JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Friday the Thirteenth! A day for thrills and chills and mystery, naturally. Unlike last year, when the Gregorian calendar had no less than three Friday the Thirteenths, today is the only one of 2016. The best Friday the Thirteenths are in the spooky month of October, of course, but even a sunny day in May will give some people pause. To quote Wikipedia, "According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed." Fear of this date has it's own name: triskaidekaphobia.
I've never worried about Friday the thirteenth, or black cats, or broken mirrors (except for the dangerous glass!) But I do find myself adhering to a few superstitions. When I spill salt, I throw some over my shoulder. I'll go out of my way to avoid circling widdershins (counter-clockwise.) I only use the term "The Scottish Play" in theaters and I never wish anyone good luck before a performance! I always say "I love you" to my children before hanging up the phone, and when I make my family dinner, I make a cross in or over the food and say a quick blessing.
Okay, maybe I am superstitious. How about you, Reds? Are you avoiding potential accidents today? What are your superstitions?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yeah, this is a tough one. I throw salt, definitely. I don't put hats on beds, or shoes on tables. I also don't put shoes on beds or hats on tables because I can never remember which it is. I don't pick up coins when they are face down. I kind of avoid walking under ladders. Definitely with you, Julia, on the "good luck" thing, and the play. I say "knock on wood" to avoid jinxing things. (And, now, as I list these, I am horribly embarrassed.)
JULIA: I'm thinking no shoes on the table is just good hygiene.
HANK: Jonathan is completely un-superstitious. Not one thing. He's totally baffled at my little rituals.
My stepfather, too, would absolutely SNEER. Except once, he saw someone put a hat on a bad. He snatched it away, aghast.
I said "Hey! You insisted you weren't superstitious!
And he said: "It's s not a superstition. One simply doesn't put hats on beds."
Oh, okay then.
Funny, though, although Friday the 13th crosses my mind, it doesn't scare me. Knock on wood.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: So funny you should bring this up, Julia, because the Kiddo is doing a scene from "The Scottish Play" this spring (playing MacDuff) and we had to go through the whole "you don't say the name of 'The Scottish Play" in the theater (unless you're on stage and it's in your line). There's a great Blackadder spoof called "Don't Mention Macbeth" that we showed him, which I think made more sense than the two of us prattling on about it. Really funny.
I have a lot of friends who are ballet dancers, modern dancers, opera singers, and choreographers — and it's always "merde" (yes, it means in French what you think it does—it's what they say—seriously) or "toi toi toi."
In puppetry, I always say to Noel and friends, "Break a rod." (Rods are the little sticks that hold up puppets' hands.)
JULIA: Susan, that's wonderful.
SUSAN: Other than that I'm not superstitious at all — and adore black cats (which are often very dark brown when you see their fur in direct sunlight).
HALLIE EPHRON: My mother was superstitious. Threw spilled salt over her shoulder (can't remember if it was right or left); if you dropped a knife it meant a man was coming; open an umbrella in the house is bad luck; break a mirror eight years bad luck. And of course they were in the theater so I knew to say "Break a leg."
I'm not superstitious, though I do "knock wood" and I "find a penny pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck."
LUCY BURDETTE: Absolutely yes to throwing salt, not opening umbrellas in the house, and knocking wood. And I would never, ever walk under a ladder. I am devastated when mirrors are broken. But I love Friday the 13th and especially, like Susan, love black cats. I think it was you, Hank, who persuaded me one year not to pick up pennies or other coins--just say "find a penny" and then leave it for someone else who needs it more. And that fits nicely into my germ suspiciousness...
HANK:Yes, Lucy, that's what I do! I love to think of someone else picking it up. And if it is wrong side up, I turn it so they will.
RHYS BOWEN: I grew up surrounded by elderly aunts who had so many superstitions: drop a knife = a gentleman visitor. A fork = a lady a spoon = a disappointment.
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. The only one that stuck with me is to say RABBITS on the first of the month on waking. I still find myself muttering this , even though I know it's stupid. And I have thrown a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. And I do pick up pins... See a pin and pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck.
I have taken flights on Friday 13th and then I have been aware of little noises on take-off. Otherwise I don't even think about it.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have never in my life thrown salt over my shoulder. I don't worry about ladders, or pennies (although I, too, have thrown one in the Trevi Fountain) or putting hats on beds. I'd never even heard of that!! And I like black cats--I've had several. I guess I grew up in a very boring and rational family... I do knock on wood, though!
Rhys, I have friends who post "Rabbit, rabbit," on Facebook, and I never had any idea why. Thanks for getting me up to speed!)
JULIA: I had no idea about the Rabbit thing! I just remembered another one of mine: telling fortunes by counting crows. "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never told."
How about you, dear readers? Do you pick up pennies? Throw salt? What are your superstitions?