The Radley house, as viewed by Scout at a very early age, seems to symbolize the haunted house of the neighborhood. And with any haunted house, there must be a ghost and mysterious on-goings within. Nothing is as it seems, though; and because of the stigma associated with the house, rumors, superstitions, and judgmental attitudes tend to add to unnecessary behavior by the community.
The first judgmental person who spreads rumors about the Radley house is Stephanie Crawford. She tells Jem facts about Boo's past life mixed with rumors. The biggest rumor she claims is true is told by Jem as follows:
"He goes out, all right, when it's pitch dark. Miss Stephanie Crawford said she woke up in the middle of the night one time and saw him looking straight through the window at her. . . said his head was like a skull looking at her" (12-13).
This gossiping by Jem not only passes unneeded judgment on Boo, but also incites Dill to do more scheming.
The second example of judging others, and thereby acting inappropriately, is when Jem and Dill try to get Boo to come out by poking and prodding him. They devise a way to send him a note by using a fishing pole! When Atticus comes along and catches them, he gives them the lecture of their life, as follows:
"What Mr. Radley did was his own business. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay inside his own house he had the right to stay inside free from the attentions of inquisitive children, which was a mild term for the likes of us. . . Furthermore, had it never occurred to us that the civil way to communicate with another being was by the front door instead of a side window? Lastly, we were to stay away from that house until we were invited there" (49).
It's a good thing that someone with a moral compass teaches the kids to respect humanity rather than to degrade it, make fun of it, or exploit it.
Finally, superstition is another way that people can get caught up into making immoral decisions. Because of the rumors, people blamed Boo Radley for their azaleas freezing or any mysterious crimes that may have occurred. The following is a perfect example of prejudice based on misinformation and superstition:
"Any stealthy small crimes committed in Maycomb were his work. Once the town was terrorized by a series of morbid nocturnal events: people's chickens and household pets were found mutilated; although the culprit was Crazy Addie, who eventually drowned himself in Barker's Eddy, people still looked at the Radley Place, unwilling to discard their initial suspicions. A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night, he would cut across to the sidewalk opposite and whistle as he walked" (9).
Thus, the people of Maycomb pre-judge without following the American motto that someone is innocent until proven guilty. This behavior destroys humanity because it makes people reactive to unknown situations rather than investigative. It's always better to find out all of the facts before passing judgment on other people.