I write magical realism so of course I’m superstitious

A shark pursuing a ship means bad luck, especially if there are sick people on board.

Some say black cats bring good luck and some say they bring bad luck. (I opt for good.) - Wikipedia photo
Some say black cats bring good luck and some say they bring bad luck. (I opt for good.) – Wikipedia photo

A superstitious person sees the supernatural everywhere. As a superstitious person, I’m attuned to signs, omens and other hints that good or bad luck is about to follow unless I quickly change course. If I accidentally make a “wrong turn” while driving, I assume I was supposed to make that wrong term in order to avoid something bad on my regular route or to find something good on my new route.

During a brief time when I was the primary driver in a work car pool, my riders asked why I seldom drove to the office the same way twice. I gave them a throw-away answer: going the same way bores me. But I saw darker forces at work.

Don’t sweep dirt out the front door after the sun goes down or bad luck will come to your home.

I've never a talisman as ostentatious as the Talisman of Charlemagne.
I’ve never carried a talisman as ostentatious as the Talisman of Charlemagne.

When I was growing up, people my father’s age constantly asked me if I was Sir Malcolm Campbell, the famous British driving ace who broke many land and water speed records in his famous Bluebirds. I thought then that if I ever had a blue car, good luck would follow me if I named it “Bluebird”

In 1967, another Syracuse University student and I walked past a newsstand where the headline said DONALD CAMPBELL KILLED IN BLUEBIRD RECORD ATTEMPT. I don’t remember what I said, but my friend said “you look like you’ve seen a ghost: are you related?” Well, of course not, though if I ever had a son, I never would have named him Donald because the famous “Donald” was the famous “Malcolm’s” son.

If one has a realistic bad dream, the next morning breakfast must be eaten before the dream can be mentioned or discussed. Otherwise, the bad dream will come true.

Some omens and signs are good. Mine are what work for me, so I love seeing black cars and ravens.
Some omens and signs are good. Mine are what work for me, so I love seeing black cars and ravens.

I won’t say that when I wrote Conjure Woman’s Cat, I believed in all the spells, practices and good/bad luck admonitions of my main character. But, being superstitious, I could relate because magic and realism aren’t all that different in my panpsychism world view. A conjure woman might tell me to bore a hole in a Mercury dime, put it on a red string, and wear it around my ankle or neck for protection and good luck. I don’t go that far, but I do tend to save rocks, pieces of wood and other objects that seem “charged with power” when I find them.

If you start to go somewhere and come back for something you will have bad luck.

Nope, I don’t go along with that one. I assume that if I go back for something, I was supposed to go back either because, say, I left the stove on or forgot to lock the door, or, that if I hadn’t gone back, something bad would have happened at some place along the road. Seriously, I’m not obsessive/compulsive about this: if I were, I’d check the door locks and stove a dozen times before leaving the house.

Walking past a pole with someone it is bad luck to split up and each go around on different sides of it.

Those who know the pole omen know that saying “bread and butter” counteracts the bad luck. Some omens just don’t work for me, like “Drop a fork an a woman will show up.” I dropped a lot of forks in high school and college, and no women ever showed up. Omens and signs must pick “their kind of people” to have any impact.

In reality, I think the universe gives us signs we can each recognize, so I justify my superstitions by saying “this is my coded way” of seeing the world. Of course, that might be bullshit, but it works for me. And it also helps me write the kinds of stories I write. Kind of handy, that way.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it–mainly because not sticking to it brings bad luck and/or makes one look like they’re lying.


SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of true stories that his publishers label as fantasy or magical realism.

PS – When you hang a horse shoe on the wall, never hang it facing down or all the luck will run out of it.



You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?”

A few days ago, an article zipped through my Facebook timeline in which the author claimed that lucky people tend to have more good luck and unlucky people tend to have more bad luck.

AcesNow that I want to link to it, I can’t find it. So, you’ve gotta trust me on this. Apparently–at cards anyway–people with a lucky night in progress tend to start playing a bit more conservatively. This increases the chances they won’t lose all  their dough.

People with bad luck get desperate and want to turn things around, so they start taking more risks, This increases the chance they will lost all their dough.

I’m not sure what was supposed to happen if the person didn’t think about luck one way or the other and just kept doing what they were doing. But I have this sneaking feeling that if a person has to ask himself “Do I feel lucky?” his luck–such as it may be–will get worse.

I say that because I’m very superstitious. If I were playing for a major league team and had hitting streak going, I’d never change my socks. I’m the kind of guy who thinks a pitcher’s no hitter will go in the toilet if one of the announcers says, “this guy almost has a no hitter.”

A far as I know, the article had no answer for the bad luck that happens if you change your socks or mention a no hitter in progress. It also didn’t say what would happen if a guy asked himself whether or not he felt lucky.

So, I’m wondering how the readers of this blog feel about good mojo vs. bad mojo and whether you’ve ever been rash enough to ask yourself if you feel lucky.




— Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a novella with a lot of mojo in it. If you’re feeling lucky, you might win a free copy of it in the current GoodReads giveaway.

Remembering Hoyt’s Cologne

hoytsWhile researching folk magic for a new book, I stumbled across numerous references to Hoyt’s Cologne, an old-style toilet water that was supposed to bring people good luck, especially when gambling.

Originally called Hoyt’s German Cologne (until World War I made the name less optimal), the cologne was developed in 1868 by apothecary Eli Waite Hoyt. Usually described as floral in scent–and very strong–the cologne became so successful that Hoyt sold his apothecary shop seven years later to devote his time to the product.

The product is still available today, including on Amazon. One reviewer stated that it’s definite not subtle. Another described it as “very manly.” Wisdom Products describes it this way:

Hoyt’s Cologne developed in 1868 is truly an old fashioned fragrance reminiscent of early American colognes.  A clean and refreshing scent with fragrance notes of citrus and floral.  Hoyt’s is widely believed to bring good luck.  Splash on your hands and body before playing games of chance.

HoyttradingcardOEDUSA suggests splashing it on before and after shaving, adding that:

Though the company will never reveal the full formula some of the essences used to create the scent are: bergamot and neroli to add a citrusy note; orange blossom for a warm floral undertone with an element of dry orange; and lavender for a hint of refreshing herbal. In our opinion this is a delightful cologne that will pleasantly surpirse the uninitiated.

Today, E. F. Hoyt & Company’s beautiful advertising cards and signs are sought after by collectors of vintage designs. Developed by Freeman Ballard Shedd, the cards were originally soaked in the cologne when handing out sample bottles became too expensive.

The “Girl in a Rose” series of trading cards was especially popular. You can see an assortment of these cards on Cliff & Linda Hoyt’s This Card Perfumed with “Hoyt’s German Cologne” website.

hoyts2Catherine Yronwode, who operates the Lucky Mojo Curio Company, with its extensive hoodoo information site, mentions interviewing a man who worked for many years for Lucky Heart, a company that featured African American cosmetics and spiritual supplies.

He told her that a lady once came into the drug store where he worked as a child, bought a bottle of Hoyt’s, emptied the contents on her hair, and left the bottle on the counter, and saying, “I’m gonna get lucky tonight!”

I don’t know yet whether I’ll mention Hoyt’s Cologne in the book, but with my love of magic as well as vintage advertising, discovering Hoyt’s Cologne was an interesting “research trip.”

The current owner of Hoyt’s and the Hoyt’s trademark is Indio Products.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, including the newly released “Fate’s Arrows.” These “conjure and crime” novels are set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.