Bad Omens: Animal Superstitions

While many animals are celebrated in cultures as symbols of good tidings and fortune, not all animals are so highly esteemed. There are some animals in Western Culture of which people are consistently wary, especially when these animals make an unexpected appearance. Such animals are considered by some to be bad omens and sometimes even the embodiment of evil. Here are a few animals commonly seen as an evil omen.


Snakes, with their legless bodies and bellies to the ground have long been considered a bad omen and a symbol of evil. Snakes have been getting a bad rap since the story of Adam and Eve. According to the bible, if it wasn’t for the snake encouraging Eve to bite into that forbidden apple, mankind would never have been cast from the Garden of Eden. Snakes have frequently represented evil in literature and folklore. One of the feats of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland was to banish all snakes from the island country, metaphorically driving out evil and bringing about a new age.


Bats with their nighttime flights, favor of dark places and unusual faces have long inspired fear and dark omens. It also probably does not help their reputation that a few species drink blood. European and Western folklore consistently translates the appearance of a bat as a bad omen and they are even seen as being the embodiment of evil. Bats are often thought to be an indicator that a house is haunted or worse. There is an old German myth that if a bat flies into your house, the devil is after you. Many myths from Slovinian, German, and Jewish immigrants suggest that bats in an attic foretell a death in the house. Many other cultures have folklore that a bat doing nothing more than flying over a house can mean death.

Black Cats

Black cats with their sleek coats, blazing eyes and ability to nearly disappear in the darkness have long been seen as bringers of bad tidings. Worldwide black cats are considered bad omens. In the United States, some still believe that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. Black cats were also seen as witches’ familiars, companions that assisted with evil doings. Animal shelters often refuse to adopt out black cats during Halloween because of this folklore and the fear that the cats might be used in some sort of ritual sacrifice. Fortunately researchers do not believe that this fear is well-founded. Black cats, however, still hold a place on the list of bad omens.


With their nighttime habits and predatory behavior, owls have instilled fear in many cultures and a great many myths surround them, proclaiming them bad omens. In particular, the barn owl which flies with total silence is considered a bad omen in Europe and the United States. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the poets such as William Wordsworth used owls in their writing as a symbol of doom.  In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, owls foretell the murder of Caesar. In the folklore of many cultures, the screech of an owl is considered to be a harbinger of death.  Misunderstood animals such as owls are often considered signs of bad things to come.

In Animal Underworld: Beast Worship, Henry Rollins investigates the ways humans connect animals to the supernatural and finds out firsthand how some cultures connect not only with animals considered symbols of good, but also with animals that are considered dangerous and evil.

Tune in to the three-part series Animal Underworld Monday, May 28th starting at 8P et/pt.


  1. Dhan Juan
    May 11, 2013, 8:09 pm

    me and my mother move into a back house and i feel a strong spirirt in the house. I find a crab shell in the back of the small frig, inside of it. i seen it 3 weeks ago n i ask my friend/girl what is that mean someone putting it in there and 90% of time shes always here and yes she slepts next to me. isthere any superstition about that. i really want to know

  2. […] cultures have folklore that a bat doing nothing more than flying over a house can mean death. Bad Omens: Animal Superstitions – Nat Geo TV Blogs __________________ Wunder geschehen wenn wir uns nur […]

  3. laasya
    February 21, 2014, 9:13 am

    One afternoon a bat entered into my kitchen and sat on the exhaust fan . Without noticing that it is on the fan i switched the exhaust fan , the bat immediately fell down in the sink of my kitchen making its sound. Is that a bad omen?

  4. nobody special
    Las Vegas
    March 21, 2014, 6:13 pm

    I just saw a bat flying in daylight in the public library that I was in. I felt excited not afraid. I used to have birds fly into my living room. I thought it was a secret joke that mother nature does.

  5. Robin
    Las Vegas
    August 22, 2014, 4:11 am

    Just went outside to about 1:30 am and there’s a bat sleeping directly above our doorway, right next to the blaring bright porch light. I’m thinking maybe he’s hanging out there waiting for bugs? I think they generally sleep in the day and hunt at night which is why it’s strange to see him hanging there in the open. It’s the end of Aug and has just started cooling down here, plus we’re on the 2nd story, which is where they like to sleep… (this is the time & place where you would be likely to see them).

    As far as an Omen… we’ll see…

  6. sad
    Kearney Nebraska
    August 23, 2014, 10:27 pm

    Bat in my house… two nights in a row…

  7. izzy
    March 1, 2015, 10:40 pm

    I woke up at 3 in the morning with a bat flying around the living room above where i was sleeping and i still dont know how the bat got into the house among other things cupbourds slam I hear foot steps and now this i think its time to move out (:

  8. Nelson
    Windhoek, Namibia (Africa)
    March 19, 2015, 9:15 am

    Please help. …
    what does it mean when in the middle of the night you wake up and realize that that there’s a bat inyour room. You open the door and try to chase it away and it refuses to use the door as an exit, all it does is fly from corner to corner of your room. Later on you end up killing it as it is scary and torturous. Am still freaked out by the incident as it eve took me almost an hour battling with that weird creature (BAT)

  9. harold
    April 24, 2015, 7:14 am

    Your house is probably haunted bats r said to be an indicater of a haunted house if they fly inside house ect dont panic (: it could also just b looking for fruit ect which may b around ur house

  10. D
    United States
    March 4, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Last night when I got home from work a bat was flying over my car and flying into the trees. I got a little scared and got out of my car and walked to my front door and a thought came to my mind oh no someone is going to die. And this morning my uncle passed away. I’m not superstitious either. I just knew someone I know was going to die.

  11. hester
    vanderbijlpark south africa
    January 15, 4:58 am

    my husband found a big black crab in our yard. what is the meaning of that.

  12. Judith
    March 17, 6:21 pm

    If you are Christian then you need to know that its biblical. Those houses with bats usually have evil spirits as most of them have issues like the former people who lived their did not do things that pleased God and living in such houses you can never be happy. Its only heavy prayers over the certain houses that can cleanse the house of demons. I recently went for a seminar where the preacher told us about how the land we live on can affect us and how to pray over such a place or rather just find a new place

  13. Regina
    April 3, 8:24 pm

    Has happened twice in my inmdediate family, we thought bats are harmless creatures but it can’t be a coincidence. My mother saw a bat in our house and writhing a few months her beloved mother expired. I just don’t like their being, then we were a happy family and see an unexpected bat in our main reception, she just didn’t want to leave and we had no freakin’ idea how she came in!!!! (Both times) same house, and then after stating there f rahe whole night she vanished next morning. Guess what my healthy happy 62 year old mother passed away in October. This CANNOT be a coincidence. Anyone else had had a similar experience? I was really really uneasy when we saw the bat, I googled it and it said something about death, I became more nervous and left it there. Then when this tragedy took place I gave it a deep though and I can only say that in my case, a BAT brought misfortune twice. She is the predictor of death in the family or at least a terminal illness. I hate them and wish and ray i will never ever see one. Oh by the way, we saw a dead baby bat in our London home (previous two bats were in India) and my sibling has been sick with one thing or another, he is just not getting well and was a healthy guy in early thirties!!!