How Friday The 13th Got Its Spooky Reputation

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Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. While the dreaded combination evokes feelings of unease even among non-believers, for the superstitious, it is the unluckiest day of the year. Their intense fear, dubbed friggatriskaidekaphobia, leads to symptoms that range from mild anxiety to a nagging suspicion of bad luck to full-blown panic attacks. While some of the trepidation can be attributed to the namesake movie series, the day’s ill-fated reputation was well-established long before Jason Voorhees, the film’s hockey-masked villain, first appeared on the big screen in 1980.

Some experts think it all starts with the fear of 13 or Triskaidekaphobia. According to University of Delaware associate policy professor Thomas Fernsler, 13 is considered unlucky because it follows the “perfect” number 12. There are, after all, 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, etcetera.

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Folklore historian David Dorsey attributes the number’s bad reputation to a myth from the time when the Vikings occupied Scandinavia. A dozen gods were enjoying a quiet dinner party in Valhalla, the mythological Norse heaven, when Loki, the god of mischief, walked in uninvited. According to the legend, he instigated Hoder, the blind god of darkness, into killing Balder, the god of joy and gladness. Dorsey says to this day, Nordic residents avoid dinner parties with 13 guests, for fear that one of them will end up dead.

Legend has it that US President Franklin D. Roosevelt hated the date so much that he never traveled on the 13th nor invited just 13 guests to a meal. American author and humorist Mark Twain became a believer after he was left starving as the 13th guest at a party that had catered food for only 12. The French even go as far as 'renting' a special 14th guest, or quatorzieme, to avert bad luck.

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Friday has its own set of problems. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on this day. While the date was not the 13th, it was shortly after his final meal, the “Last Supper,” which featured 13 guests, including Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins. Some biblical scholars think that it was on a Friday that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit, though the date is unknown. The only historical event believed to have occurred on Friday the 13th is the slaying of Adam and Eve’s son Abel by his brother Cain. A more recent tragedy was the sinking of the Costa Concordia, the world’s largest passenger ship, on Friday, January 13th, 2012.

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Experts estimate that American businesses lose as much as $900 million every time the 13th falls on a Friday because many people avoid getting on airplanes or making substantial purchases like a home or car. Though bad for the economy, the irrational fear does benefit non-believers. Airlines often offer discounted fares and many retail stores have special deals to attract customers to stores. So, instead of cowering in fear, use the dreaded day to firm up your summer travel or buy the game you have been eyeing for so long.

Happy Friday The 13th


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Reading Comprehension (11 questions)

  1. What do the superstitious think of Friday the 13th?
  2. What is the name given to the fear of Friday the 13th?

Critical Thinking Challenge

What, if anything, are you superstitious about? How you do overcome your...


Vocabulary in Context

“Though bad for the economy, the irrational fear does benefit non-believers.”

In the above sentence, the word irrational most likely means:

(a) not in accordance with reason;...

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  • murenaevertsz
    murenaevertszWednesday, June 13, 2018 at 10:13 am
    this not cool aaaaaaa
    • CC.fairies. :)Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 8:18 am
      I think that the Friday the 13th superstition is silly. Because 13 is just a number!!!! i agree with you neonjolteon! Friday is my lucky day! I get freezies at school on friday!!!!
      • neonjolteon
        neonjolteonTuesday, June 19, 2018 at 5:33 am
        glad to see someone else knows the difference between a number and some bad luck and i like fridays a lot as well because we get corn dogs as an alternative lunch on fridays and they are pretty good
      • neonjolteon
        neonjolteonMonday, June 11, 2018 at 5:41 am
        why does everyone find this nonsenseical "holiday" so scary I go out A LOT on friday the thirteenth sometimes more than intended and NOTHING out of the ordinary happens same thing goes for 3:00 AM (supposedly the devil's hour) i've accidently woke up at 3:00 AM Several times i would be killing some time and would you look at that NOTHING still happens these nonsenseical superstitions are a complete hoax and people really shouldn't be wasting their time worrying over something as trivial as a DAY OF THE WEEK or a TIME ON THEIR CLOCKS
        • keastytravis
          keastytravisSunday, June 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm
          • >:(Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm
            My story: I was at night and went to a house for trick or treating on Halloween, while a guy jumped out w/ a running chainsaw. I never go to that house again. YES ITS TRUE
            • kittycat2
              kittycat2Friday, July 13, 2018 at 10:26 am
              That's scary
              • cocolightbulb
                cocolightbulbTuesday, June 12, 2018 at 7:12 am
                That so scary and i cant believe that, that actually happened to you.
                • greenbunnies
                  greenbunniesSaturday, June 9, 2018 at 3:50 pm
                  I feel bad for you
                • hiTuesday, June 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm
                  its pretty pointless how everybody acts like cowards on friday 13th
                  • big headSunday, June 3, 2018 at 7:41 am
                    i loved it
                    • Emoji girlFriday, June 1, 2018 at 7:49 pm
                      I bet that this is probably my favorite day in the year.(bedside family for Halloween, Christmas, yeah, you get the point.)
                      • donut diva Friday, May 25, 2018 at 6:10 am
                        ahhhhhhhhhhh! i think watching coraline is not scary but friday is friyay
                        • JeffThursday, May 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm
                          Friday is cool but what about friday the 13?black cats are cool mirers are kidov krepy becos if it’s behind you a vampire 🧛‍♂️ or a zombie 🧟‍♂️ miet look behind you and get you so always look behind yourself don’t forget there are gostes 👻 and scalatens 💀 I now it is krepy but don’t worry I get nightmers but notheng will akshilly hapen

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