Friday the 13th is a day that has been associated with fear and superstition for centuries. Many people around the world believe that this day brings bad luck and misfortune. However, for some, like my uncle, it is a gift.
My uncle is 73 years old this year, he was born on Friday the 13th of August 1950. His life has been a series of ups and downs, but overall he is very peaceful and happy. I have never heard him complain about the hardships in his life.
When he learned about the fear that many people have about “Friday the 13th”, he laughed and said, “For many people, Friday the 13th is a nightmare, but for me, it’s a gift.” He also shared, “Every passing moment, there are many misfortunes happening in this world, why should we get stuck on a specific day! Let’s focus our energy on positive things in life, when you bring light – darkness will fade away.”
In this article, we’ll explore the origins and superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th, unfortunate events that occur, and explore how the scientific explanation for fear involves to this day.
The Origin of the obsession with Friday the 13th
The mystique surrounding Friday the 13th, an enigma tightly entwined in the cultural fabric of Western societies, manifests in various expressions of superstition and fear. The origins of this phenomenon can be traced back through centuries of folklore, myth, and religion, which, over time, have coalesced into a collective fascination — or dread — with this particular day.
As the a member of LotusBuddhas, I’m fascinated by the stories data can tell us, and this phenomenon provides a rich and intriguing case study. Let’s peel back the layers of this fascinating topic.
Firstly, let’s look at the number 13. In numerology, it has often been considered as an ‘unlucky’ number, its ominous reputation echoing throughout history.
You see, 12 was considered the perfect number, with 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, and 12 apostles of Jesus. But 13 was seen as off-kilter, irregular, and unbalanced, which made folks think it brought bad luck and misfortune.
One of the earliest references appears in Norse mythology, where Loki, the trickster god, was the 13th guest at a banquet in Valhalla, leading to the death of the beloved god, Balder. Similarly, in Christian tradition, the Last Supper held 13 attendees: Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples, one of whom, Judas, betrayed Christ, leading to his crucifixion on a Friday. These religious narratives have a profound influence on our cultural psyche and may partly explain why 13 has garnered such a notorious reputation.
The distaste for Friday has roots that are equally deep and complex. In Western Christian tradition, Friday is considered unlucky because it is the day of Christ’s crucifixion, often referred to as ‘Good Friday’. Additionally, in maritime tradition, it’s considered unlucky to set sail on a Friday. This long-standing superstition even prompted an experiment in the 19th century, known as the HMS Friday project, designed to debunk the myth. However, when the ship mysteriously disappeared, it only served to strengthen the superstition.
When the two ‘unlucky’ elements – Friday and 13 – collide, the result is a day shrouded in superstition and fear. To understand its enduring power, we have to consider the impact of pop culture. The ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise, launched in 1980, has significantly amplified the day’s infamy. The popular series of horror movies exploits the existing superstition, elevating it to a level of mass cultural consciousness.
At this point, you might be wondering: Why does this matter? Why should we pay any attention to these superstitions and myths? Here’s the thing: as a culture, we’re captivated by mystery and the unknown. Whether we believe in these superstitions or not, they remain a significant part of our cultural narrative. They shape our perceptions, influence our behaviors, and inspire our storytelling.
While it might seem irrational, this obsession underscores the power of storytelling and the human fascination with the enigmatic. Superstitions like Friday the 13th illustrate how ancient narratives continue to influence our modern lives, reminding us of our shared cultural heritage and our enduring fascination with the unknown.
Friday the 13th in Popular Culture
The cultural phenomenon of Friday the 13th has not only found its way into our shared societal consciousness but also managed to carve a prominent place in popular culture. Film, literature, and even video games have capitalized on the intrigue surrounding this date, resulting in a rich array of creative works that use the superstition as a thematic centerpiece. Here, we’ll explore some of the most noteworthy entries into this canon of Friday the 13th-themed media.
Undoubtedly, the most recognized manifestation of this theme is the “Friday the 13th” film franchise. Debuting in 1980, the franchise has spawned twelve films, a television series, comic books, and several novels. The story focuses on Jason Voorhees, a seemingly immortal killer donning a hockey mask, who terrorizes the fictional Camp Crystal Lake. While not explicitly connected to the superstition surrounding the date, the franchise has been instrumental in cementing the association between Friday the 13th and horror in the public consciousness.
