Origin of Superstition


Above image courtesy of Tune In For Terror © 1992

Origin of Superstition is one of those fourteen minute filler shows that is fun to listen too, but a real pain to find information about. Neither Dunning, Terrace or Buxton make any mention of it. However, the recordings are dated 1935, and the stagy acting and older music style support that date. The show would usually begin with a couple of people in conversation, and one of them would make the mistake of referencing a superstitious belief. The other person would laugh at the superstition, and then explain the history of the belief to expose how foolish it is. Then a flashback would dramatize the event. Near the end, the action would return to the present and the original narrator would conclude his story. Not to be outdone, the announcer would swoop in and emphasize the moral of the story (which is that superstitions are pointless).

The unnamed host states in the first episode that each story is researched and accurate. Check it out:

Host: "This short, short story brings to you one of a series designed to show the origin of one of the many of the more popular superstitions. Superstitions we often laugh about until something, possibly a coincidence, or possibility some twist or quirk of fate, sets us to wondering if after all, there might be some hidden, unseen hand that controls our destinies. So that you will know how your pet superstition originated, when, why, and where, we have made accurate research and can assure you that the incidents portrayed in these sketches, are merely the dramatizations of the stories uncovered in that research. In every case, nothing has been added or subtracted. Nor has anything been taken for granted. Though it has been deemed discreet to use fictitious names for our characters, every other detail of our story is true, and upon request, can be substantiated. Our research has taken us to many lands, over a period of greatly varied dates, and through these vivid playlets, we have made it possible for you to accompany us."

The host sounds so self-assured, how could we possibly doubt a lead in like that? And yet, some of the stories are pretty hard to swallow. Take for example, the one about why people cross their fingers. It turns out that the plot "based on absolute truth uncovered by our research" contains some very supernatural elements. In this episode, an early Christian is about to be killed with a sword, when he crosses his fingers and causes a fire ball to descend from the heavens and toast his assailant. But who are we to question such claims? After all, Origin of Superstition researched it and can substantiate their claims (upon request). Although you can't help but wonder just how anyone could substantiate a 2,000 year-old story like that. (It's not even in the Bible!)

Personally, I find such ballyhoo even more enjoyable than the actual stories. (Or should I say, "facts"? I sure don't want to get struck by lightning for questioning such rot.) Another fun aspect of this show is the stilted acting. The husband and wife bits all sound like they are straight out of Leave It To Beaver, and the religious stuff sounds like Sunday school teachers trying their hand at the stage. I'm not a theater critic or anything, but I do think the mixture of phony sounding scripts and hammy acting make this series a candidate for the "it's so bad, it's actually good" award. Give it a listen and see if you agree.

The Standard Intro:

(SFX: Music: Old style music, up, then under.)

Announcer: "Superstition on the Air!"

(SFX: Music back up, followed by gong, then back under.)

Host: "Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to offer you another short, short story in a series designed to disclose the origin of superstitions. This one deals with the belief that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day."

(SFX: Three gongs.)

An Opening Scene:

Doris: "Henry, aren't you ready yet? Your breakfast will get cold. Hurry now!"

(From distance) Henry: "I'll be with you in a minute, Doris."

Doris: "Ew, every time you have a day off, Henry, it takes hours before I can get the housework started, and it's--"

Henry: "Hello darling, I'm sorry. But you know I only have a day off once every two weeks. Well, do I get those nice hot biscuits for breakfast?"

Doris: "Yes. dear, here. Read the morning paper while I get them out of the oven."

Henry: Alright honey, but make it snappy. I gotta meet Bill out at the club for a game of golf."

Doris: "Here are your biscuits and your ham and eggs. Now eat them before they get--"

Henry: "Great Scott! Can you beat that?!"

Doris: "What's the matter, Henry?"

Henry: "Do you know what day this is?"

Doris: "No."

Henry: "It's Friday the 13th!"

Doris: "Well, what's wrong with that, dear?"

Henry: "What's wrong? Why, it's unlucky! Now I bet everything will go haywire today. I know I'll have some bad luck."

Doris: "Why darling, just because it's Friday the 13th, it's no different from any other day."

Henry: "Oh yes it is. Look at the disasters that happened on that day in England, (and) right here in our own country!"

A Typical Closing (spoiler alert!)

Doris: "Oh, mother's coming! Isn't that marvelous dear?"

Henry: "Yeah, great. The last time your mother visited us, she stayed six months. Now she's bringing the whole family and she'll probably stay a year! And you tried to tell me that Friday the 13th wasn't an unlucky day. Bah!"

(SFX: Gong.)

Announcer: "And so ladies and gentlemen, after receiving that telegram, no one will be able to tell Henry that Friday the 13th is anything but an unlucky day. Well, Au revoir, and good luck to you!"

(SFX: Music.)

Hear it now, FREE!

(Courtesy of Otrcat.com)

"Friday The Thirteenth" - Listeners are taken back to Biblical times to hear how thirteen came to be considered unlucky.


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