Are Death Omens Real? 10 Harrowing Death Omens Around The World

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By: Alex Postrado

Death Omens: What Are They And Are They Real?

Death is a topic that not everyone can easily discuss.

Most of us shy away from conversations centered on this matter because it ushers in certain uncomfortable emotions, like sadness, anxiety, confusion, and fear.

But, no matter how much circling around we do, death is one of the only constant things in life.

It is inevitable 一 and it is probably because of this inevitability that people are often intimidated even by the mere thought of it.

And what do people do to make sense of things that scare them?

Historically speaking, they sometimes search for explanations as to why that thing 一 in this case, death 一 happens.

And when it is still not enough to console their unease, they look for signs to either escape or foretell the arrival of the end.

In most instances, this comes in the form of superstitions, and incidentally, beliefs in the phenomena called death omens.

A reaper bringing death.
Death is coming.

What is a Death Omen?

Understanding death omens start with understanding what the term omen is all about.

In the most basic sense, an omen is a phenomenon that is “believed to be a sign or warning of something that will happen in the future.”

Derived from its late 16th century Latin equivalent of the same word, omen translates to the phrase “of otherwise uncertain origin.”

And as we know, humans have a long-running fear of things that are uncertain 一 simply put, the fear of the unknown.

This is why, although the word omen could refer to something that is “either good or bad,” when it is used in most contexts, it often hints at something that is believed to be particularly ominous.

But, as portentous and eerie-sounding as the word omen might be, it does not compare to the terror the term death omen brings.

Death omens are just what they sound like. They are things or occurrences that are said to be indicators of a person’s death.

And these warnings come in all shapes and sizes 一 found across cultures, and passed down through oral traditions, a lot of which are still widely believed today.

Famous Examples of Death Omens

Black Butterflies

Black butterflies symbolize different things in different cultures.

In Hawaii and other Southeast Asian countries, if they appear at funerals, they are seen as an embodiment of the deceased “who has come to say goodbye.”

Meanwhile, in some countries in South and Central America, the arrival of these flying critters indicates something more chilling:

That someone is about to die.

Should we fear the black butterfly?

It is said that seeing a black butterfly visit all four corners of a house implies that someone from the household would soon pass.

In some instances, however, it is believed that the Reaper has already claimed the person and the butterfly only serves as the bearer of this bad news.


Despite their existence remaining unproven to this day, doppelgangers have long been blamed to be omens of impending death.

The idea is that, if a doppelganger shows up to a person’s relatives or friends, it means that the person being copied would soon “fall ill or end up in a dangerous situation.”

But, if this ghost appears directly before the person it is replicating, it could only mean one thing: death is in the offing.

Dark twins drawing

The Three Knocks of Doom

In Europe, especially across Scotland and Ireland, there is a belief about the horror of hearing three knocks at the door and finding no one is behind it.

Sometimes known as the “three knocks of doom,” this is said to be a sign that someone the observer knows has either “died or is about to die.”

Black Cats

Black butterflies are not the only ink-colored creatures that a lot of people associate with approaching death.

In folkloric traditions, seeing a black cat is also a death omen.

black cat close up
Do black cats mean death?

If a black cat meows at midnight, if it sits beside the bed of someone who is sick, or if it crosses your path, then you can expect that doom is likely coming your way. At least, according to the superstitions.

Death Crowns

The Appalachian culture is rich in traditions and beliefs, largely due to its multiple ethnic influences. But, among the things that stand out the most is its belief that a clump of hardened feathers that “takes the form of a crown” inside an ill person’s pillow is an omen of death.

They call these death crowns 一 sometimes, angel crowns.

And when found inside someone’s pillow, the belief says that the person only has three days to live.

The only way to break this omen? By literally breaking the death crown.

Death crown


Even a seemingly innocent dream of a wedding could mean death in some cultures. The explanation behind this is that dreams 一 as some people believe 一 often “go by contraries.”

So, while, in real life, weddings may be festive, in the dream world, it is a symbol of tragedy.

Other examples of death omens in the form of dreams are:

  • Dreams about missing an important event;
  • Dreams where there is more than one moon;
  • Dreams where you are completely naked in supposedly everyday scenarios;
  • And dreams about having a tooth fall out.
a dream of death

Corpse Candles

In folklore, a corpse candle is a small unexplained ball of glimmering light or flame 一 otherwise known as will-o’-the-wisp.

They commonly appear in marshy areas and are believed by some to be omens of death.

It is said that if a corpse candle hovers over the chest of a sick person, then death is near.

If it hovers over a boat, someone is about to drown.

And if it floats above somebody’s home, someone from the household is on the brink of kicking the bucket.

will-o'-the-wisp with girl
The Will o’ the Wisp could be an omen of death.

Phantom Funerals

These things are as mysterious and otherworldly as they sound.

Basically, phantom funerals are ghostly processions, found originally in the folklore of Switzerland, Germany, and the British Isles.

They are said to appear like real funerals. And the observer of this phenomenon may even recognize its supposed attendees as people they know from real life.

The thing is, though, spectral processions like this only “mirror” the events of an actual funeral that would take place in the near future.

As to whose funeral it would be 一 well, the observer has somewhat a say about it.

Because, if they try to peek at who is inside the phantom casket, “they will see their own dead body” resting in it 一 marking the coming of their inescapable death.

ghostly procession, phantom funeral


As creatures that are viewed by almost every culture as a link between the physical and the spiritual worlds, birds get quite the reputation of being the messengers of death.

They say that if a bird flies inside a house, then a soul from that household is about to be harvested.

In a more specific context, the nightly cawing of crows is also said to be a death omen.

And so is the sudden appearance of black birds 一 especially, magpies 一 as well as the screeching and perching of owls at window sills or atop bedroom doors.

Fallen Portraits

While hanging framed photos of your family is one thoughtful way to remind them that they are loved, you probably would want to make sure that these portraits are secured in place.

There is a belief that when a framed photo falls from the wall and shatters, whoever was in the picture would die.

And that omen applies even when there are several people in the picture!

Keep your portraits on the wall…..

Are Death Omens Real?

Whether we like it or not, death is always just a few blocks around the corner.

And our deep-seated fear of death, possibly claiming us or our loved ones next, is 一 in all likelihood 一 the very reason why death omens exist and why they are still so prevalent even in this modern day.

In a logical sense, however, there is no real explanation for death omens.

They are simply a part of an enduring tradition that found its way into various cultures around the world 一 with the purpose of sparing us from the anxieties brought upon by our very own thoughts of the end.


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