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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306 Comments
  • kittiesmama
    kittiesmamaTuesday, January 19, 2021 at 8:59 am
    I'm 11 so mom won't let me (already asked)! She still thinks I'm not old enough to watch horror movies of even HAVE A PHONE crazy right? I'm in middle school? I've asked 1,000,000,000 times for a phone and to watch horror movies! Uhhhggg!
    • redrack09
      redrack09Tuesday, January 12, 2021 at 9:26 am
      13 is my lucky number
      • jite3245679
        jite3245679Monday, January 11, 2021 at 11:17 am
        Too dangerous
        • aidentillman
          aidentillmanMonday, January 11, 2021 at 8:36 am
          I think its really just that people like having these special events and friday 13 just became almost a national day everyone knows it
          • quarantined
            quarantinedWednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:13 am
            I don't believe in this stuff, but I do think it is cool!
            • blueberrysans1
              blueberrysans1Sunday, December 27, 2020 at 8:41 pm
              Lol, I don't believe in that stuff, but ya know how it said that 12 is a "complete" number? My b-day is on the 12th!!! Lol😂😂
              • superdancegirl
                superdancegirlFriday, January 8, 2021 at 2:21 pm
                Ha my favorite number is 12
              • zebrapower
                zebrapowerThursday, December 24, 2020 at 10:17 am
                I knew that. I'm not really superstitious.
                • mxctrebleclef
                  mxctrebleclefThursday, December 24, 2020 at 8:55 am
                  Huh. Nothing bad ever happened to me on Friday the 13. Who else doesn't believe in Friday the 13? Follow me if you don't.
                  • polochicken
                    polochickenMonday, January 11, 2021 at 11:38 am
                    Same- I believe alot of things but Friday the 13th is not one. of them-
                  • pamyrakulofa
                    pamyrakulofaFriday, December 18, 2020 at 11:17 am
                    On friday the 13th i had a soccer practice and the was fog everywhere
                    • superdancegirl
                      superdancegirlFriday, January 8, 2021 at 2:22 pm
                      Cool 😁
                      • kawaiisweet
                        kawaiisweetWednesday, December 23, 2020 at 5:20 pm
                        Omg that's crazy!!!
                      • zackalexjade
                        zackalexjadeThursday, December 17, 2020 at 9:28 am
                        i have seen ghosts and felt one
                        • polochicken
                          polochickenMonday, January 11, 2021 at 11:39 am
                          I see ghosts- Some times i walk into my room and i see a random person, then they disappear-