Friday the 13th, so-called unlucky day for so many people around the world.
Many of us may joke around this fear. But psychologists regard this as the most widespread superstition in the world.
Fear of Friday the 13th is real and so common that many people find themselves confined in their thoughts of potential for bad luck on this date as much as the number 13 symbolizes death for many.
Does this number have the power to wreak havoc in our lives?
According to mathematicians, this day-date combination is magical but not supernatural as people assume it is.
Psychologists have a name for fear of Friday the 13th, Paraskevidekatriaphobia. It’s a phobia like other phobias.
This fear arises when the 13th day of a month occurs on a Friday in the Gregorian calendar. This is second Friday the 13th of the year 2019. Thirteen weeks before this day, we had first Friday the 13th. The next one is approaching 13 weeks after, i.e. on March 13, 2020.
Between 12 and 14 Lies a Numerical Fear
Few commercial buildings have the 13th floor, and they number very few blocks or sectors 13th in the municipal corporation area. Most of the civil buildings renumber their rooms, lobbies, floors as number 12 A, instead of 13. Many hotels renumber their levels above the 12th floor, so it pretends there were 14th floors.
Some people avoid any association with this day in their lives. They avoid booking the hotel or inn number 13 or on floor 13. They avert purchasing a house on this day. Even many people do not buy cars with the number plate starting 13.
According to Folklore Historian Dr Donald Dossey, 17 to 21 million Americans suffer from the fear of Friday the 13th (4–5 million in the UK). This data is from 1999. He authored a book Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments and Superstitious Cures.
Donald Dossey suggests that it has nothing to do with misfortune or bad luck. It is connected to cultural conditioning and mythology.
But why people believe number 13 as unlucky and unfortunate? 13 people having dinner at a table, will one die within a year? Do more accidents take place on 13th? Does this fear have any scientific support?
Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, in his book, 13: The Story of the World’s Most Notorious Superstition, tried to outline the length and breadth of this fear psychology.
An Urban Legend Called Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th has now turned into an urban legend. It comprises fictional stories associated with the weird, superstitions and a new fear generating narrative elements.
The movie franchise “Friday the 13th” has helped keep this urban legend at its peaks. According to the original story, Jason Voorhees drowned in a lake as a boy, re-emerges as a masked man decades later and starts mass murders. This movie franchise included 12 horror movies, tv-series, and books focusing on superstitions. It was the highest-grossing horror franchise in the world until the release of Halloween (2018).
A few years back, the historical novel The Da Vinci Code explained Friday the 13th. It linked this belief to the elimination of The Knights Templar, the order of warrior monks. This group was involved during Crusades and was perceived as a political threat to the kings. Therefore, on Friday, October 13th, 1307, they were arrested in hundreds and executed later.
History of Paraskevidekatriaphobia
Friday the 13th has a fascinating tale.
The origin of the connection between Friday and 13th is unknown. But the association of evil omens and poor luck with this day goes back to the crucifixion of Jesus. It is said that there were 13 people at the Last Supper the night before his death on Good Friday. Last Supper was on Thursday, and the next day was the day of crucifixion.
In ancient Scandinavian culture, word friggatriskaidekaphobia for fear of Friday comes from Frigga, fertility and love goddess. Later, Christians considered Frigga a witch and Friday the Witches’ Sabbath.
Friday also turned into an execution day among the Romans and Hangman’s Day in Britain. People would not marry in the Middle Ages, nor they set out on an expedition on this day.
Even after the belief that number 13 and Fridays were tragic, history is almost mute on the conjunction of two before the 19th century.
The earliest reference of Friday with 13th comes in the biography of an Italian music composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini in 1868, who died on Friday 13th. A passage in the book reads, ‘He regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, remarkably, on Friday 13th of November he passed away.’’
Later, Thomas W. Lawson’s novel Friday, the Thirteenth contributed to this superstition. The story of the book was around dirty dealings in the stock market. The press adopted and popularized it.
On this day anything auspicious was prohibited or at least undesired. It included starting a new venture, harvesting, beginning a journey, marriage, recovering from illness, a new job, and even giving birth. People with birthdays on Friday the 13th were treated to be unfortunate.
Psychology behind 13
Believing a specific day, a number or a color inauspicious or linking it with a bad omen is a superstition people are following since ages. Psychologists believe that these superstitions thrive because people assert control over events that are uncertain and beyond their reach.
There is roughly no evidence that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. Some studies have shown that Friday the 13th has no countable effect on events like natural disasters or calamities or deaths. Instead, there is a theory in psychology that fear of Friday the 13th causes people to behave in anxiety, causing accidents.
According to a study Traffic Deaths and Superstition on Friday the 13th by Simo Näyhä in 2002, Friday the 13th may be a dangerous day for women, because of anxiety from superstition. The risk of traffic deaths on this date could be reduced by one-third, although the absolute gain would remain very small: only one death per 5 million person-days.
A study by Finnish scientists noticed that there is no consistent evidence for females having more road traffic crashes on Fridays the 13th, based on deaths or road accident statistics.
Another survey in 2011 analyzed that data does not support the belief that moon phases, zodiac signs, or Friday 13th influence surgical blood loss and emergency frequency. Our data show that such beliefs are myths far beyond reality.
All these researches explain one thing that Friday the 13th is just like another day and date combine. It may have its share of good-bad-and-ugly historical events like any other day of history. Friday the 13th could be an unlucky day if you believe so. It has nothing special except its mathematical beauty. And mathematics can’t be scary.