe says that if you light a cigarette from a candle, a sailor will die. The common explanation is that sailors used to supplement their income by selling matches, so bypassing the match step took money away from a sailor.

8. WOMEN IN TRADITIONAL RWANDAN SOCIETIES AVOID GOAT MEAT.

Three goats standing in a tree.
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It's not permitted because it's thought it could make women grow a beard.

9. IN ITALY, BREAD PLACED UPSIDE DOWN IS BAD LUCK.

Three loaves of bread in a wire basket.
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In Italy, it’s considered bad luck to lay bread upside down, either on a table or in a basket. Although there are several explanations, the most popular is that the bread represents the body of Christ, and as such needs to be treated with respect.

10. IN SWEDEN, IT'S CONSIDERED BAD LUCK TO PUT KEYS ON A TABLE.

A set of keys on a table.
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Why? Because, in the old days, prostitutes would put keys on tables in public areas to attract clients. So, to avoid risk of misunderstanding, a superstition rose up to prevent people from doing this accidentally.

11. DON'T PASS MONEY BY HAND IN TAJIKISTAN.

A close-up of one person handing money to another.
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The same goes for items like keys, needles, and scissors. They should be placed on a table and then picked up by the second person.

12. AFTER STARTING A JOURNEY IN PARTS OF EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA, IT'S BAD LUCK TO RETURN HOME FOR SOMETHING YOU'VE FORGOTTEN.

A person packing a suitcase for a journey.
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If you absolutely must return home, you need to look in a mirror (and in some traditions smile) before setting off again.

13. IN AZERBAIJAN, IT'S BAD LUCK TO SPILL SALT OR PEPPER.

A pepper shaker turned on its side, with pepper spilling out of it onto the table.
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It will start a fight. The way to remedy this is by putting sugar on the spilled salt and/or pepper, and leaving it there until it’s cleaned up.

14. ACCORDING TO AN OLD PENNSYLVANIA GERMAN SUPERSTITION, A FEMALE VISITOR ON NEW YEAR'S DAY MEANS BAD LUCK.

A view of a woman from behind as she knocks on a door.
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An early 20th-century Pennsylvania German superstition says that if your first visitor on New Year’s Day is a woman, you'll have bad luck all year long. If your visitor is a man, though, you'll have good luck. It was also considered bad luck to take a bath or change your clothing between Christmas and the New Year (and if you change your underwear between the holidays, "you will be full of boils").

15. IN TURKEY, IT'S BAD LUCK TO DRINK WATER THAT REFLECTS MOONLIGHT.

Full moon rising over a body of water.
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According to the Turkish Ministry of Culture, those who drink water that reflects moonlight will have bad luck. Bathing in that water seems to be OK, though; according to the ministry, "People, who bath[e] under the moonlight and in shadow, will shine as bright as the moon."

16. TRIPPING OVER SOMETHING WAS BAD LUCK IN 19TH-CENTURY NEW ENGLAND.

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According to What They Say in New England, a book published in 1896, the only remedy was to go back and walk over the thing again. "If it is a stone you have fallen over," the text notes, "go back and touch it."

17. IN SERBIA, COMPLIMENTING A BABY WILL BRING IT BAD LUCK.

A happy baby lying in its crib.
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Instead, you need to say that a newborn is ugly.

18. ACCORDING TO ONE EARLY 20TH-CENTURY AMERICAN SUPERSTITION, ALL DISHCLOTHS SHOULD BE BURNED BEFORE A MOVE.

A person wiping up dust with a cloth.
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Same goes for cloths used for general house cleaning. That way, all of the bad luck you've “wiped up” in the old house won’t go with you to the new house.

19. ACCORDING TO 19TH-CENTURY WELSH TRADITION, IT'S BAD LUCK TO CUT THE NAILS OF AN INFANT LESS THAN 6 MONTHS OLD.

A close-up of a person cutting a baby's fingernails.
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Some versions of this superstition warn of just general unluckiness, while others say that a child whose nails are cut before 6 months of age will become a thief. According to the book Welsh Traditions and Superstitions, instead of cutting nails, the mother should instead "bite them off as they grow."

20. IN SOME ASIAN COUNTRIES, IT'S CONSIDERED UNLUCKY TO CUT YOUR NAILS AFTER DARK.

A photo of nail clippers on their side.
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Proposed reasons for the superstition range from the practicalities of wielding sharp things near your hand at night, to concern that separating a nail in the darkness could attract spirits.

21. IN SOME MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES, IT'S BAD LUCK TO OPEN AND CLOSE SCISSORS WITHOUT CUTTING ANYTHING.

A pair of scissors, open, on a white background.
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This superstition might have something to with the two sides of metal touching each other.

22. HEARING A MARSH CRAKE OVER THE WRONG SHOULDER IN NEW ZEALAND COULD LEAD TO BAD LUCK.

A marsh crake sitting on a branch in the wetlands.
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A New Zealand superstition held that hearing a Kāreke (marsh crake) over your right shoulder was good luck, but over your left shoulder would lead to having a “crook trot”—old New Zealand/Australian slang for bad luck

23. IN GERMANY, YOU SHOULD NEVER WISH SOMEONE HAPPY BIRTHDAY EARLY.

A cupcake with green icing and a sign reading 'happy birthday' stuck in it.
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In general it's thought to bring misfortune, but one German interviewed for a TV segment gave more colorful consequences for wishing someone an early happy birthday: "My grandma always said you'd have blue children."

24. IN SOME PARTS OF AFRICA, OWLS ARE SYMBOLS OF BAD LUCK.

A Giant Eagle Owl perched on a rock.
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Supposedly, seeing or hearing one of these birds hoot is bad news: It could mean anything from bad luck to poor health to death. Some even believe that they’re sent to deliver curses.

