Author Archives: Renee Simpson

Do not put money on the table when you eat

After a day of shopping with my informant and friend, we went to a restaurant for dinner. Once I was done eating and she was finishing up her last bites I pulled out my wallet and placed it on the table.  She startled me by abruptly saying, “Don’t do that!” Confused, I picked up my wallet checking to see if I killed a bug or something. She then explained that it was a superstition in her country. Now a year later I reminded my informant (a twenty-two year old female from the Gabonese Republic, a state located on the west coast of Central Africa) of that specific event and she revealed that “In my country…you’re not supposed to pull out money or put it on the table until everyone is done eating…It’s okay to keep it down near the chair but not on the table.” When I asked why, my informant stated, “Because you will be broke [laughter].” When asked where she learned this from the informant claimed “everyone does it” meaning it is the custom among locals. She admitted not paying much attention to this belief as a child, however, once old enough to pay for her own meals she often forgot to not put money on the table. Days later, “I would be broke.”

As revealed by my informant wealth is a concern among the locals. “A lot of the beliefs in my country have to do with losing money. I think this superstition hints at a negative attitude towards poverty. I think by placing money on the table while people are consuming food it symbolizes consuming wealth.  Another thought is that exposing ones wallet leaves opportunity for others to think against someone’s wealth. Similar to the evil eye a negative thought may be a form of contagious magic.

Don’t step over someones feet

The twenty-two year old female informant born in the Gabonese Republic, a state located on the west coast of Central Africa, revealed that it is bad to step over some feet or legs. “Say for example, my legs are hanging out like this [Dangled feet from chair] and someone steps over me they will …um… take  away all the bad stuff …like stress and tiredness.” This superstition is especially stressed among expecting couples. For example, “if a man and his pregnant wife are lying down… he can’t… he must be careful not to cross over her” because he will take on her symptoms of like “cramps, morning sickness or pain and aches”. My informant learned of this from peers. Even after being partially raised in France she herself avoided stepping over people even while in the states.

Taking on someone else’s pain reminds me of the common saying “spend a day in someone else’s shoes.” A person’s foot is literally and symbolically significant. Legs and feet essentially carry a person thru life. In this context the person doing the crossing takes on all negative ailments. This is a form of contagious magic in that the brief interaction between two persons affects both of them. The person who crosses is relieved temporarily of ailments. The other person doing the crossing bears the other persons burden. When asked whether walking around someone was acceptable? My informant said yes. It is acceptable to walk under and around but never over.

Frog in Shallow Well

My informant a native of Shanghai, China spoke of the Frog in shallow well logic.


“Have you not heard of the frog that lived in a shallow well? It said to a turtle that lived in the East Sea, ‘I am so happy! When I go out, I jump about on the railing beside the mouth of the well. When I come home, I rest in the holes on the broken wall of the well. If I jump into the water, it comes up to my armpits and holds up my cheeks. If I walk in the mud, it covers up my feet. I look around at the wriggly worms, crabs and tadpoles, and none of them can compare with me. Moreover, I am lord of this trough of water and I stand up tall in this shallow well. My happiness is full. My dear sir, why don’t you come often and look around my place?’”

Before the turtle from the East Sea could get its left foot in the well, the right knee got stuck. It hesitated and retreated. The turtle told the frog about the East Sea.

“Even a distance of a thousand li cannot give you an idea of the sea’s width; even a height of a thousand ren cannot give you an idea of its depth. In the time of King Yu of the Xia dynasty, there were floods nine years out of ten, but the waters in the sea did not increase. In the time of King Tang of the Shang dynasty, there were droughts seven years out of eight, but the waters in the sea did not decrease. The sea does not change along with the passage of time and its level does not rise or fall according to the amount of rain that falls. The greatest happiness is to live in the East Sea.

After listening to these words, the frog of the shallow well was shocked into realization of his own insignificance and became very ill at ease.” (

In the words of my informant it means “people should not be so narrow-minded” or consumed with their own lives.

Ostrich Logic

My informant a native of Shanghai, China spoke of Ostrich logic.

“You know how ostrich like to hide their head in the sand it means your avoiding something. I use to sleep with my whole body covered and one night my dad came in [check on her] like after work and saw my head under the Q…what’s it called? Quilt… yeah a blanket. He said I was avoiding someone. Now he always says it.”

Despite learning this in school, my informant said it commonly known and stated people.

“At the time when Fan, a nobleman of the state of Jin, became a fugitive, a commoner found a bell and wanted to carry it off on his back. But the bell was too big for him. When he tried to knock it into pieces with a hammer there was a loud clanging sound. He was afraid that someone will hear the noise and take the bell from him, so he immediately stopped his own ears.

To worry about other people hearing the noise is understandable, but to worry about himself hearing the noise (as if stopping his own ears would prevent other people from hearing) is absurd.”(

Anna Marie Ghosts

My informant a twenty-two year old undergraduate attended Anna Marie College in Paxton, Massachusetts for her entire freshman and fall of her sophomore years before transferring to a school in California. She revealed that a number of spirits and ghosts are believed haunt the college.

“There are possibly multiple ghosts not accounted for within Madonna Hall (the Freshman dorm) since there have been a couple of deaths by suicide over the course of the school’s history. During one night of the fall semester of my sophomore year there were numerous sightings reported by the students including from my friend who was the RA on duty in the building that night.”

For Miriam Music Hall which is near Madonna Hall:

“There’s a ghost over at Miriam Music Hall (whom I believe is named Betty) that likes to open and close the doors and windows in the practice rooms. She also likes to play with the Grand Piano in the Main Performance Hall even when it’s locked. People have also noticed that the two lowest notes on some pianos were played in different rooms.”

My informant also mentioned there is a possibility that there are ghosts located within the underground tunnels, originally built in order to travel around during snowstorms, connecting various buildings.

“In the process of building a tunnel between Madonna and Miriam, it ended up collapsing and killing many of the workers.”

This could also be another source of the spirits found within the two buildings mentioned above. Massachusetts is notorious for the supernatural, hence Salem witch trials. This ghost story serves as entertainment aiding into the appeal of the state. It may attract not just tourist but students. Additionally it is form keeping the supernatural history alive. My informant revealed that she learned of the ghost story from peers after moving on campus. Unfortunately due to the Catholic faith not believing in the existence of ghosts and refusal from the school’s administration, these sightings at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts have not been completely confirmed even with interest being expressed by paranormal groups and by the public.