Friday 13th: Did You Know…?

As it’s Friday 13th, you could be reading this from under the duvet, afraid to set foot outside – after all, the superstition surrounding Friday 13th seems such a strong one. Therefore, you might be surprised to find that the superstition is very new…

Fact 1: Friggatriskaidekaphobia

Fear of Friday 13th is known as friggatriskaidekaphobia – frigga, (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen) or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskev­ (meaning “Friday”), and dekatre­s (meaning “thirteen”) attached to phob­a (meaning “fear”). [Source: Friday the 13th]

How many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century suffer from this condition? According to Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of phobias (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia, also spelled paraskavedekatriaphobia), the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he’s right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition. [Source: Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky]

Fact 2: A Matter of Location

If you lived in Spain, the chances are that Friday 13th would just pass you by. Not so with Tuesday 13th, which holds much more superstition. Likewise in Italy, Friday 13th is unlikely to send anyone fleeing for the hills, whereas Friday 17th could make a few people quite tense! [Source: Friday the 13th]

Fact 3: Let’s Skip 13

Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor. [Source: 13 Facts About Friday the 13th]. Indeed, this extends to restaurants too, as evidenced by this 2012 article in The Guardian:

I am sitting at a table that doesn’t exist. I wanted to eat out at a table 13, defying superstition ahead of tomorrow, the third Friday the 13th in this unusually inauspicious year. But it’s hard to find one. Only two of the UK’s 14 best restaurants have a table 13, most simply skipping from 12 to 14. Here at Le Gavroche, the closest I can come is to dine at table 12a, a kind of phantom table 13, the cursed spot that dare not speak its name. [Source: The Friday the 13th effect: why so many restaurants are missing a table 13]

Fact 4: Mark Twain Defied Superstition

According to Live Science, “Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.”” [Source: 13 Facts About Friday the 13th]

Fact 5: Five Famous Names Born on Friday 13th

Alfred Hitchcock (1899), Samuel Beckett (1906), Fidel Castro (1926), Christopher Plummer (1929), Steve Buscemi (1957) [Source: Thursday thirteen: 13 famous people born on Friday the 13th]

Fact 6: Old Origins…

Despite the fact that some believe the superstition dates back to biblical references, others believe it is linked to Norse mythology, while others reference the demise of the Knights Templar:

On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars – knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren – in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France – and the Order was found innocent elsewhere – but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake. [Source: Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995)]

[Source: Friday the 13th]

Fact 7: …and New Origins

In fact, recent mentions of Friday 13th superstitions seem to occur predominantly from 20th century onwards, particularly with the publication of Thomas W. Larson’s Friday the Thirteenth in 1907 (now available in full on Project Gutenberg). Prior to that, Friday and 13th had been been considered superstitious independently, but mentions of the two together were generally considered to be coincidental occurences of two separate fears. [Source: Friday the 13th]

Fact 8: Playing It Safe

Our fear of Friday 13th, however rational or irrational, has actually led us to take steps to be more precautionary on those dates. As a result, according to the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS), “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home.” [Source: 13 Lucky Reasons To Love Today]

Fact 9: Unlucky For Some

Friday 13th has proven to be unlucky for some: mostly business owners. The Asheville, N.C.-based Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute states that “between $700 million and $800 million are lost every Friday the 13th because of people’s refusal to travel, purchase major items or conduct business.” [Source: Business Journalism: Who’s afraid of Friday the 13th? Businesses sure can be]

Fact 10: Death and Taxes

In 1789 on Friday 13th November, Benjamin Franklin wrote “Everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” [Source: 13 Strange Things That Happened on Friday the 13th]

Fact 11: Fourteen Months

Although there can be as many as 3 Friday 13ths in a year, the longest period between Friday 13ths can be fourteen months! There won’t be another Friday 13th until September 2013 after this one. [Source: Friday the 13th]

Fact 12: Friday 13th Multiplied

If having three Friday 13ths in a year fills you with dread, you can rest easy. The next year with 3 Friday 13ths will be 2015 (February, March and November). [Source: Darn our luck! It’s a banner year for Friday the 13th!]

Fact 13? Well that’s been removed of course!

Do you have any superstitions about Friday 13th?

Image credit: Mark Twain: Billy Hathorn