Are You Afraid Of Friday The 13th

Friday the 13th


If that scares you, you may have paraskavedeka­tri­a­pho­bia (also known as frig­ga­triskaideka­pho­bia). Those are the sci­en­tific terms for fear of Fri­day the 13th. Triskaideka­pho­bia is fear of the num­ber 13.

It’s not clear when or why Fri­day the 13th became asso­ci­ated with bad luck. The asso­ci­a­tion may be bib­li­cal, given that the 13th guest at the Last Sup­per betrayed Jesus. His cru­ci­fix­ion was the next day, appar­ently a Fri­day. Or maybe 13 suf­fers from com­ing after the more-pleasing num­ber 12, which gets to num­ber the months, the days of Christ­mas and even the eggs in a dozen. (There are also 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olym­pus, 12 labors of Her­cules, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apos­tles of Jesus.)

What­ever the rea­son, fear of 13 has spread far and wide: Hotels and hos­pi­tals often skip the 13th floor, and even air­ports qui­etly omit gate 13 sometimes.

The next year in which we’ll have three Fri­day the 13ths is 2015. They’ll fall in Feb­ru­ary, March and November.

If you think your Fri­day the 13th is likely to be bad, be glad you aren’t a 14th-century Knight Tem­plar. On Oct. 13, 1307, offi­cers of King Philip IV of France raided the homes of thou­sands of these Cru­sades war­riors, impris­on­ing them on charges of ille­gal activ­i­ties. Though the charges weren’t proven, more than a hun­dred died of ter­ri­ble tor­ture, accord­ing to “Tales of the Knights Tem­plar” (Warner Books, 1995).

Fit­tingly, direc­tor of psy­cho­log­i­cal thrillers Alfred Hitch­cock was born on the 13th — Fri­day, Aug. 13, 1999, would have been his 100th birth­day. Per­haps aptly titled “Num­ber 13,” a film that was sup­posed to be Hitchcock’s direc­to­r­ial debut never made it past the first few scenes and was shut down due to finan­cial prob­lems. He allegedly said the film wasn’t very inter­est­ing. (Mean­while, Fidel Cas­tro was born on Fri­day the 13th, in August 1926.)

Why does the Fri­day the 13th super­sti­tion stick so firmly in our minds? Accord­ing to Thomas Gilovich, who chairs the depart­ment of psy­chol­ogy at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity, our brains are almost too good at mak­ing associations.

If any­thing bad hap­pens to you on Fri­day the 13th, the two will be for­ever asso­ci­ated in your mind, and all those unevent­ful days in which the 13th fell on a Fri­day will be ignored,” Gilovich said in a state­ment. [13 Super­sti­tions & Tra­di­tions Explained]

For pagans, 13 is actu­ally a lucky num­ber. It cor­re­sponds with the num­ber of full moons in a year.

Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt is said to have avoided travel on the 13th day of any month, and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and Pres­i­dent Her­bert Hoover were also triskaideka­pho­bic, with an abnor­mal fear of the num­ber 13.

Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a din­ner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.” Super­sti­tious din­ers in Paris can hire a qua­torzieme, or pro­fes­sional 14th guest. [13 Odd Occur­rences on Fri­day the 13th]

Stock bro­ker and author Thomas W. Law­son, in his 1907 novel “Fri­day the Thir­teenth,” wrote of a stockbroker’s attempts to take down Wall Street on the unluck­i­est day of the month. Report­edly, stock bro­kers after this were as unlikely to buy or sell stocks on this unlucky day as they were to walk under a lad­der, accord­ing to accounts of a 1925 New York Times article.

This fear of Fri­day the 13th can be seri­ous busi­ness, accord­ing to the Stress Man­age­ment Cen­ter and Pho­bia Insti­tute in Asheville, N.C., which, among other things, offers ther­apy to help peo­ple over­come their fear of the freaky fri­day. Their esti­mates sug­gest hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, up to $900 mil­lion are lost due to people’s fear of fly­ing or doing the busi­ness as usual that day, though that num­ber isn’t backed up with other estimates.


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