Most people don’t like to think about death. But when you get down to it, you’ve likely heard a bunch of old wives’ tales about what happens when you die. And while the inclination may be to believe that none of them are true, it turns out some are rooted in fact.
Our bodies can do some bizarre things after — or while — we die. There are parts of our body that survive in the first period of time after death, and all sorts of other creepy things that can happen in the minutes to years after your heart stops.
Old wives’ tales, then, are often superstitious interpretations of very real things. While people may now realize that there isn’t scientific evidence supporting the need to carry a body out of building feet first, stop a clock in the room where someone died, or cover mirrors, there are some superstitions that carry some meaning.
Bodies shut down bit-by-bit, and post-death consciousness is only now being thoroughly researched, so what to some seemed like possession or signs of paranormal activity is now beginning to get medical explanations. Still, to some, these scientific experiments only validate their existing beliefs. Whatever you believe about death, it can be interesting to understand how old-time superstition relates to the modern understanding of what happens when your life ends.
Here are 11 creepy old wives’ tales about death that may actually be true.
1Your Hair And Nails Grow
While it is technically just an old wives’ tale that your hair and nails grow after you die, there is some substance to this myth. In reality, corpses do have the appearance of their hair and nails growing after they die.
“The skin on a dead man’s chin … dries out,” Claudia Hammond writes for BBC. “As it does so it pulls back towards the skull, making stubble appear more prominent. Goosebumps caused by the contraction of the hair muscles can add to the effect.” So while old-timey people may have believed they were seeing dead people continue to sprout creepy beards, really they were just observing natural processes of death.