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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262 Comments
  • emgal16
    emgal16Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 2:00 pm
    Fascinating! I didn't know any of that!
    • headphoned
      headphonedTuesday, December 1, 2020 at 9:58 am
      I honestly thought that my lucky number was always 12, but I'm seeing the number 13 a lot too. I'm kind of wondering if it's a sign...
      • nugget_master20
        nugget_master20Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 9:05 am
        Friday the 13 is not scary. the movies are pretty scary but they are just movies
        • spacegirl10
          spacegirl10Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at 8:19 am
          You Might Know A Singer Called Taylor Swift Who Is A Great Singer And Was Also Born On The 13th And Her Lucky Number Is 13 But Thats Just A Fun Fact!
          • egirl102011830
            egirl102011830Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 7:12 am
            oh my gosh i love Taylor Swift so much shes my fave singer
          • kristiannah27
            kristiannah27Monday, November 30, 2020 at 11:42 am
            I love friday the 13th
            • kk234567
              kk234567Monday, November 30, 2020 at 11:24 am
              I did not know thatthat's kind of cool to me because that's a new fact
              • mygynato-160625749679
                mygynato-160625749679Monday, November 30, 2020 at 10:04 am
                friday the 13th is scary.
                • luckeytuckey
                  luckeytuckeyMonday, November 30, 2020 at 8:43 am
                  I've seen all the Friday the 13th movies so I was scared of the day until I realized its just a superstition and for my grandpa its his lucky day.
                  • pandagirl1235
                    pandagirl1235Thursday, November 26, 2020 at 8:42 am
                    soo cool right my b-day is friday 13. so thank about hallween.
                    • jadekatqueen
                      jadekatqueenTuesday, November 24, 2020 at 2:16 pm
                      it may seem scary but in some countries it means good luck friday 13
                      • 100032280
                        100032280Saturday, November 28, 2020 at 8:41 am
                        really i which it means that here to lucky
                        • jhenri08
                          jhenri08Friday, November 27, 2020 at 10:06 am
                          its only scary if you have the phobia