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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335 Comments
  • midnight_pink2
    midnight_pink2Wednesday, July 7, 2021 at 4:26 pm
    I am Catholic so the thirteen men thing makes sense.
    • mrbeastgaming
      mrbeastgamingWednesday, June 30, 2021 at 2:48 pm
      I get if some people are scared of it... but it's just a day. What's so creepy?
      • rosiek
        rosiekThursday, April 29, 2021 at 3:43 pm
        TWO CRAZY THINGS..... My school shut down on March FRIDAY 13th, 2020. Why? Just guess. Look at the year if it isn't totally obvious... AND IN 2020, FRIDAY 13TH WAS DONALD DUCK'S B-DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Feel so sorry for him....
        • super_frogbob
          super_frogbobTuesday, April 20, 2021 at 5:23 pm
          On Friday the 13th, I was going with my parents to my aunts wedding. We were more than halfway there when our car stopped working. We waited for a few hours in the desert, when a tow truck finally came. We had to stay an extra night in Las Vegas (were the wedding was) because of it. I defiantly think Friday the thirteenth is bad luck!
          • bboos3000
            bboos3000Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 9:12 am
            Good for your Aunt! I feel so bad for you though...
          • wolfy_blue
            wolfy_blueTuesday, April 13, 2021 at 11:36 am
            I found out- August 2021 there will be an friday the 13th 😬
            • bboos3000
              bboos3000Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 9:13 am
              My sister's birthday is a few days before that!!!
              • alphadog
                alphadogThursday, May 27, 2021 at 8:44 am
                That is the same day as my brothers birthday😮
              • 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
                  • kittyluvskookie
                    kittyluvskookieWednesday, 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...