In the literary world, there are several novels inspired by this superstition. “Friday the 13th: Church of the Divine Psychopath” by Scott Phillips, “Friday the 13th: Hell Lake” by Paul A. Woods, and “Friday the 13th: Carnival of Maniacs” by Stephen Hand are part of a series of books that expand the universe of the “Friday the 13th” film franchise. These novels explore various aspects of Jason Voorhees’s lore and deliver a narrative that embraces the suspense and horror characteristic of the series.
“Friday the 13th: The Series,” despite sharing the infamous moniker, does not feature the iconic Jason Voorhees but instead focuses on cursed antiques that must be retrieved to prevent them from causing harm. This television show, which ran from 1987 to 1990, further emphasizes the ominous aura around the date by implying that Friday the 13th is when cursed objects are at their most powerful.
Furthermore, video games such as “Friday the 13th: The Game” (2017) allow players to step into the terrifying world of Camp Crystal Lake. In this asymmetrical multiplayer game, players can either embody the menacing Jason Voorhees or one of the camp counselors trying to survive the night.
Well, these examples underscore the extensive influence of the Friday the 13th superstition. The cultural impact of this belief is so significant that it extends far beyond calendar-related apprehension. It has inspired an entire subgenre of horror media, with an influence that shapes our collective imagination, narrative preferences, and, ultimately, the way we perceive and interact with this particular date.
The 13 Most Terrifying Events Happening on Friday the 13th
While Friday the 13th is traditionally associated with bad luck and ominous happenings due to centuries-old superstitions, it’s essential to approach this topic with a dose of realism.
While some unfortunate events have indeed occurred on this date, attributing these incidents to the day itself leans more towards confirmation bias than scientific reasoning. However, given the intriguing nature of this superstition, let’s dive into some of the most notable, or rather, the most unsettling events that have coincidentally taken place on a Friday the 13th.
- Buckingham Palace Bombing (1940): During World War II, Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13th, a Friday. The royal family was reportedly close to being struck, adding a more personal element of fear to the war for many Britons.
- The Murder of Kitty Genovese (1964): This infamous New York crime, where Kitty Genovese was attacked and ultimately killed while nearby residents reportedly did nothing, happened on Friday, March 13th. This case became a symbol of urban apathy.
- Andes Plane Crash (1972): On Friday, October 13th, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the Andes mountains, with many passengers surviving the crash but forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive in the harsh conditions.
- Bhola Cyclone (1970): The Bhola cyclone struck Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) on Friday, November 13th. It’s considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, with an estimated death toll up to 500,000 people.
- Stock Market Mini-Crash (1989): Known as ‘Black Friday,’ the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 190.58 points on Friday, October 13th, the second-largest drop experienced in history at that time.
- Sweden Switches Driving Lanes (1967): On Friday, September 13th, Sweden switched from driving on the left side of the road to the right, causing widespread confusion and traffic chaos.
- Tupac Shakur’s Death (1996): The iconic rapper Tupac Shakur died from his injuries after a drive-by shooting on Friday, September 13th.
- Death of British Rapper (2019): British rapper Cadet, Blaine Cameron Johnson, died in a taxi accident on his way to a gig on Friday, February 13th.
- The Costa Concordia Shipwreck (2012): The cruise ship Costa Concordia partially sank after hitting a reef off the Italian coast on Friday, January 13th, leading to the death of 32 passengers and crew.
- Kansas Flooding (1951): Beginning on Friday, July 13th, and lasting several days, devastating floods in Kansas resulted in nearly two dozen deaths and significant property damage.
- The “Friday the 13th Virus” (1989): In the early days of personal computers, a virus was activated on Friday the 13th in January 1989, deleting many files and causing significant data loss.
- Cyclone Gaja (2018): This devastating storm hit the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Friday, November 13th, causing extensive damage and loss of life.
- Paris Attacks (2015): A series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris on Friday, November 13th, resulting in 130 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
These events are, indeed, tragic and unsettling. However, you must to remember that they occurred on Friday the 13th by coincidence. Superstition often plays a potent role in how we interpret events, but correlation does not imply causation. Events on this list should be seen as historical happenstances rather than as a manifestation of an ominous date. This helps us to appreciate the nuanced intersection of culture, belief, and reality, encouraging a healthy understanding of our shared narratives and superstitions.
Things to Avoid on Friday the 13th
When Friday the 13th looms on your calendar, you might find yourself pondering whether to go about your day as usual or to take heed of age-old superstitions.
It’s a day often cloaked in caution, urging you to sidestep the ladders and give black cats a wide berth. But beyond these typical avoidances, there are certain activities that tradition suggests you might avoid to escape the clutches of bad luck.
