How Friday The 13th Became So Feared

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Friday the 13th is considered unlucky by millions of people worldwide (Credit: Jlloa/CCO/Pixbay)

For non-believers, this year's second — and final — Friday the 13th is just the start of a weekend. However, for the estimated twenty million people in the US, and scores more worldwide, that suffer from "friggatriskaidekaphobia," or "paraskevidekatriaphobia," November 13, 2020, will be fraught with bad luck. Though some of the fear can be blamed on the Friday the 13th movie franchise, the day's bad reputation began long before the film’s hockey-masked villain, Jason Voorhees, made an appearance.

The superstition starts with the fear of the number 13, or "triskaidekaphobia." Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware, believes that the apprehension stems from 13's position after 12, which numerologists regard as a "complete" number. After all, there are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, and so on. Hence, the number that follows is widely considered incomplete, and, therefore, "unlucky."

Millions of people worldwide have phobias of Friday the 13th (Greg Williams/CC BY-SA 2.5/Ceativecommons.org via Wikipedia.org)

Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias, and Fun, thinks 13 has been feared since ancient times when the Vikings lived in Scandinavia. A popular local legend asserts that twelve gods were enjoying a quiet dinner in their mythological heaven, Valhalla, when Loki crashed the party. The trickster Norse god purportedly provoked Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to kill Balder, the god of joy and gladness. To this day, many people avoid having 13 guests at a party. In France, some businesses even go as far as "renting" a 14th dinner guest, or "quatorzieme."

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

The number of Friday the 13ths each calendar year varies annually (Credit: Statista)

People who are afraid of the day experience symptoms that range from mild anxiety, to a nagging fear of something terrible happening, to complete 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 about $900 million on the dreaded date as the superstitious avoid going to work, traveling, or making big purchases. As it turns out, their fears are unfounded. A 2008 study by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics revealed that fewer traffic accidents occur on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. The number of fires and thefts reported were also much lower.

For the brave, the day may prove to be extremely lucky given that many retailers offer substantial discounts to encourage people to shop. So this Friday the 13th, venture out to your favorite stores and treat yourself to a bargain or two.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Resources: Wikipedia.com, Timeanddate.com

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328 Comments
  • doggy-2o21
    doggy-2o21Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:01 am
    that is kind of cool
    • renegadetaco
      renegadetacoWednesday, March 17, 2021 at 8:08 am
      How are you about to be scared of a day of the month
      • kittyluvscookie
        kittyluvscookieWednesday, March 10, 2021 at 6:18 am
        Whats so scary? just a legend
        • c01e
          c01eTuesday, March 9, 2021 at 6:30 am
          TGIF
          • filename_3
            filename_3Monday, March 1, 2021 at 5:21 pm
            You get used to those feelings...
            • guu
              guuFriday, February 26, 2021 at 6:00 am
              i love the friday the 13th franchise
              • craftkid12
                craftkid12Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 5:26 am
                my birthday was friday the 13th
                • goldengurl1206
                  goldengurl1206Monday, February 8, 2021 at 10:15 am
                  Honestly I don't know why people are scared of that day. Since its the start of a weekend I think about "Games"
                  • rayquaza123
                    rayquaza123Saturday, February 6, 2021 at 12:14 pm
                    I don't know why people are scared of Friday the 13th
                    • furrybug
                      furrybugWednesday, February 3, 2021 at 6:51 am
                      Friday the 13th just makes me anxious!