Stopping Clocks And Covering Mirrors When A Person Dies ~ Like In the Movie Fried Green Tomatoes

"A Lady Always Knows When To Leave" Clip From Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991

Why This Is Done Had Me Curious ~

One of my favorite movies of all time, Fried Green Tomatoes, is a story based on a book By Fannie Flagg called "Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe". In the story, two best friends go through life and have a wealth of shared experiences. There was one time when they opened up a small cafe which soon became famous for its delicious fried green tomatoes, and for its barbeque. Said to be the best barbecue in the south, it was frequented by all sorts of people from all walks of life.

In this movie from 1991, a woman named Ruth passes away, sadly, from cancer. I swear as many times as I've seen this movie, which is quite a few times, this one part always makes me cry. Every time.

What interested me about this scene in the movie is what happens right after Ruth passes away, while her best friend is telling a story about a lake that is now over in Georgia somewhere. There is another lady, a character in the movie named Sipsey, who covers up the mirror in the room where Ruth died, and then she stops the clock. Throughout the entire movie, Sipsey is a very superstitious person and it shows in her actions when this character Ruth passes away.

I always wondered why these things were done, and I have learned a lot about superstitions and folklore and the beliefs people have that causes them to do these things when a person passes from this life to the next (if that's what you believe).

Cover The Mirror And Stop The Clock ~

Years ago, mirrors would be covered when a person passed away, and the clocks in the room stopped due to superstitious beliefs.
Years ago, mirrors would be covered when a person passed away, and the clocks in the room stopped due to superstitious beliefs. | Source
Stopping the clock was done due to superstition, and sometimes to record the time of a person's death.
Stopping the clock was done due to superstition, and sometimes to record the time of a person's death. | Source

The Origins And Superstitions Behind Covering Mirrors And Stopping Clocks When A Person Dies ~

Some of the superstitions behind covering mirrors and stopping clocks when people die were thought to have origins in Great Britain and in Germany. Others have said they are based on an old Jewish tradition, and I have even read that these superstitions originated with African Americans and with Creole people. Regardless of where they originated, there are certain superstitions that cause people to do these things when a person dies.

Superstitions behind covering mirrors with a cloth when a person dies ~

  • So mourners do not have to see how they look when they are in mourning and can then feel free to mourn peacefully.
  • To allow the spirit of the newly deceased person to cross over into their new life successfully and to keep them from getting trapped in this life. It was believed if the soul of the newly departed saw their reflection in the mirror, they would become trapped and not be able to leave to begin their afterlife. This might cause the spirit to stay and haunt all who remain in this world.
  • Another superstition said that the next person who sees themselves in the mirror will be the next person to die. Mirrors were covered so no one would see their reflection.
  • Superstition claims that reflections in the mirror are projections of the persons soul.

Generally, mirrors remained covered until the funeral. After the funeral they could be uncovered.

Superstitions behind stopping clocks when a person dies ~

  • One superstition is to stop the clock so that mourners can stay and mourn for as long as they like without worry about how much time has passed.
  • Stopping clocks was a way to allow the soul of the newly deceased to move on into the next life without any worry about time.
  • Stopping clocks was done based on the belief that if the clock was not stopped, there would be bad luck upon all those who remain in the home. This belief is said to have originated in Germany and Great Britain and it was said that when a person dies, time stands still for that person. A new period of existence then begins without time.
  • If the time is allowed to continue moving on, this invited the spirit of the deceased to remain in the home and to haunt without end.
  • Probably the most logical explanation for the practice of stopping a clock at about the time of a person's death is to record the time of death. This was done especially if the home was located in a remote place where it would take a while for help to arrive or for the coroner to arrive to pick up the body.

Another Fascinating Superstition About Death ~

There is another belief that I found to be fascinating, and that is a belief regarding removing the body of the deceased person from the home when they have passed away in the home.

This belief, or superstition, is that when the person is put onto a stretcher to be taken out of the home, they should always be taken out the door feet first. If they are taken out of the home head first, this allows them to "look" back into the home and beckon someone else still in the home to join them in death.

No Matter What, I Would Respect The Beliefs Of Others ~

It's hard to know whether to believe these superstitions or not. I know when my husband's Mother passed away, almost 15 years ago now I guess, she passed away in the home she and my Father-in-law were living in at the time, and from what I can remember, there wasn't a mirror in the room, so we didn't feel any need to do this. I don't remember if a clock was in the room or not.

We did have a hospice nurse there with us at the time, and that helped a lot. I think hospice nurses are special kinds of angels here on earth. Whenever we are feeling charitable, we try to give to hospices whenever we can. They do wonderful things and are fantastic teachers and helpers through a process that many of us find difficult to understand.

I do think that if someone else had these beliefs or superstitions and if they wanted to have the mirror covered and the clock stopped I would most definitely respect their wishes. That's the beauty of living in this country, in the United States. There is freedom to believe what you want and hopefully respect for those beliefs. At least I always try to be respectful of the beliefs of others and I would hope I would be treated the same way. Isn't that the golden rule anyway to treat others as you would like to be treated? I think that's a good rule to follow in life.

