April 4, 1916: Lumberjack walks under ladder, bad luck ensues

On this day in Duluth in 1916, a man walked beneath a ladder and bad luck immediately came his way. Here’s how the Duluth News Tribune reported it over one hundred years ago: “Nels Christiansen, a lumberjack, is not necessarily superstitious, at least he says so, but since yesterday afternoon he has developed an antipathy to walking under ladders which threatens to linger for many moons. Late yesterday afternoon Christiansen burst excitedly into police headquarters in West Duluth looking like a cross between an Indian on the warpath and a Halloween celebrator. His hat and most of his coat were covered with a rich, red paint, murder was in his eye, and the smell of whiskey on his breath. Running headlong into Jailer Shannon, he shouted, “If you don’t lock up that guy for life, I’ll soak him so hard his grandchildren will be cripples.” By dint of many soothing words and reckless promises, Jailor Shannon managed to quiet the gory-looking apparition to the extent of learning the cause of his bloodthirsty designs. The lumberjack, according to the story finally extracted from him, happened to walk close alongside a small Central Avenue dry goods store, the upper part of which was being given a loud spring dressing. Just as he passed under the ladder, the contents of a can of red paint landed all over him, and so perfect was the connection that the lumberjack vowed that it all had been carefully planned out and timed by the painter at the top of the ladder. All efforts of Jailor Shannon to impress upon the enraged Christiansen that the affair was undoubtedly accidental, and that the painter would be willing to settle to his satisfaction, proved futile. “I might have forgave him,” said the lumberjack, “but when I told him to come down so that I could lick ’im, he jes’ laffed in my face, and sez he couldn’t quit workin’ until 5 o’clock because he was a union man.” A patrolman was sent with Christiansen to the scene of the trouble to affect an understanding between the painter and the victim and to prevent violence, but by the time they reached the spot the painter had quit work for the day. In the meantime the lumberjack’s ire had appeased somewhat, and he left the patrolman with the promise that he would find out who the painter was and merely ask him to pay for cleaning his clothes.”

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