Random Asides

No Atheists in Real Estate Foxholes?

Can’t get that house to sell? You need a statue of Saint Joe to bury in the front yard. Not a believer? Doesn’t really matter. At least that’s what I read in The saint of real estate? Believe it by Al Lewis, a Denver Post staff columnist.

My mother-in-law flew in from New York and rode down to Colorado Springs where I had just put an investment property up for sale.

She dug a hole in the front yard, buried a statue of St. Joseph upside down, and said a prayer. She told me this Catholic ritual would yield a quick sale. It sounded ridiculous. “You’re not even Catholic,” I reminded her. “You’re Jewish.”

Apparently, this does not matter to St. Joe, husband of Mary and stepfather to Jesus…

The columnist is apparently joking, but the people he interviewed sounded totally serious. You really must read the whole thing.

I am not going to say anything or smirk, because I have a white elephant statue in my bedroom, and you can bet he’s appropriately facing toward the front door of my house. It’s supposed to bring good luck to a marriage, and I celebrated my 17th anniversary this year. At least I didn’t buy the darn thing. It was a wedding present from Mr. Writerdd’s grandmother. (Amazingly, I can’t find anything about this particular good luck superstition on a quick google search, so you’ll have to take my word for it.)

Hmmm. Hemant thinks this is a serious article and is really pissed off. (Good thing the online version didn’t contain the subhead about atheists in real estate foxholes.) I wonder. I’m usually too dense to notice when something is satirical, and I am often embarassed by jokes that go right over my head. Am I being too dense to notice that this columnist is actually this stupid?


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. That reminds me of a story (probably apocryphal) about a scientist being interviewed by a reporter in his office. The reporter sees a horseshoe nailed to the wall and says "you're a great scientist. Surely you don't believe a horseshoe will bring good luck." "Of course I don't," the scientist replied. "Then why is the horseshoe up there?" the reporter insisted. "Because it I understand it works whether you believe it or not."

  2. Hey Joe, where you're goin' with that gun in your hand?

    I was once asked by a lady to go by a neighbor's window to plant a token of a saint so she would leave the house available for rent. I wonder what other sorts of jobs can saints do…

  3. I'm not sure whether the reporter believes the story or not. But knowing how reporters are, I wouldn't be surprised if he's a believer now.

    As far as the success of the statues, it's like cures for warts. Essentially, there are no cures for warts, they usually just disappear all on their own after a while. So whatever anyone was using last the moment they disappeared is considered to have been the miracle cure.

    Likewise, The houses have been on the market for a while. So how long do they have to be on the market before someone starts getting worried and considers crazy ideas like burrying statues just to get their house sold? And what is the usual period a house like the one they're selling is on the market? Are these two periods very different in length? How much over value were they trying to sell their house?

    I think it's all just bad statistical analysis on the part of the realtors.

  4. I've just added a blog entry about my own superstitions on my own blog.

    I always heard that you should face elephants away from the door because facing them towards an exit means that they will leave and take all the luck with them. Which, I suppose, makes as much sense as burying a statue of a saint to aid your house sale. i.e. None at all.

    On the subject of saints, when did estate agents adopt St Joe as their patron? I dislike the stereotype of the dishonest house salesman enough to think that they need one. Is there really a patron saint for everything?

  5. I know people really do the St. Joe thing, I just thought the guys article was written in a very tongue-in-cheeck tone.

    I don't really believe the elephant brings good luck. It's just a kitschy old thing, and I'm partial to collecting weird stuff like that.

  6. What I'm seeing here in the comments and other places is two misconceptions: one, that the writer is a "reporter" and the piece is an "article." Al Lewis is a COLUMNIST, and his column is intended to entertain. He is clearly trying to inform you about an unusual practice with which you might not be acquainted, while taking on an informal tone. Give the guy some credit–he makes mention of more than one person who had no luck with the statues. But the point of such writing is not to offer analysis, it is to give you something light to chuckle or think about over coffee.

  7. I think the frustration we skeptics feel is that one ought to be able to provide something to think or chuckle about over coffee without uncritically repeating utter crap.

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