Folklore Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Mirrors in Appalachia

mirror laying in the grass

The Mirror

“Be careful and don’t break that mirror, or you will have seven years bad luck.” That was an old saying often heard in households around the turn of the century. The mirror was an item that every member of the family used and enjoyed. In olden, times mirrors were very expensive and only the rich owned them. It usually took about seven years for an average person to save up to purchase a mirror. It it was broken, then that meant seven more years of saving…Many a young lass spent hours before a mirror pretending to be grown up. Hair fashions were tried and decided upon. While boys were not too concerned about their looks, the mirror was a good place to practice making funny faces.

—Betty Riddle – “Reflections on Mountain Heritage” published by the Gilmer County Genealogical Society, Inc.

—-
My how times have changed. I currently have eight mirrors in my house and I’m certainly not rich.

In today’s world there’s the weird phenomenon of taking a picture of yourself in a mirror with your phone. I’ve never quite understood that one.

Pap said when he was a boy no one gave much thought to mirrors until they were ready to shave or comb their hair.

When Pap was about 13 years old he had a toothache, a bad one that kept him up at night. One early morning just after dawn he decided to get up because of the pain. He quietly slipped out of the house and headed over the mountain to see his Grandpa and Grandma. As he reached their house the sun was coming up. Pap’s Grandpa said the only way to fix the tooth was to pull it. He got a pair of pliers and tried to pull Pap’s tooth. Pap said the tooth just wouldn’t budge, but the pain was so bad he couldn’t stand it.

His grandparents had an old sliver of mirror hanging outside where you could see yourself when needed. Pap decided he’d pull the tooth himself. While looking in the mirror he got the pliers around the tooth. He pulled as hard as he could until he passed out from the pain.

Pap’s grandparents decided they didn’t care what it took they were going to get their grandson to the dentist and they did. The dentist pulled the tooth and that ended the pain.

I wonder if the lack of mirrors that Betty and Pap experienced encouraged the spooky mirror folklore that’s handed down.

When I was young I went to lots of sleepovers, you know the kind that has a bunch of silly screaming girls. More often than not the subject of Bloody Mary came up. I don’t remember exactly what you were supposed to say, but the jist of it was you went into a dark room, looked into a mirror, and when you said a few words Bloody Mary appeared in the mirror. We were all too chicken to actually get the words out before we ran screaming out of the room so we never saw Bloody Mary.

I grew up hearing that mirrors in a house should be covered after someone dies, but I never seen anyone actually do it.

Holding a mirror in your hand while bending backwards over a well will allow you to see your future mate.

Babies shouldn’t look at their reflection in a mirror or bad luck is sure to follow.

Of course if you’re a vampire (or was it a witch?) your reflection won’t even appear in the mirror 🙂

Martha Owen tells a hilarious story about a mirror. I hope you get to hear it someday…maybe I’ll see if she’ll let me video her so you can all hear it.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy of “Reflections on Mountain Heritage” you can find it here for a very reasonable price.

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Ethelene D. Jones
    October 25, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Tipper,
    I read your post every day, but for well over two years now (ever since, I think, you changed from one server to another) I cannot get my replies to post on “Blind Pig and the Acorn.” I don’t know what to do. I have sent you an e-mail of my reply, a few times, but did not see it posted–but maybe I didn’t “go back” to the post I comment on; hence I did not see it. I enjoyed reading about breaking a mirror and having 7 years of bad luck. You state that was a popular mountain saying “around the turn of the century. I heard it when I was a child, and I was born 30 years into the 20th century! Hard to think time is rushing on so fast, but we are about ready to go into the third decade of the twenty-first century, come January 1, 2020. Happy October, and Halloween, dear friends on “Blind Pig and the Acorn”!!!

  • Reply
    Shirley
    October 25, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    My husband wrote a poem about a mirror. Goes like this. A mountaineer a mirror found,from his mouth came a curious sound. He was amazed at what he saw ,why ,he exclaimed ” a picture of my Pa. ” Taking the pitcher of his PA , he hung it on the attic wall. Oft. He went to to the upper room to see his PA when he felt gloom. His wife at first paid little heed, but then her heart began to bleed. She thought while leaning on the broom,what’s up there in that upper room? To town the farmer went one day,then up the stairs she made her way. Seeing the mirror on the wall , she was surprised at what she saw . Then she said,well lawsy me, so that’s the hag he comes up here to see! R W Enmen

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 25, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Tipper,
    You can take anything and develop a Good story from it, just like Pap and my dad. Like Pinnacle-Creek said, I’m always amazed at your ability. I’m just glad you’re in my County, may the Good Lord continue to Smile upon you. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 25, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Bending backwards over a well with a mirror in your hand will allow you to fall in head first. You’re gonna meet your maker not your mate!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    October 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

    I have heard the saying about a baby bringing bad luck if it saw it’s image in a looking glass or ‘mirr’ before it was a year old. My grandmas had a large hand held mirror that my mom treasured for years after Mammy’s passing. It is amazing how ten females in the house used it so many years without breaking it. Of course, they probably used extra care to avoid seven years of bad luck.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    October 25, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I love the way you choose a simple topic, and one we rarely ever even think about–mirrors. Then you take the topic and weave interesting stories and very educational facts around it. You are truly a great writer. Your story abut Pap reminds me of how they said my Grandpa had to pull his own teeth with pliers. It is actually very dangerous to have done this, but many back in the day had to improvise the best they could.
    It is an odd thing how our body works. When I worked at a hospital I had managed to get a terrible toothache from a root canal. Being hard headed, I went to work anyway. As luck would have it I then got pulled from my regular floor to ER due to multi car accident’s they were shorthanded. Instantly, due to the trauma I encountered the toothache left. Fight or flight I guess, and I think of that fairly often.
    I suppose everybody has heard the expression, “Can’t look himself in the mirror.” It is supposed they will see their true character staring back. I am amazed, Tipper, at how much research and thought it takes for you to do a daily post. I used to be afraid you would one day just give it up. I now think you may enjoy writing it, because you are learning and enjoying right along with us.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 25, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I do not recall any mirror lore from childhood except the 7 years bad luck one. It was not unusual in the log woods to break a rear view mirror. But no particular anxiety went along with it. Guess that was because mirrors became too common.

    I’m like your Dad. Mirrors are just about shaving or combing my hair. I use to use a mirror when putting my contacts in. But I have not done that in years.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 25, 2019 at 6:53 am

    I’ve heard some of those mirror superstitions but I never thought much about them because I never believed them for the most part. I have several mirrors in my house but mostly just use two the . One to do my hair and makeup and another to check my my clothes once I’m dressed in the morning. The remainder are just ornaments.
    Imagine what the world would be like without mirrors. We would not need make-up or combs and brushes because we wouldn’t give thought to our looks….interesting to ponder and I do love to ponder!

  • Leave a Reply