Why Friday The 13th Has A Bad Reputation

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Friday the 13th is feared by millions of people worldwide (Credit: Pixaby/CC0)

Though famous American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift may consider 13 her lucky number, millions of people worldwide do not share the sentiment. Things get even worse for the superstitious when the date, as is going to happen this week, coincides with a Friday. While no one knows for sure how Friday the 13th got its fearful reputation, experts have some theories.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware, believes 13's bad reputation is because it comes after 12, which numerologists consider a "complete" number. There are, after all, 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, and so on. Hence, those with triskaidekaphobia — the fear of 13 — perceive the number that follows as incomplete, and, therefore, "unlucky."

Many commercial and residential buildings avoid having a "13th' floor (Credit: Quinn Dombrowski/CC-BY-SA 2.0/Flickr)

Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias, and Fun, has another theory. He believes the fear over the number stems from ancient times, when the Vikings lived in Scandinavia. According to a popular legend, twelve gods were enjoying a peaceful dinner at their mythological heaven, Valhalla, when Loki crashed the party. The trickster Norse god is believed to have instigated Hoder, the blind god of darkness, into killing Balder, the god of joy and gladness. To this day, many people avoid having 13 guests at a party. In France, some businesses even "rent" a 14th dinner guest, or quatorzieme, if necessary.

The fear of Friday is believed to be rooted in religion as well. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Though the date is not thought to be the 13th, it was following the Last Supper, which was attended by 13 men, including Judas Iscariot, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus. Many biblical scholars also believe that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. The one unfortunate event that is thought to have happened on Friday the 13th was Cain's — Adam and Eve's firstborn — murder of his younger brother, Abel. Stuart Vyse, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College says, "The combination of those factors produced a "sort of double whammy of 13 falling on an already nervous day."

Businesses lose millions of dollars every Friday the 13th because customers avoid making big purchases on this day (Credit:Greg Williams /CC BY-SA 2.5 /creativecommons.org)

Regardless of the reason, the fear of Friday the 13th is widespread. Experts estimate that over 20 million Americans, and scores more worldwide, have "friggatriskaidekaphobia" or "paraskevidekatriaphobia," as it is also called. People who suffer from the disorder experience symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to a nagging fear that something terrible will happen, and even full-blown panic attacks. For those working in injury-prone professions like construction and shipbuilding, the nervousness often results in a self-fulfilling prophecy, making them fear the day even more.

Surprisingly, Friday the 13th also impacts the US economy. Businesses lose an estimated $900 million on the dreaded day as the superstitious avoid going to work, traveling, or making big purchases. Ironically, the day is safer than usual for those not cowering under their beds in fear. A 2008 study by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics revealed that fewer traffic accidents occur on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. Reports of fire and theft also dropped. Many businesses also try to cut their losses by offering deals. So this Friday the 13th, venture out to your favorite stores and treat yourself to a bargain or two.

Resources: ibtimes.com, wikipedia.org, businessinsider.com, Nationalgeographic.com


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527 Comments
  • squirrelflight
    squirrelflightFriday, September 18, 2020 at 7:20 am
    my fears are hemophopia (fear of blood), autophobia (fear of being alone), claustrophobia (fear of cramped spaces), and aichmophobia (fear of sharp things).
    • goodvibesonly09
      goodvibesonly09Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 2:57 pm
      I have BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS of fears I am a MAJOR worrywart! I have so many fears I can't name them all!
      • the_wolf
        the_wolfSaturday, July 11, 2020 at 3:21 am
        My phobias are arachnophobia, *fear of spiders* achluophobia, *Fear of darkness* Astraphobia, * Fear of lightning* Autophobia * Fear of being alone* and Pyrophobia * Fear of fire*
        • goodvibesonly09
          goodvibesonly09Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 2:55 pm
          Those are like all of mine too! Only I am not afraid of being alone. But everything else!
        • quickstart
          quickstartSunday, June 28, 2020 at 6:43 am
          I call it good Friday because Jesus took the blame for our sins that day
          • mxctrebleclef
            mxctrebleclefThursday, June 11, 2020 at 2:37 pm
            I have a bad feeling of heights. And snakes (especially venomous ones). And lots of other things
            • animereina2020
              animereina2020Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 7:10 pm
              The only lucky thing about a Friday: The weekend begins after that day, and no worrying about school for the next few days...but THAT'S IT!
              • animereina2020
                animereina2020Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 12:11 pm
                I have a couple of fears... 1) heights 2) old stuff from antique stores and old things 3) unknown noises 4) certain types of music at night (this is super weird, but usually i just hear normal music in the day, it won't scare me, but at the night it will) 5) Middle School (I have already been there for 6th grade, and I've already had enough! There was too much people that I never knew, and now that I am moving 7th grade is going to be worse for me!)
                • spyndera99
                  spyndera99Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 11:43 am
                  I am also in seventh grade, and I guess it's fine. I don't really have any phobias.
                • cherricake
                  cherricakeThursday, May 7, 2020 at 8:29 am
                  My greatest fear is spiders. They are so creepy :c
                  • glowinq_stxrs
                    glowinq_stxrsFriday, May 22, 2020 at 5:27 pm
                    The most spiders I hate the most are brown reckless spiders and black widows, ugh 😬
                    • hermionelove
                      hermioneloveFriday, May 22, 2020 at 1:31 pm
                      me too. also a fear of heights. i have arachnophobia( fear of spiders).
                      • the_wolf
                        the_wolfSaturday, July 11, 2020 at 3:08 am
                        I have arachnophobia too! But I don't hate the number 13. That's the floor in my condo where we live, and it has not been touched by Covid 19!
                    • funnydonut
                      funnydonutFriday, April 24, 2020 at 11:30 am
                      i am her biggest fan
                      • dudeperfict
                        dudeperfictSaturday, April 4, 2020 at 6:13 am
                        My biggest fear is alot of the people in America die🤕👻
                        • aniahthestrange
                          aniahthestrangeSaturday, April 4, 2020 at 3:43 pm
                          u must be terrified of the Coronavirus then
                          • hwo
                            hwoWednesday, May 6, 2020 at 5:13 pm
                            That's the biggest threat now