An old superstition says that if you hear three knocks that seemingly have no cause, someone you know will die. Silly, right? Like many superstitions, however, the phenomenon of death knocks might have its roots in people’s real-life experiences.
Superstitions persist for many reasons. If you think that three knocks predict a death, you will be more attentive to news of a death after hearing three knocks and then connect the two events.
When someone close to you dies, you might think back over the past few days or ask others if they heard three knocks. In these cases, there were likely many other instances where knocks couldn’t be associated with deaths and vice versa. But you have validated your superstition.
One variant is that bad news, often of a death, will be received in either three days, three weeks, or three months. With the variable time frame, it is easy enough for a matching occurrence to be ascribed to the knocks. In other cases, repeated, unexplained knocking is heard. When someone dies weeks or months later, it is connected with being foretold by the knocking.
When three knocks are heard on a door and then nobody is there, but it is followed quickly by a call notifying the household of a death, that someone did come by to inform them but they left before the door was answered would be suspicious.
Although you may not believe in the superstition, these stories can be entertaining ones to tell around the campfire or at other times you share spooky tales.
Consider the cases below, told by those who have actually heard the foreboding knocks and were shocked by their grim aftermath.
DEATH KNOCKS IN WINTER
“One cold and very snowy evening, we were all gathered in the living room when suddenly we heard a very loud pounding on the front entry door. That door was sealed with weather stripping in the winter and we never opened it after that was in place, and the door wasn’t lit at night.
“The pounding was loud and insistent, so my mother went to our side entry door and called out to whoever was knocking to walk over to the side door. She called again and there was no answer. She turned on the outside light over the front door and peered out the window with the intent of motioning the visitor over to the side door for entry. There was no one there, and there were no footprints in the freshly fallen snow. My mother turned to us and said, ‘This means that there will soon be a death in the family.’
“My dad, being the skeptic, suggested the noise was the wind blowing something against the door. The next morning we got the call that our Uncle Charlie had passed away unexpectedly.” —Hensnckicks
THREE DEATH KNOCK WARNINGS
Christopher (all names are pseudonyms) notes three incidents in his family.
As a child, he and his grandmother were startled by three loud knocks “that seemed to come from nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time.” His grandmother’s sister passed away that evening from a heart-related ailment.
His father heard three or four huge bangs within the walls and thought, “the whole damn house was going to come down.” His brother died from a cocaine overdose just hours later.
His dog was violently ill and he had called a veterinary ambulance. He heard three sharp knocks on the apartment door, but nobody was there. The vets arrived 15 minutes later, but the dog died an hour after that.
FAMILY EXPERIENCES MANY KNOCKS
Neal reports multiple incidents of death knocks heard by various family members.
In the 1920s, his grandmother heard three loud knocks on the front door while she was in the kitchen, but nobody was there. Three days later she learned that her mother had died back in Germany.
In 1973, Neal’s parents were awakened by three loud knocks on the front door with nobody there. They received a phone call about an hour later that his uncle had passed away.
In 1979, at his father’s funeral, his aunt noted that they had heard three loud knocks on their storm door about the time his father passed away.
His mother heard three loud knocks on her front door with nobody there. Three days later, his brother was murdered.
DEATH KNOCKS AT THE HOSPITAL
Alan tells of his family waiting at a hospital as their mother neared death. They began to hear “almost other-worldly knocking” seemingly from the window behind his mother’s bed. Ten minutes later, they heard it again, but more insistent. He went into the hall to see whether somebody was pulling a prank but saw nobody. Ten minutes later, his mother passed away.