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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255 Comments
  • oweyy
    oweyySunday, November 22, 2020 at 4:15 pm
    I did not know that many people were scared of that day that much
    • inventor
      inventorSunday, November 22, 2020 at 8:42 am
      nice
      • bouncy_101
        bouncy_101Friday, November 20, 2020 at 5:43 pm
        Wow, I didn't know that that many people of scared of a day.
        • creator123
          creator123Friday, November 20, 2020 at 3:38 pm
          Can you believe that some people are afraid of a NUMBER??
          • shoe0
            shoe0Monday, November 23, 2020 at 10:52 am
            some people can because of bad luck and no one wants bad luck
          • creator123
            creator123Friday, November 20, 2020 at 3:36 pm
            Believe it or not, my dad was born on Friday the 13th, and he's quite lucky!
            • cekykonu-159772134726
              cekykonu-159772134726Friday, November 20, 2020 at 1:43 pm
              my moms birthday is on Friday the 13th
              • creepazka
                creepazkaFriday, November 20, 2020 at 1:17 pm
                This is my fav holiday!
                • bidas
                  bidasFriday, November 20, 2020 at 1:06 am
                  my Friday was rather lucky
                  • ssdn271
                    ssdn271Friday, November 20, 2020 at 9:23 am
                    glad you had a lucky friday.
                  • ssdn271
                    ssdn271Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm
                    i am in 6th grade and in middle school, i am no longer a tiny little kid, so i am no longer scared of things like jason or freedy cugar or annabelle or all those other spirits and demons, they are not real! when you are in 6th grade please do not be scared because they are not real!
                    • willywonka2025
                      willywonka2025Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 11:28 am
                      Honestly when you think about it, Friday the 13th is almost LUCKY in some ways. First, less accidents because there are less cars. Second, there may be less Coronavirus cases because less people are going out. We might need to re-think Friday the 13th, but I don't judge people who may be a little frightened by the date. 📆 Happy Friday the 13th!