Misfortune and bad luck are thought to be the result of stepping on cracks in the pavement. It is usually associated with the saying: ?Step on a crack and break your mother?s back.?
However, this superstition originated back in the late 19th and early 20th century, unfortunately when racism was prevalent in society. The original unkind verse is believed to be either ?Step on a crack and your mother?s baby will be black? or ?Step on a crack and your mother will turn black.? Due to the fact that inter-racial marriages were frowned upon by some, it was also common then to say that stepping on the pavement lines meant you would marry a black person and have a black baby.
In the mid-20th century, it was common to tell children that if they stepped on any cracks in the pavement they would be eaten for lunch by bears waiting for them around the corner.
Another belief surrounding this superstition is that the number of cracks stepped on indicates the number of bones your mother would break. Also, it foretold the amount of china dishes that you would break.
There is also a belief that the cracks in the ground or pavement lead directly to the underworld. Thus by stepping on them, the evil demons that dwell there would be released and bring bad luck.
For more information on superstitions,
visit the Superstition Room.