The Superstition of Friday the 13th

Mia Noel

In 1976, in New York, Daz Baxter woke up on Friday the 13th and decided not to test his luck and stay home. Unfortunately his plan of avoiding bad luck failed when the floorboards underneath his bed caved in and he plummeted 6 stories to his death. This is just one example of why people believe that Friday the 13th is unlucky. In fact, so many people are afraid of the day that they gave it a name; paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. People today will go out of their own way to avoid the number 13 such as never staying in a hotel room with the number 13 and never staying on the floor 13. “You won’t find a row 13 on any Ryanair plane, the Dublin-based carrier confirmed, and many other airlines and airports avoid slapping the number 13 on aisles, flights, and gates — sometimes out of logistics and other times because of triskaidekaphobia,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Triskaidekaphobia is the extreme superstition regarding the number 13. The two largest elevator makers in the world, Otis and Kone, say they both offer the building owner an option of removing the button 13 in their elevators. “It’s hard to quantify how many people in the world fear the number 13 since the phobia often goes undiagnosed and untreated,” according to Reid Wilson, a clinical psychologist and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Some historians and evolutionary psychologists attribute the fear to people needing a scapegoat when life does not go their way. “People are hardwired to find meaning in various patterns, connections, and perceptions,” Krippner said. “They need someone or something to blame when stuff goes wrong, and numbers are an easy target”.

Friday the 13th has not been proven as an unlucky day. Although, because of this superstition, you might be more likely to notice small events you easily ignore any other day. You might pay more attention to things like hitting every red light, spotting a black cat, or your favorite sports team losing and consider the day unlucky. Baldauff said “Psychologically, many superstitions are attached to being either in control or out of control. Some superstitions, like avoiding stepping on cracks or a routine for good luck in a sporting event, are all about control, while other superstitions like Friday the 13th make people feel out of control.”

One belief of why people are scared of Friday the 13th is explained by Caitlin Baldauff. Caitlin Baldauff, a mental health therapist at North Central Health Care in Wausau, Wisconsin, said “the fear of Friday the 13th is ingrained in western culture and enforced by pop culture”. “Hollywood created a whole horror movie franchise — featuring the tenacious and hard-to-kill Jason Voorhees — around the day and solidified a little more fear associated with the day,” Baldauff said. Certain movie titles were translated into Spanish so they could be sold in spanish speaking countries, but when the titles were translated it was translated into “Martes 13” which means Tuesday the 13th. This is why Spanish speaking countries have a fear of Tuesday the 13th. Other countries also have different fears such as Italy whose fear is of the number 17 instead of the number 13. In 1907, a novel called Friday, the 13th was published by Thomas W. Lawson about a stockbroker who caused chaos in the stockmarket and almost destroyed Wall Street. After reading this book, people began to cling to the idea more and more that Friday the 13th was an unlucky day.

Another belief of why people have a fear of Friday the 13th is that it came together from two separate fears. The first fear was of Fridays, and the thought that they had a negative association. The second was the fear of the number 13, and any object, idea, and day that contained the number 13. The fear of Friday the 13th is actually relatively newer and is composed of both of these fears. A last belief is that religion has a part in the origin in the superstition of Friday the 13th. Some people, but not everyone, believe that this superstition has religious ties. The belief is that there were 13 people who attended the last supper, 12 apostles and Jesus, and on the next day, a Friday, Jesus was killed. Shanny Luft, chairman of the philosophy department and an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point said that “it’s easy to find negative associations with any number throughout history if you look hard enough.” “We probably won’t ever discover the origin of Friday the 13th,” Luft said. “Our superstitions reveal the extent to which human beings are driven to perceive causes and effects”.