Do You Believe These Superstitions Enough To Follow Them?

Are You Superstitious And Would You Cover A Mirror And Stop A Clock Upon A Person's Death?

  • Yes, I do believe in these superstitions and feel it's better to be safe and allow the person's soul to depart
  • No, I don't believe these tales or superstitions
  • Maybe If someone in the room with me has these beliefs, out of respect for their beliefs I might cover the mirror and stop the clock.
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Author Bio

I am a freelance writer on HubPages, BlogMutt, Textbroker and Constant Content. I was a staff writer for the country music magazine Neon Rainbow from September, 2001 through June, 2003.

Comments 32 comments

onegreenparachute profile image

onegreenparachute 3 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

Fascinating! I love explanations of how superstitions came about and why they are practiced. But I especially love to hear about spooky superstitions. Lovely! Thanks.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much for your wonderful comment, onegreenparachute, so glad you enjoyed this and learned something in the process. :) I always wondered why this happened in the movie, I'm glad I wrote about what I learned! Thanks for commenting! :)

travmaj profile image

travmaj 3 years ago from australia

This is really fascinating - I love to delve into superstitions and different cultures. This is very well researched and I found it really interesting. Voting UP.

catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

I do believe in many superstitions and certainly believe in honoring others beliefs. Great hub...very interesting, I would love to read some more like it!

shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 3 years ago from Upstate, New York

I am old enough to remember my Irish Nana performing the mirror and clock ritual. I guess every nationality thinks it originated from them. Then again, we Irish are a superstitious group.

I also remember my Irish kin referring to the days when people were laid out in their home. It was a tradition that someone sleep in the same room as the body so no harm came to their spirit. We Irish, at least my strain believed the spirit stays with loved ones for three days before going to heaven.

Great write.

P.S. I too love Fried Green Tomatoes and cry every time. Just the other day sirens went screaming by our house. My Mom wondered what it was and I went into the movie scene where the ducks freeze to the lake and fly away with it. My sister started grinning as she knew exactly where I was going with it.

expertscolumn profile image

expertscolumn 3 years ago from New York

When i read the superstitions out loud I giggle, but I'm sure it was no laughing matter to whoever thought of these things. They're intriguing look into the traditions from bygone eras.

Thanks Kathy

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thank you, travmaj! So glad you found this interesting. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

Thanks, Catgypsy, so glad you liked reading this, too. These are the kinds of things I love to write, so I'll see if I can come up with some more interesting topics. Thanks so much for your comment! :)

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks, Beckie! Isn't that the neatest story about the ducks and about how the lake disappeared? And the way it's told in this movie gave me goosebumps... it's a story I never get tired of.

I know what you mean about each nationality having its own sets of superstitions. :) Coming from some German and Irish roots, I've heard tales, too. Thanks so much for your comment! :)

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You're welcome, expertscolumn, so glad you enjoyed this! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I always appreciate it! :)

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Interesting to read the history of these superstitions. I can see how covering a mirror to prevent how one looks during grieving would help the emotional status of a person. Thanks for the education.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You're welcome, Dianna! So glad you learned something! I am always learning from your writing, too. Thanks so much for your nice comment! :)

sweethearts2 profile image

sweethearts2 3 years ago from Northwest Indiana

Very interesting hub, I enjoyed your personal thoughts and reflections (no pun intended). Voted up and interesting

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks, sweethearts2! So glad you enjoyed this, thank you for your nice comment, too. :)

Ernest Hemingway3 profile image

Ernest Hemingway3 3 years ago from The World

Very interesting Hub-I am fascinated by different superstitions in different parts of the world.


KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

So glad you found this interesting, Ernest! Thanks so much for commenting, I appreciate that! :)

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether

Awesome hub. In Ireland, there are people who still cover their mirrors and stop the clocks when a loved one passes. Blessings to you.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much for your great comment, kitty! :) I appreciate it so much! Blessings to you as well!

MysticMoonlight 3 years ago

Very interesting. I, too, wondered about the exact reasons for doing such things and looked up the reasons years ago after seeing 'Fried Green Tomatoes' one day. Very intriguing notions that seem to have validity among many different cultures. Often, I've noticed, elderly people have such beliefs and I've seen them insist on similar practices being carried out on certain occasions. I remember after having my first child, 18 years ago, my grandmother would scold me if I let my baby see herself in the mirror before she was one year old. She (my grandmother) said that it was a bad omen for the baby to let themselves see their reflection and that often, if the baby did, it would either have bad luck in life or sometimes the baby would die before they reached one year old. I thought it a pretty odd thing but out of respect for her and her beliefs, I followed her advice.

