Friday the 13th superstitions

THIRTEEN: A few Friday the 13th (and 13) superstitions

MOST cultures have superstitions centered on the number 13 which can be traced right back to those ancient Greeks. They did however agree that fear of the number 13 is an irrational fear, calling it triskaidekaphobia [triss-ka-deck-ah-phobia]. Nonetheless the idea that the number 13 was somehow bad quickly spread. The Greeks’ traditional rivals, the Turks, have virtually removed 13 from their vocabulary.

Here are a few 13-related superstitions:

  • Several tall office buildings do not have a 13th floor. Next time you’re in a tall building check whether or not your life is in danger by seeing if the elevator has a button for a 13th floor.
  • Beware of Christening your children with 13 letter names. Some believe that people with such cursed names live notoriously bad or evil lives.
    Examples: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson.
  • Sportsmen are notoriously superstitious and many teams avoid using the number 13 in their squads or teams. I’ll admit it’s never fun being the 13th man in a sports team.
  • The number 13One superstition is that if 13 people sit down to dinner together all of them will die within the year. One form of this legend dates back to the Norse god of mischief – Loki. The saga tells of Loki gate-crashing a party – bringing the number of guests to 13. To cut a long saga short, Balder the good was killed, and for this reason several Norwegians still believe that 13 at a dinner party is bad luck.
  • There are 13 loaves of bread in a baker’s dozen. The extra loaf (presumably the runt of the litter) was baked as a special bribe for the devil not to spoil the batch of loaves.
  • The number 13 plagued biblical times too. The book of Luke (chapter 22) tells us that there were 13 present at the Last Supper. There is also evidence that this Last Supper was held on a Friday, and is of course when Judas Iscariot threw a bread-loaf at Jesus.
  • Some people (possibly Christian fanatics) are so afraid of Friday the 13th that they refuse to get out of bed or go to work on the cursed day. A study in the British Medical Journal in 1993 looked into the relationship between driving and road accidents in the UK on two separate Fridays: the 6th and the 13th.

The study was carried out over a period of a few years, and eventually concluded that:

“Friday the 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

Friday the 13th Dates:

In 1998 Friday the 13th appeared three times on the calendar, in February, March and November. This occurred again in 2009 during the months of February, March and November. (There are usually two days of doom in a year). While occasionally we survive a year that has only one Friday the 13th, it is impossible for a year to pass without any death days ever occurring.

So lock yourselves away, call in sick, avoid any tall buildings and dodgy people with 13 letter names, and cancel any dinner party plans in case the number 13 gets YOU! You have been warned.

** More Quite Interesting Histories **


Galen (name), meaning: "Curious One". A lover of language, human ingenuity and the forces of the universe. Hugely drawn towards the mysterious and unknown. Regular laughter and escapism essential.

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