"Ah, they put pigeons' feathers in the pillows - no wonder I couldn't die!"

 

Pigeon
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePigeon - Credit: Alina Zienowicz

It was commonly believed that somebody lying on a pillow stuffed with pigeon feathers could not die, as the soul would be prevented from leaving the body. According to the Encyclopaedia of Superstitions 1949 (E. Radford, M. Radford) there have been 'instances where a bag of pigeon feathers has been deliberately put under a dying person's head for a pillow to "hold him back" until an expected relative could arrive'.