Nice Hub, interesting topic :)

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thank you so much Mystic Moonlight for your fascinating comment! I hadn't heard that about babies and mirrors! So interesting! Kind of scary, too, when you see how many toys there are that are made just for babies that have mirrors on them today. Thanks again! :-)

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Well written and different. I really enjoyed this hub, as it reminded me of all the superstitions and old sayings of my great grandparents. Thank you for writing this.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You're so welcome, FlourishAnyway! I'm glad I could help to bring back some good memories for you. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words! :)

lorraine williams 2 years ago

my mum who is irish has asked my 4 sisters and myself to cover the mirrors stop clocks and close the curtains when any thing happens to either my mum or dad i found it very weird i dident question them about it thats why i looked it up on internet and found this site explaining it to me so it looks like we wil have to obey her wishes

KathyH profile image

KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

That's so interesting that they would still want you to do that, Lorraine! I didn't realize people still did this! Thank you for commenting! :)

Josephine1929 2 years ago

I think more people should believe in the mirror is the window to your soul. Jewish tradition required all mirrors covered when someone died. Yes, beings can get trapped in them, but I also believe they are portals between mirrors where beings/spirits can jump from destination to destination. Yes, the lady was very superstitious but she had good reason. Very informative article.. Impressed!!

KathyH profile image

KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much for your kind words, Josephine1929! So glad you enjoyed this! :)

Josephine1929 2 years ago

Thank you KathyH. After reading Mystic Moonlights comment about the baby superstition it intrigued me enough to reread it. My niece was under 1 and I refused to allow mirrors be around her. I didn't know why; but just that it isn't a good thing for her too look at herself in the mirror. It drove me nuts when my sister would place her up to the mirror to look at herself. So her response gave me a keen explanation as to the superstition behind my belief. Now that my niece is over 1, it doesn't bother me. Uhm... Obviously, whomever is around me has a firm belief in these superstitious beliefs. Interesting!

KathyH profile image

KathyH 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much for your wonderful comments, Josephing1929! :) It is interesting to hear others perspectives and beliefs on this topic. I always found these traditions to be interesting and have always been fascinated by them! Thanks again! :)

Josephine1929 2 years ago

Thank you for your response KathyH. I have another belief regarding these mirrors. and it is one my sisters hold too. That mirrors are portals that beings/spirits can use to move one place to another. They are only trapped in that mirror if a spell has been cast to bind them to that mirror. I personally, have never done that, but due to my own experience of mirrors I hold this belief strongly. I have used cross symbols on my mirrors so entities can not jump through them. I also, am so firmly into this belief that I have only 1 mirror in my house that is used, in the bathroom. My vantity mirror is covered with a sheet, and I only lift it up as needed to look at something quickly. Sounds strange but it is a rule in my house with four teenage daughters, no large mirrors... So everyone uses the bathroom mirror..If I recall only 1 of my girls have a handheld mirror.

Laura 13 months ago

My belief is that some people have been watching too many horror movies. And by that I mean, beliefs get distorted over time. The more time that passes, the more distorted they become, even more so if Hollywood gets ahold of them.

There are, of course, very practical reasons behind every superstition. A perfect example of this is stopping the clock in order to have a record of the time of death. In a time when villages were small and isolated, doctors were few and far between, and hospitals were virtually unheard of, this was a necessity. It also makes sense that a family in mourning would not want to have to listen to the grandfather clock in the hall chiming out the hour, every hour. A quiet, subdued environment just feels natural to most people after there has been a death in the home.

Another root of superstition is lack of knowledge or understanding. A person seeing a mirror for the fist time, not having any knowledge of how one works, might very well believe that someone is inside the mirror looking out at them, or that their soul has somehow become trapped inside the mirror. A mirror can catch odd reflections, or distort images, making it seem as though something is there that is not. A cloud passing over the sun, a bird flying by a window, or a person standing somewhere out of the line of sight, could all make it seem as though there is someone, or something, strange inside the mirror. Mirrors in the past were often warped and flawed, which would have distorted images even further.

Religious beliefs also contribute to the superstitions regarding mirrors. People, girls in particular, were discouraged from admiring themselves in a mirror so as not to be guilty of the sin of vanity. Stories were made up about bad things happening to those who admire themselves too often or for too long in order to reinforce the belief that vanity is a sin.

Old spiritual beliefs get passed down through the generations, but their meanings are often left behind. New explanations are made up to replace them, further distorting them from the original. A simple belief that a young girl should be taught not to admire herself in a mirror too much becomes a belief that something bad will happen to her if she does. The need to identify what that bad thing is leads to the need to create a new superstition.

And then Hollywood gets ahold of it and fills our heads with images of creepy characters crawling out of mirrors, or popping in, then popping out again at a different location, running amok and wreaking havoc, and this becomes a new chapter in the history of the superstition.

My personal belief is that a mirror is nothing more than an ordinary piece of glass and a clock is an annoying device that was invented just to irritate me. And superstitions are for entertainment purposes only.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 13 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You've brought up some really good points, Laura! Thank you for commenting!

Julie Floyd 4 months ago

The clock stopping to me would be significant because when someone close to you dies it seems like your world has been fractured, broken, stopped, while others are grocery shopping, laughing, walking their dogs. Don't they know the world has changed? Isn't there a significant shift in the world now? Time must go on, but for the grieving it might be comforting to say..."stop, notice, mourn "

KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

You've made a great point, Julie! I think this experience is universal to anyone who has ever lost a loved one. Thanks so much for commenting!

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