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Today is Friday the 13th and many people are being nervous around black cats; afraid of walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, spilling salt, opening umbrella indoors, and anxiously watching the skies for sudden lightning strikes!
Where did our superstitions surrounding this day, known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, came from? Along with why is there such apprehension surrounding the number 13?
The number 13 has been considered unlucky for many years, even before Christ. The number 12 is historically considered the number of completeness, while its older cousin, 13, has been seen as an outlier.
There are 12 months of the year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 hours of the clock, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus, 12 Descendants of Muhammad Imams, among many incidences of the pattern historically.
1. According to Catholic belief, one of the most significant events in their religion - the crucifixion of Jesus Christ - took place on Friday the 13th.
The origins of Triskaidekaphobia – the fear of the number 13 – could be traced back to the 19th century belief that Judas Iscariot sat in the 13th place at Jesus’s table at the Last Supper.
Along with Jesus, there were 12 disciples at this meal, and Judas has come to represent betrayal and bad luck in Western societies. Even if there is no direct biblical evidence linking Judas to the 13th place at the table, the number of guests at the Last Supper and its significance in the Christian religion could have been enough to cement the idea of 13 as an unlucky number in Western cultures, particularly if the superstitious Victorians promoted this idea.
2 . Geoffrey Chaucer has also made reference to the apparent unluckiness of the day, recording in his Canterbury Tales that it was bad luck to start a journey or a project on a Friday.
In the modern world, the cost of air travel on the spooky date, which comes round once or twice per year, is indeed lower – which often attributed to a collective fear of flying on “the unluckiest day of the year”.
3. One of the popular myths that explains the origin of the Friday 13 superstition comes from events on Friday 13 October 1307, when hundreds of Templar Knights were arrested and burned across France.
This myth caught the public’s attention after Dan Brown and other historical fiction writers used it in their books, and since then it has been peddled endlessly by conspiracy theorists linking the Knights Templar to everything from Freemasonry to the Holy Grail.
4.Ironically, the superstition of the Friday 13th links back to an American club that attempted to debunk the superstition surrounding the number 13 and its associated bad luck date.
The Thirteen Club first met on 13 September 1881 (a Wednesday) and determined to actively flout any established ‘superstitions’ they knew about.
With this in mind, the group of 13 would meet on the 13 of each month, sit 13 to a table, break mirrors, spill salt with abandon, and walk under ladders – all while carefully recording how many members died.
Over the years, the group grew to roughly 400 members – including a number of US presidents – but the group’s notoriety just added to the date significance in the public psyche.
5. In 1907, eccentric stockbroker Thomas William Lawson published a book called Friday the Thirteenth. It detailed an evil business’s attempts to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the year. The book was a sell-out and in 1916 made into a feature-length film.
“Funny” thing, Friday October 13, 1989 is remembered on Wall Street as Black Friday subsequent a mini-crash in a failed $6.75bn buyout addressee global markets plunging.
6. Buckingham Palace was hit by five German bombs on Friday September 13 1940 with both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth coming close to being killed. One member of the royal staff died and the palace chapel was destroyed.
7. IBM virus took a hit in 1989 also as the Jerusalem virus wiped irretrievable data off computers across the UK on Friday 13th.
8. According to researchers, businesses can lose up to $900m in sales and productivity when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday.
9. Avoidance of the number 13 is visible in daily life. Most high-rise buildings in the city, and most hotels, rarely have a 13th floor.
Many restaurants consider it bad luck to sit 13 people at a table. Some airlines even avoid 13th seat row, skipping from 12 to 14.
Apparently, Winston Churchill refused to sit in row 13 on a plane or at the theater.
10. Fear of the number 13 is known as Triskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday 13 is Paraskavedekatriaphobia.
New Yorker Daz Baxter was so afraid of Friday the 13th that on the Friday 13th 1976 he decided to stay home, in his bed, the safest place he can think of. Mr Baxter was killed when the floor of his apartment block collapsed that day.
During the early 1990s retired bus conductor Bob Renphrey also decided to spend every Friday 13 in bed after a run of bad luck on the fateful day. Among other misfortunes, he wrote off four cars, got fired, fell into a river, crashed a motorcycle and walked through a plate glass door.
11. Michelle and Gary Docherty had a memorable wedding on Friday 13 August 2004.
First, a swarm of wasps attacked guests at East Kilbride Registry Office, Lanarkshire, as they waited for Michelle’s arrival.
Her aunt Mary Strachan smashed an expensive digital camera trying to swat one of the pests, and when Michelle finally did turn up, an insect flew up her dress, triggering a panic attack.
After the ceremony, two minibuses booked to transport guests to the reception failed to turn up and the couple lost their wedding video.
12. In 2010, lightning struck a 13-year-old Suffolk boy on Friday 13th at 13:13. Thankfully, he made a full recovery.
13. Of course, most of all, the myth acquired the first seal of Hollywood in 1980 when Paramount Pictures released Friday the 13. Fridays would not be the same again, after Jason proceeded to slash his way across a summer camp and US box offices.
- As it turns out, paraskevidekatriaphobia is mostly an American and English fear.
- Italians previously used to be far more concerned about Friday the 17th, although with the Americanisation of the country this has largely shifted to 13th for younger generations.
- In Spanish-speaking countries it is Tuesdays, not Fridays, that hold superstitious omens. Their belief is also held by the Greeks, who consider Tuesdays as dominated by the influence of Ares (the God of War).
Thankfully, this is the only Friday the 13th in the 2016 calendar.