Haven’t you ever wondered?
Whether you’re superstitious or just a “little stitious” like Michael Scott, there are notions humans believe, which aren't backed by reason or science—think knocking on wood to repel bad luck after tempting fate, throwing coins in a fountain for luck or fearing the supposedly unlucky number 13 and, subsequently, Friday the 13th.
So, why is Friday the 13th even considered unlucky? Have you ever noticed how there’s no 13th floor in several buildings? The number itself has long been viewed as a sinister one. Meanwhile, Fridays used to be “hangman’s day”—when people who were condemned to death would be hung in medieval times; hence one of the reasons for a double whammy of an alarming day.
Now that the first Friday the 13th of the year is upon us, try not to freak out any more than you have to. Let’s just try to explain why there's such a negative concept surrounding this day first.
What started the fear of Friday the 13th?
The answer is quite complicated, but one of the reasons that inspired the phobia came from religious beliefs. In Christianity, The Last Supper happened on a Thursday and the following day (Friday) was when Jesus was crucified. There were 13 people at the table and Judas was the 13th individual.
There have also been references of the number 13 causing misfortune, but no one really batted an eye about this pairing—until the 20th century, that is. In 1907, American businessman and author Thomas Lawson published his novel, Friday, The Thirteenth. It revolved around a fictional stockbroker who picked that day to crash the stock market intentionally.
A year later, the first reference of Friday the 13th in the media came out. From there, the myth around the unlucky day grew and, in 1980, Friday The 13th, premiered and cemented the superstition and instilled fear of the date into public consciousness.
Facts about the “unluckiest” day(s) in the calendar
It comes at least once a year, but no more than three times a year
In Norse mythology, the trickster god Loki manipulated blind god Höðr into killing his brother Baldr with a dart of mistletoe. Bladr’s death occurred at a dinner meant for 12 gods, before Loki (an unwanted 13th guest) barged in
In the late 19th century, Captain William Fowler founded an exclusive society called The Thirteen Club to eliminate the stigma around the number. The 13-member group would enjoy a 13-course dinner on the 13th day of every month, at 13 past the hour and in Room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage.
Eventually, five US presidents would become honorary members of the club: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
In Finland, people observe National Accident Day every one Friday the 13th of the year to raise awareness about safety
In Italy, people fear Friday the 17th instead of the 13th
The Friday The 13th franchise includes 12 horror films
Heavy metal bank Black Sabbath launched its debut album on Friday, February 13, 1970
Taylor Swift’s favorite number is 13. She was born on December 13, 1989, became a teenager on a Friday the 13th, her first album went gold in 13 weeks and her number 1 song had a 13-second introduction
The word that describes the irrational fear of Friday the 13th is friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia
Blame someone else day
An unofficial national holiday called National Blame Someone Else Day is celebrated on the first Friday the 13th of the year. The holiday was established by Anne Moeller of Michigan in 1982. The story was that there was one day that Moeller’s alarm clock didn’t go off, thus creating a chain effect of misfortune throughout the day.
That day fell on the Friday the 13th.
To fear or not to fear
Combining the known unluckiest number and the day that supposedly has a dark past can inspire unease and Friday the 13th continues to raise fear of unfortunate events and bad luck. But, no worries—you can always grab your prepaid phone to call a friend for support (or put the blame on them).
Check out more of Globe’s video streaming promos to get access to other amazing (and sometimes frightening) films.