Traveling on this day, for instance, is something you may want to reconsider. Superstition holds that Friday the 13th can be a day fraught with more mishaps than usual. So, if you’re not one to gamble with fate, planning your trips on other days could spare you some potential travel woes—or at least provide some peace of mind.
You’ve likely heard that walking under ladders brings bad luck, and on Friday the 13th, that notion could weigh even heavier on your shoulders. The roots of this belief tie back to the shape of a ladder against a wall forming a triangle, symbolizing the Holy Trinity. To pass through it was seen as breaking the Trinity, a blasphemous act once thought to attract evil spirits.
Breaking mirrors on any day is inconvenient, but the superstition linking it to seven years of bad luck makes the act even more daunting on Friday the 13th. This superstition dates back to the Romans, who believed that mirrors held a piece of your soul and breaking one would damage it.
Opening umbrellas indoors is another action traditionally avoided on this day—not just because it’s said to bring bad luck, but it’s also simply bad etiquette and can be a hazard in tight spaces. So maybe double-check that you’re clear of the ceiling before you pop open your umbrella, just to ease the mind.
Getting a haircut or cutting your nails on Friday the 13th is another activity you might sidestep. There’s a belief that snipping your hair or nails could cut your life expectancy. While this is not grounded in any scientific reality, if you’re already cautious, waiting a day might not hurt.
Starting new ventures is also thought to be ill-fated on this particular Friday. Superstition holds that beginnings marked by this day are doomed to failure, so you might delay launching new projects or signing important documents until the following day.
Despite these customary avoidances, as i mentioned earlier, you have to note that Friday the 13th is just a day like any other. The superstitions surrounding it serve more as a testament to the enduring power of cultural folklore and human psychology than any real threat of misfortune. So whether you choose to avoid these actions, carry on as usual, or even seize the day to challenge these superstitions, remember to approach Friday the 13th with a sense of fun, mystery and a healthy dose of skepticism.
Explore more: 10 Things to Avoid Doing on Friday the 13th
13 Ways to Improve Your Luck This Friday the 13th
Of course, let’s delve into these 13 traditional ways that people believe can improve luck on Friday the 13th. These methods are steeped in folklore and superstition, making them an intriguing aspect of cultural studies.
- Knock on wood: It was traditionally believed that benevolent spirits resided in trees. Knocking on wood was a way of summoning these spirits for protection against bad luck.
- Find a four-leaf clover: The druids of ancient times held that four-leaf clovers could help them detect evil spirits, thereby providing them an opportunity to dodge them. So, finding one might be a good omen.
- Wear your clothes inside out: A fun and widespread superstition suggests that wearing clothes backward or inside out could bring good luck. The origin of this belief remains elusive, but it’s still followed by many.
- Look at the new moon over your right shoulder: The moon, particularly the new moon, has been the subject of numerous superstitions. The first sighting of a new moon over your right shoulder is traditionally considered auspicious.
- Sleep facing south: Rooted in Chinese feng shui, this belief proposes that sleeping with your head towards the south fosters good health and prosperity due to the flow of positive “qi” energy.
- Break clear, uncolored glass: While breaking a mirror is feared to bring misfortune, shattering clear, colorless glass is thought to be a sign of dodging a significant mishap. The broken glass is believed to absorb the bad luck.
- Walk in the rain: Traditionally, rain has been a symbol of good luck, likely due to its crucial role in agriculture. A rainy season often meant a prosperous year.
- Sleep on un-ironed sheets: This superstition, whose origin is uncertain, proposes that sleeping on un-ironed sheets brings good fortune.
- Avoid cracks in the sidewalk: “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back” – this familiar saying is an example of a belief in avoiding sidewalk cracks for luck, which also happens to be sound advice for preventing trips and falls.
- Carry an acorn in your pocket: Acorns, the fruit of the sturdy oak tree, are seen as symbols of fertility and longevity. Thus, carrying one is believed to bring luck.
- Sneeze three times before breakfast: The number three holds significance in various cultures and religions. Sneezing thrice before breakfast is considered fortunate, potentially owing to its association with the Christian trinity in Europe.
- Find and keep a pencil, pin, penny, or piece of coal: Picking up and claiming any of these items from the street is traditionally seen as an omen of good fortune.
- Keep your fingers crossed: Crossing your fingers, which mimics the sign of the Christian faith, is thought to ward off evil spirits that could disrupt your good luck.
