If you’re reading this blog post and you’ve been on edge today, you might be one of the many people with paraskevidekatriaphobia, or rather, an unnatural fear or phobia of Friday the 13th. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Friday the 13th is a day that captivates many imaginations and locks into our superstitious fears, no matter who you are or where you are in the world. While its origins remain unclear, and a quick Google search will pull up millions of theories, one thing is sure: more people are superstitious towards this day than any other. It might have something to do with the unfortunate combination of the unlucky number 13 and the unlucky day of Friday (just a hunch),or the fact that we tend to pay more attention to misfortune on this day more than any other. Spilled coffee on Tuesday the 10th is just inconvenient, but spilled coffee on Friday the 13th carries the inevitable foreshadowing of doom and misfortune.
The number 13 has long been considered unlucky, most likely due to the fact that it’s overshadowed by the “complete” number 12. There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a day, Jesus had 12 Apostles, there were 12 main gods on Olympus, the 12 signs of zodiac, 12 eggs in a dozen, and the list goes on and on. Norse and Hindu traditions believe that having 13 guests over for dinner is unlucky and will result in the unfortunate demise of one of the guests. You’re probably familiar with the connection between a hangman’s noose and the number 13: less than 13 turns in the rope would not successfully snap a neck. Some people also claim that individuals with 13 letters in their name have the devil’s “luck” (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo to name a few). If you’re counting the letters in your name right now and panicking, don’t worry – name changes, while inconvenient, can be done. Also, the 13 moons of a lunar calender created havoc for earlier astronomers as they worked to create a calender, which might have added to the bitter resentment felt towards this numeral.
Friday is just as weird. Although unclear as to why, many cultures consider this a bad day to do business, go on journeys or get married. According to legend, Henry Ford refused to do business on this day (and that guy loved working), and FDR refused to travel aboard trains. In Christian doctrine, many believe that Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Jesus was crucified on a Friday (after having a dinner with 12 other people, the 13th person to arrive having been Judas…hmm, strange, what was that Norse and Hindi myth going on about again?). Friday was a popular execution day in Ancient Rome and in England, some even claiming that those being executed had to climb 13 steps up to the chopping block. There is a famous myth that tells how English merchants and government officials became so frustrated with the fear that sailors had about sailing on a Friday, that a special ship was commissioned called the H.M.S Friday, whose keel was laid on a Friday, whose crew was selected on a Friday, whose Captain was named Jim Friday and who was launched on a Friday …only to disappear on her maiden voyage never to be seen again. Creepy, no? Some notable deaths on this day are Tupac Shakur (Sept. 13, 1996), Julia Child (Aug. 13, 2004), most of the Ugandan Rugby team on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 (Oct. 13, 1972), among others…
American pop culture has taken hold of this superstition as well (the infamous Hollywood sign was dedicated on July 13, 1923), and many people are familiar with popular and successful movie franchise, “Friday the 13th”. The original film, released in 1980 and featuring a young Kevin Bacon , is centered around a bunch of teenagers who decide to reopen a summer camp on, you guessed it, Friday the 13th. The franchise has given birth to one of the most notorious horror film icons, Jason. You might have heard of him, considering that there are no less than 12 movies in the series, including such hits as “Freddy vs. Jason” and “Jason Takes Manhattan”, which sounds like a morbid play on “The Muppet’s Take on Manhattan” idea. No word yet on whether there is a number 13 for the series in the making.
But it’s not all bad. According to one study done in 2004 by the “North Carolina’s Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute”, anywhere from 17 to 20 million Americans will alter their plans; avoiding flights, trips, work, and a few even refusing to leave their house just to avoid tempting fate. The overall damage in estimated to be between $800-$900 million in lost revenues. While not exactly a silver lining, at least it accounts for why there tend to statistically be fewer motor vehicle accidents on Friday the 13th versus other Fridays of the month. Either way you look at it, though, there is no getting away from it. The longest we can go without a Friday the 13th is 14 months. Some years may even have up to 3 Friday the 13ths a year (FYI, 2012 is one of those years). So, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, here’s to wishing you a happy Friday the 13th! Good luck. You might just need it.