There are four basic beliefs about stairs - crossing on, stumbling up, stumbling down, and turning round on. The idea that it is unlucky to pass someone on the stairs is still current, being the ninth most often reported belief in our *Superstitions Survey 1998/9, and is reported from the mid-19th century onwards from all over the country, simply given as 'bad luck'. Also first reported in the 19th century is the idea that one should not change direction on the stairs, but continue to top or bottom and then turn. The two stumblings are older; stumbling upstairs means you (or the next person who walks up the stairs) will be married. The first known mention is in the Connoisseur for 20 February 1755, and the other references through into the 20th century are unusually unanimous. Stumbling downstairs, however, is bad luck and has been at least since Con-greve's time: 'But then I stumbled coming down stairs, and met a weasel; bad omens those' (Love for Love (1695), ii. i).
   See also *stumbling.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 375.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


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