Halloween conversation starters - Sick superstitions about touching the dead
When you plant some fake dead hands in your lawn this Halloween or have one reaching out from your bowl of chips at your party, you can strike up interesting conversations around these superstitions of the dead hand.
The power to heal disease was believed to be found in the touch of a hand from someone who had committed suicide or been executed on the gallows. At public executions, people with various tumors, sores, and other diseases would bribe the hangman to allow them to grab a dead hand and stroke it on his or her diseased flesh.
When the hanging of dead criminals from gibbets occurred, people would sneak up to them in the night and stroke the dead hands on to areas of their bodies afflicted with disease. Childless women would even do this to cure in the hopes of curing themselves of barrenness.
A folk cure for whooping cough was reportedly to feed the sick child a slice of buttered bread that had been set in the hand of a dead person.
How any of these bizarre notions came about defies logic or intelligence. But you probably will not find much difficulty in persuading your Halloween party guests to stroke the fake dead hands reaching out to them from your decorations.