Why Lucille Ball Was Superstitious About Pictures Of Birds

Pioneering comedian and "I Love Lucy" star, Lucille Ball, barely needs an introduction these days. Her delightfully elastic face, appetite for creative risks, and uncanny talent for throwing her body around to produce laughs, rightfully earn her consistent and undying admiration.

While her front-facing life featured an assortment of tightly produced and deeply relatable foibles, there were some idiosyncratic tendencies in Lucille Ball's private life that never made it to the stage. Namely, her deeply rooted fear of birds, scientifically known as Ornithophobia (via Healthline).

Ball wasn't the first, and certainly isn't the last to have this peculiar phobia. According to Bird Spot, sinister omens involving birds date as far back as ancient times. One superstition that originated in the Mediterranean claims that having peacock feathers in the house brings bad luck, with many actors staunchly refusing to work with or near the dreaded feather. 

Lucille Ball was terrified of bird wallpaper

Like many phobias, Lucille Ball's stems from tragic event that happened during her childhood. According to Biography, Ball's father, Henry Durrell Ball, an electrician by trade, fell ill with typhoid when she was a small child, barely 4 years old. In her memoir, "Love, Lucy," Ball recounts her mother telling her about her father's death as one of her earliest and most difficult memories (via Cheatsheet).

"And I remember at that very moment, a picture suddenly fell from the wall." Ball writes in her memoir, "And I noticed on the kitchen windowsill some little gray sparrows feeding. I've been superstitious about birds ever since. I've heard that birds flying in the window are supposed to bring bad luck." Ball, heard right. The Bird Spot claims that a variation of this superstition exists across a variety of cultures. Some people believe that a black bird flying into the home could mean the death of a family member has occurred or will occur soon.

Dogs were OK though

In her memoir, Ball also said, "Pictures of birds get me. I won't buy anything with a print of a bird, and I won't stay in a hotel room with bird pictures or bird wallpaper," (via Cheatsheet). Snopes even claims that Ball once had Japanese silk print wallpaper ripped off the walls of her Beverly Hills home after she noticed that birds were incorporated into the design.

Superstitions help explain the inexplicable and give those in need a semblance of control in their lives. Stuart Vyse, PhD, and the author of "Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition," told WebMD, "Sometimes the creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all."

Considering her young life was upended by her father's death, it makes sense that Lucille Ball decided to white-knuckle lore to wrestle back meaning into her world. Knowing this heart-wrenching backstory, you can't fault the woman for unexpectedly tearing down ritzy wallpaper ever now and then.