Widely held superstitions that it is bad luck to
walk beneath a ladder are related in part to fears about
witches, especially during the witch hunt times in colonial
Not all witches were burned—for example, in England
and in the American colonies, witches were hung. When
they dropped, they fell below the ladder leading up to the
gallows. It was believed that if a witch touched anyone
standing nearby, especially as she or he made a last gasp
of breath, that person would soon die.
The superstition was so strong that many people believed
that a witch’s dying curse could linger long after
death. Even to walk beneath a gallows ladder long after an
execution invited a death curse.