25. NEVER MIX WINE AND WATERMELON IN ARGENTINA.

Slices of watermelon stacked in a pile.
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This old wives’ tale says that combining them will cause certain death (or sometimes just an upset stomach).

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

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Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

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- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

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Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

9 Things Invented By Accident

These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
Daniel Öberg, Unsplash

Not every great invention was created according to plan. Some, in fact, were the result of a happy accident. In November 2020, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it had developed in partnership with Oxford University was 90 percent effective when administered in a dosing regimen they had discovered thanks to some “serendipity.” This wasn't the only unintentional discovery in history, of course. From penicillin to artificial sweeteners, all nine of the everyday items below were invented entirely by accident.

1. Penicillin

On September 28, 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered that a petri dish of staphylococcus bacteria that had been inadvertently left out on the windowsill of his London laboratory had become contaminated by a greenish-colored mold—and encircling the mold was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth. After taking a sample and developing a culture, Fleming discovered that the mold was a member of the Penicillium genus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Corn Flakes

The two Kellogg brothers—Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother (and former broom salesman) Will Keith Kellogg—worked at Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, where John was physician-in-chief. Both were strict Seventh-day Adventists, who used their work at the sanitarium to promote the austere dietary and moralist principles of their religion (including strict vegetarianism and a lifelong restraint from excessive sex and alcohol) and to carry out research into nutrition, and the impact of diet on their patients. It was during one of these experiments in 1894 that, while in the process of making dough from boiled wheat, one of the Kelloggs left the mash to dry for too long and when it came time to be rolled out, it splintered into dozens of individual flakes. Curious as to what these flakes tasted like, he baked them in the oven—and in the process, produced a cereal called Granose. Some later tinkering switched out the wheat for corn, and gave us corn flakes.

3. Teflon

Polytetrafluoroethylene—better known as PTFE, or Teflon—was invented by accident at a DuPont laboratory in New Jersey in 1938. Roy Plunkett, an Ohio-born chemist, was attempting to make a new CFC refrigerant when he noticed that a canister of tetrafluoroethylene, despite appearing to be empty, weighed as much as if it were full. Cutting the canister open with a saw, Plunkett found that the gas had reacted with the iron in the canister’s shell and had coated its insides with polymerized polytetrafluoroethylene—a waxy, water-repellent, non-stick substance. Du Pont soon saw the potential of Plunkett’s discovery and began mass producing PTFE, but it wasn’t until 1954, when the wife of French engineer Marc Grégoire asked her husband to use the same substance to coat her cookware to stop food sticking to her pans, that the true usefulness of Plunkett’s discovery was finally realized.

4. Slinky

In 1943, naval engineer Richard T. James was working at a shipyard in Philadelphia when he accidentally knocked a spring (that he had been trying to modify into a stabilizer for sensitive maritime equipment) from a high shelf. To his surprise, the spring neatly uncoiled itself and stepped its way down from the shelf and onto a pile of books, and from there onto a tabletop, and then onto the floor. After two years of development, the first batch of 400 “Slinky” toys sold out in just 90 minutes when they were demonstrated in the toy department of a local Gimbels store in 1945.

5. Silly Putty

At the height of World War II, rubber was rationed across the United States after Japan invaded a number of rubber-producing countries across southeast Asia and hampered production. The race was on to find a suitable replacement—a synthetic rubber that could be produced inside the U.S. without the need of overseas imports, which eventually led to the entirely unexpected invention of Silly Putty. There are at least two rival claims to the invention of Silly Putty (chiefly from chemist Earl L. Warrick and Scottish-born engineer James Wright), both of whom found that mixing boric acid with silicone oil produced a stretchy, bouncy rubber-like substance that also had the unusual ability of leaching newspaper print from a page (an ability that changing technology has now eliminated).

6. Post-It Notes

Pexels, Pixabay

In 1968, a 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive when instead he accidentally invented a super-weak adhesive, which could be used to only temporarily stick things together. The seemingly limited application of Silver’s product meant that it sat unused at 3M (then technically known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing) for another five years, until, in 1973, a colleague named Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars and struck upon the idea that his impermanent glue could be used to stick bookmarks into the pages of his hymnbook. It took another few years for 3M to be convinced both of Fry and Silver’s idea and of the salability of their product, but eventually they came up with a unique design that worked perfectly: a thin film of Spencer’s adhesive was applied along just one edge of a piece of paper. After a failed test-market push in 1977 as Press ’N Peel, the product went national as the Post-It note in 1980.

7. Saccharin

In 1878 or '79 (sources differ), Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist studying the properties of oxidized coal tar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, discoveredwhile eating his meal one evening that food he picked up with this fingers tasted sweeter than normal. He traced the sweetening effect back to the chemical he had been working with that day (Ortho-sulfobenzoic Acid Imide, no less) and, noting its potential salability, quickly set up a business mass producing his sweetener under the name Saccharin. Although quickly popular (and equally quickly controversial), it would take the sugar shortages of two World Wars to make the discovery truly universal.

8. Popsicles

The first popsicle was reportedly invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, when he accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water, with its mixing stick still inside, on his porch overnight. One unexpectedly cold night later, and the popsicle—which Epperson originally marketed 20 years later as an Epsicle—was born.

9. Safety glass

Safety glass—or rather, laminated glass—was accidentally discovered by the French chemist Édouard Bénédictus when he knocked a glass beaker from a high shelf in his laboratory and found, to his surprise, that it shattered but did not break. His assistant informed him that the beaker had contained cellulose nitrate, a type of clear natural plastic, that had left a film on the inside of the glass. He filed a patent for his discovery in 1909, and it has been in production (albeit in various different forms) ever since.