Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

July 7, 2013


Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 6:28 am

Does the mention of Friday the 13th bring to your mind superstitions about bad luck and images of a hockey-mask-wearing-machete-wielding Jason?  According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., an estimated $800 million is lost in business every Friday the 13th due to fears of the doomed day. The question is why is there such dread and avoidance of this day by the public?


A little research indicates that this fear is actually a combination of the fear of Friday and the fear of the number thirteen.  If the number thirteen worries you then you may have Triskaidekaphobia. If you are nervous about the day Friday then you probably have Paraskavedekatriaphobia.  And if you are afraid of both Friday and the number thirteen, then you have an incurable disease known as Friggatriskaidekaphobia (my spell-check just went crazy on that one).

Let’s look at the number thirteen first.  Many experts say the association may be Biblical, given that the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus.  In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, and the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness.

There is also a superstition thought to derive from a Norse myth that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. Whatever the reason, fear of thirteen has spread far and wide.  Hotels and hospitals often skip the 13th floor, and even airports quietly omit gate 13 sometimes.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is said to have avoided travel on the 13th day of any month, and would never host 13 guests at a meal.  Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover were also plagued with an abnormal fear of the number thirteen.  Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party.  A friend warned him not to go saying it was bad luck.  Twain later told the friend “They only had food for twelve people.”  Some diners in Paris can hire a professional 14th guest lest they be left with only thirteen.

So, why has the day Friday come to be thought unlucky?  Here again, it is thought to have arisen due to the fact that Jesus was crucified on a Friday.  Whatever the origin, by the late Middle Ages, both Friday and the number 13 were considered bearers of misfortune, with twice as much bad luck when they fell on the same day.

Why does the Friday the 13th superstition stick so firmly in our minds?  According to Thomas Gilovich, who chairs the department of psychology at Cornell University, our brains are almost too good at making associations.  “If anything bad happens to you on Friday the 13th, the two will be forever associated in your mind, and all those uneventful days in which the 13th fell on a Friday will just be ignored”, Gilovich said recently.

If Friday the 13th freaks you out, hold on to your rabbit’s foot extra tight, because there are three of these supposedly unlucky dates in 2015.  They fall in February, March, and November.  On these three days you must be extra careful – no stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, no walking under a ladder, no black cats crossing the road in front of you, and especially no breaking of mirrors ( that’s seven years bad luck, folks).


All of this makes sense.  Would you plan on buying a new car, going bungee jumping, or getting married on Friday the 13th?  I didn’t think so.





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