As a Buddhist organization, LotusBuddhas does not encourage you to put your faith in superstition. So you must to remember that, these practices largely stem from cultural traditions and superstitions, with no empirical evidence supporting their efficacy. They can, however, add a layer of fun and intrigue to the mystique surrounding Friday the 13th.
Scientific Explanations for The Fear of Friday the 13th
The fear of Friday the 13th, also known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, is a specific manifestation of superstition that has roots in cultural, religious, and psychological influences. This fear, while largely irrational, can nevertheless cause significant distress for those who believe in it. There are several scientific theories that attempt to explain the prevalence and persistence of such fears.
Confirmation bias: Humans have a tendency to perceive patterns and causal relationships, even where none exist, a phenomenon known as apophenia. This is often exacerbated by confirmation bias, the tendency to remember events that confirm our beliefs and forget those that don’t. For instance, if someone expects bad luck on Friday the 13th, they may be more likely to remember and attribute any negative events on that day to the date, while ignoring the same events occurring on other days.
Heuristics and mental shortcuts: People often use heuristics or mental shortcuts to simplify complex decisions or judgments. One of these heuristics is the representativeness heuristic, where individuals judge the probability of an event based on how similar it is to their existing prototype of that event. So, if the 13th day falling on a Friday is believed to be an unlucky event, people may associate all occurrences of this day as likely to be unlucky.
Cultural transmission: Superstitions are often passed down through generations as part of a culture’s oral tradition. The fear of Friday the 13th is more prevalent in Western cultures, and has been perpetuated through folklore and media. This cultural transmission can explain why certain superstitions are widespread in some cultures but not in others.
Fear conditioning: Fear of Friday the 13th can be a learned behavior. If a person has experienced or heard about a negative event occurring on this date, they might develop a fear or expectation of bad luck on subsequent Fridays that fall on the 13th. This is a form of classical conditioning, where a neutral stimulus (Friday the 13th) becomes associated with a negative outcome.
Uncertainty and perceived control: Superstitions can provide a sense of control in uncertain situations. According to the theory of compensatory control, when individuals lack personal or external control, they are more likely to perceive patterns or ascribe events to supernatural causes. Hence, by avoiding certain actions on Friday the 13th, people may feel they are mitigating bad luck and reasserting control over their lives.
Evolutionary perspective: From an evolutionary standpoint, it may have been beneficial for our ancestors to err on the side of caution. Superstitious beliefs might be a byproduct of this evolutionary history, where interpreting ambiguous situations as potentially threatening was advantageous for survival.
These theories provide a holistic perspective, suggesting that the fear of Friday the 13th arises from a complex interplay of cognitive, cultural, and psychological factors. Understanding these underlying mechanisms can provide a foundation for therapeutic interventions to mitigate the impact of such superstitions – as my uncle did.
How Often does Friday the 13th Occur?
Friday the 13th does not occur with a consistent frequency each year. Its occurrence is determined by the intricacies of the Gregorian calendar, a system that has been governing our lives for over 400 years. For those who revel in the mysteries of numerology and calendar-related phenomena, the patterns behind this occurrence offer a compelling study.
In any given year, we can expect Friday the 13th to occur at least once, and at most, three times. The number of Friday the 13ths in a year is influenced by the year’s starting day. If a common year (non-leap year) begins on a Thursday, or a leap year commences on a Sunday, we find ourselves face-to-face with the ‘unlucky’ day three times. However, in years that start on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, we encounter Friday the 13th only once.
The shortest possible interval between two Friday the 13ths is 28 days – a February that starts on a Monday, followed by March. The longest interval, on the other hand, can stretch to 14 months if a common year begins on a Tuesday.
Interestingly, the Gregorian calendar operates on a 400-year cycle, with each cycle comprising 146,097 days. Due to this structure, each cycle contains exactly 688 Friday the 13ths. Therefore, on average, any given date in the calendar (like March 1st, April 2nd, and yes, even Friday the 13th) occurs 688 times as a Friday over a 400-year cycle.
So, despite its reputation as a statistical anomaly or a mysterious quirk of the calendar, Friday the 13th is not as rare or as random as it might first appear. In fact, it’s entirely predictable based on the patterns inherent in the Gregorian calendar.
- Here’s why Friday the 13th scares us: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/what-is-friday-13th-superstition-facts-science
- Friday the 13th: why is it ‘unlucky’?: https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/feb/13/friday-13th-unlucky-why-science-psychology