Friday the 13th: ‘Unlucky’ facts and superstitions

If you ask any random person online or in real life whether they believe in superstitions, it’s likely any will say no. Except for the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th – it seems like almost everyone has a thought or two about the date, whether they believe in superstitions or not. Those who do believe tend to think of the date as unlucky. In fact, so many people are so afraid of Friday the 13th that a phobia has been named for them and their feelings towards the date and day – paraskavedekatriaphobia.

In any calendar year, we experience at least one Friday that happens to fall on the 13th, and some years we could have up to three Friday the 13ths in a single year. The question is… Why are people worldwide so superstitious about the date regardless of their spiritual beliefs? And, where did the superstition come from?

While no one knows exactly where the phobia of Friday the 13th originated, numerous theories and hypothesis have existed since the 1800s. According to reports:

“…No mention of it had been discussed in published works before then.”

Apparently, it all started with Norse mythology, according to some reports. The Founder of Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute from North Carolina, Donald Dossey, said that paraskavedekatriaphobia dates to the myth that the 13th guest – Loki – to a Norse dinner interrupted the other 12, turning the evening into a showdown.

friday the 13th, loki
Image of Loki via YouTube

Legend has it that Loki had a few tricks up his sleeve, and was able to trick Höðr, who was said to be a God of wintertime, to betray his family – a brother named Baldr who is said to be a God of summertime. Both are believed to be sons of Odin. The legend has it that as a result, the people mourned the Gods, and attributed the losses to the 13th guest.

Another myth has it that the superstition of Friday the 13th dates back to the Last Supper when it’s said that Jesus’ apostles ate with him. According to legend, this supper that led to his Crucifixion after Judas, an uninvited 13th guest, showed up to eat. Today, Christians celebrate the Last Supper on a Friday – known as Good Friday, when they don’t eat meats.

friday the 13th, jesus christ, Crucifixion,
Image via YouTube Video

With the exception of the Last Supper, the legends account for the date of the 13th, but they don’t account for Friday. Two theories as to where the “Friday” part of the superstition came from are quite dark. First, history notes that Fridays were the usual day to perform crucifixions, and Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday. Crucifixions eventually turned into general executions and during the 1800s executions generally happened on Fridays.

Other references to the day appear in the Bible, as it is said to be the day that the Eve tempted Adam with the apple. Even worse, Friday the 13th is said to be the very day that Cain killed Able.

While some people might point to the date on which France’s King Philip succeeded in executing the Knights Templar – Friday, October 13, 1307 – as being the “true” origin story of Friday the 13th being bad luck, this isn’t actually the case. In fact, the earliest account of Friday the 13th in writing appears in 1913. It is truly just a coincidence that the Knights Templar suffered the fate they did on a Friday that happened to be the 13th.

friday the 13th, knights templar
Image via YouTube Video

One scholar, Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University’s chair of the department of psychology, notes that as intelligent beings our brains are simply looking for associations, and we’re apparently really good at it.

He notes that:

“If anything bad happens to you on Friday the 13th, the two will forever be associated in your mind, and all those uneventful days in which the 13th fell on a Friday will be ignored.”

Just how serious are people about Friday the 13th? It depends on how you look at it. If you’ve ever stayed at a high rise hotel, or been in a hospital that has more than 13 floors, you may have noticed a distinct lack of a 13th floor. During the early 20th century, more and more people believed the superstition, and this led to a generalized fear of the number 13. In turn, this caused many developers and designers to automatically skip the number 13 when building so that the physical 13th floor is actually labeled “14.”

Even some airports skip the 13 when numbering gates. In Italy, some developers go so far as to omit house numbers that fall on a 13, and instead number them as “12 1/2.”

Regardless of whether afraid of the number or the day or if you are just really superstitious, some really strange things have happened as a result. For example, President D. Roosevelt reportedly refused to dine with 13 people, and would only invite 12, or at least 14 to dinners. He also avoided any travel plans that may have landed on a month’s 13th day.

We’ve all heard of the Friday the 13th movie series, yes? According to some reports, the film series was put together simply to take advantage of peoples’ fear of the date. Another movie depicts the survivors of an airplane that crashed into the Andes mountains. The survivors eventually turned to cannibalism to stay alive until they could be rescued or go for help after 72 days. Titled “Alive” and based on a true story, is it a coincidence that the initial crash happened on Friday, October 13, 1972?

Two famous people born on Friday the 13th included Alfred Hitchcock the thriller writer and Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator, both in August.

Probably one of the strangest occurrences as a result of the Friday the 13th superstition hails from Paris, France. Here, the good citizens can get a job as a “quatorzieme,” which is a person hired to be a “professional 14th guest.”

Every year has a Friday the 13th, and some years even have three. If a month starts with a Sunday, you’re guaranteed to have a Friday the 13th in that month.

Image: Screenshot via EarthSky

If you believe in the superstitions, then this is your “unlucky” year. While there are only two of the dates in 2019, the first fell on September 13, 2019, and the next will fall on December 13, 2019, or exactly 13 weeks after the first. Not to mention that exactly 13 weeks after that is a Friday the 13th in March of 2020.

Is there any statistical evidence to back up the claim that the date is indeed unlucky? The answer to this depends on who you ask. One study in the U.K. determined that, yes, people are more likely to end up in the hospital on a Friday the 13th, although the study’s authors said they wrote the paper as a “tongue in cheek” joke of sorts. Another study concluded that only women were more likely to be unlucky on the date. On the other hand, most studies have found no significant correlation between the date and luck.

More strange superstitions from around the world from Thoughty2:

Featured Image via Pexels

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