The Superstition Obstacle Course
The Obstacle Course provides a great start to a superstition bash and if possible, should be included at the entrance to the event. It is a fun activity for all ages and can also serve an educational purpose by including informational signs and/or handouts about the featured superstitions. The course can be set up in many different locations and the size and shape of the course can vary considerably. There are also several different kinds of courses that can be setup:
- The Genuine Obstacle Course:
This course can include activities that purposely seek to have participants avoid good or bad luck. More fun can be had when guests are intentionally testing the fates by participating in activities that are believed to cause bad luck such as the breaking of mirrors. You can also combine the two by having two courses where one line avoids bad luck and the other avoids good luck and possibly use this as an experiment to test the validity of various superstitions.
- A Course with Multiple Superstitious Activities:
This course can be a combination of activities that provide the most interaction with the superstitions and is not necessarily promoting good or bad luck but simply encouraging people to take part in the event and learn more about common superstitions.
- Stations of Superstitions:
This course can be set up as a series of displays and exhibits with or without hands-on activity. This type of setup allows more information to be passed along to attendants and can be spread out over a wide area, possibly being the focus for the entire event.
Below is an example of a Superstition Obstacle Course that CSICOP has organized. The course was setup on the walkway in front of the entrance to the Center for Inquiry International in Amherst, NY. The course was designed in a straight line with activities on either side to allow two lines of people to take part in the event simultaneously. The majority of the course was outdoors with the end being inside the Center where more events and activities were taking place. We will soon be adding a second example entitled "The 13 Stations of Superstition" that took place at the Center for Inquiry West in Los Angeles, California.
Superstition Library: The Number 13
The Superstition Obstacle Course in Amherst purposely chose to feature 13 superstitions, but of course there are thousands to choose from. The superstitions chosen here afforded the most interactivity for participants with others being incorporated into displays and exhibits, along with additional activities throughout the day, that would mark the excitement and variety of activities included within the larger Superstition Bash event.
Superstition Library: Ladders
A ladder served as an archway at the entrance to the superstition obstacle course. Participants walked underneath the ladder to begin their descent into bad luck. An informational plaque stood on either side of the ladder which outlined the superstition behind walking under ladders.
Two tables were set up on the other side of the ladder where volunteers sat to welcome visitors to the Superstition Bash. Handouts were provided that included a lineup of events for the Superstition Bash and a particular handout that outlined the Superstition Obstacle Course they were currently taking part. This may also be the appropriate area to gather any admission fees, include a donations jar and/or collect contact information on a sign-up sheet
Superstition Library: Lucky Charms
On the greeting tables we also included a bowl of good luck charms for those attendants not brave enough to test the fates. The charms consisted of cheap trinkets, plastic jewels and other beads that can be purchased inexpensively at any of the arts and crafts stores or large supermarkets. For a touch of comic relief and as a tribute to the finest cereal in all creation we displayed a bowl of General Mills' Lucky Charms and offered participants a handful of marvelously delicious marshmallow treats!
Another idea that surfaced for the use of lucky charms is to have one line of participants carry their charms to stave off any bad luck that might result from the activities that would follow, with the other line having no protection at all. This might then be used to keep tabs on participants and the possible good and bad luck they encountered in the days and weeks to follow. This experiment could be used to show the chance elements and inconclusive evidence that result from fortune telling and superstitious belief.
Superstition Library: Mirrors
After being greeted, the first superstition participants encounter is the breaking of mirrors. We purchased several mirror squares from a local hardware store, cut them into small pieces and wrapped each in thick plastic wrap as a safety precaution. (You may also find that local glass and mirror stores have broken pieces to give away or purchase at a discount and/or that group members may have old mirrors lying around to use in this activity.)
We set the mirrors on long tables and included a small hammer and goggles on both sides. An attendant was stationed here to help participants and ensure their safety. An informational plaque sat on the table and detailed the origin and history, as well as the amazing variety of superstitions having to do with broken mirrors. (A second display may be included to detail the other superstitions that exist on the topic of mirrors.)
Superstition Library: Horseshoes
Participants then walk underneath a string of plastic horseshoes that are hanging upside down (bringing bad luck rather than good). An information sign is displayed on either side. Plastic horseshoes can be found in supermarket game aisles; they are usually part of an actual horseshoe game for children. If instead you have real horseshoes to use you may simply want to hang these upside down on poles that guests pass by. Another idea is to actually have a horseshoe game alongside the course that participants can play. Attendants can simply toss a horseshoe as they walk by, trying to get it around the poll. Winners could receive a prize or extra raffle ticket if they successfully toss the shoe around the poll.
Superstition Library: Black Cats
Cardboard black cats were included on the walkway in a pattern that forced people to dodge them, but making a black cat "crossing your path" inevitable. You can also include a person disguised as a black cat running in front of people as they walk for both the obstacle course and throughout the larger event. Just after Hallowe'en you can usually find black cat displays at many of the supermarkets and party stores for a cheap price or, you can easily make them yourself out of black bristol board.
Superstition Library: Cracks
The next obstacle included blocks of stone that you would normally see on a pathway. If the course is setup on a sidewalk it may be very likely there are already cracks in the cement that could be used for this particular activity. The cracked stones were accompanied by a sidewalk chalk announcement reading, "Step on Cracks."
Superstition Library: Touch Wood
Logs of wood were placed on the walkway with a sign reading "Don't Knock on Wood." You can also use the "Don't Touch Wood" warning as well.
Superstition Library: Four-Leaf Clover
In the grass beside the obstacle course we included a sign reading "No Four-Leaf Clovers Allowed" with an accompanying information display on the superstition itself. Participants were encouraged to sit on the grass and see if they could find any four-leaf clovers. Any winners could receive a prize or an extra raffle ticket.
Superstition Library: Spilt Milk
Next, attendants reached a table where plastic cups of milk resided. They were invited to spill the milk and read the accompanying display on the superstition of spilt milk.
Superstition Library: Spilt Salt
The next table had a miniature bowling game on it, with barriers around the rim of the table and the typical lines drawn on to resemble a bowling lane. Five or ten small, plastic salt shakers, filled with salt, were set up at the end of the table like bowling pins and attendants were invited to toss a ball down the table in an effort to knock down the salt shakers, thereby spilling the salt. As an added touch they were warned not to throw any of the spilt salt over their left shoulder to reverse the bad luck headed their way or to throw the salt over the wrong shoulder - the right - adding to the bad luck.
Superstition Library: Umbrellas
The Obstacle Course then proceeded indoors where umbrellas stood at the entrance. Participants were encouraged to open the umbrellas indoors and read the accompanying informational plaque on this particular superstition.
Superstition Library: Hats
Also at the entrance we invited participants to pick up a specially made Superstition Bash hat (easily constructed out of paper in the fashion of children's birthday caps and New Year's eve hats.) The guests could then wear the hat indoors for the remainder of the event and also keep it as a souvenir. An information plaque was included on the table where the hats were available.
Superstition Library: Ladders
To end the obstacle course another ladder marked the archway into the Center where more events and activities were taking place. At a nearby table we invited participants to pick up a brief survey about superstitions, fill it out at their leisure and deposit it in a box after the event. We also included a wishing well and invited any of the participants concerned about the bad luck that was headed their way to deposit all of their money to appease the fates! (A sneaky fundraising gimmick if there ever was one!)
Superstition Library: Pennies
On the ground that followed we sprinkled pennies and warned participants not to pick them up or "all good day [they] would have good luck."