Widely held superstitions that it is bad luck to walk beneath a ladder are related in part to fears about witches, especially during the witch hunt times in colonial America. Not all witches were burned—for example, in England and in the American colonies, witches were hung. When they dropped, they fell below the ladder leading up to the gallows.
It was believed that if a witch touched anyone standing nearby, especially as she or he made a last gasp of breath, that person would soon die. The superstition was so strong that many people believed that a witch’s dying Curse could linger long after death. Even to walk beneath a gallows ladder long after an execution invited a death curse.