Friday 13th October is likely to worry some of the more superstitious – but what is the meaning and origin of this supposedly fateful day?
It is a date that strikes fear into the superstitious – one many avoid for booking a wedding or holding a party.
Around 49 million Brits are said to fearful of Friday 13th, bound by the belief that bad things will and do happen on this date.
Tupac died on a Friday 13th in 1996 and on this date during the Blitz Buckingham Palace was bombed. Kitty Genovese was also murdered on this unlucky day as no one called for help, in a phenomenon that became known as the Bystander Effect.
Fear of Friday 13th even has its own name – Paraskevidekatriaphobia – and it even costs businesses up to £585m.
But where did it come from? We look at how the fear of Friday 13th began, and the unlucky events taking place on this date that has led to millions of people throughout the world fearing it.
HOW DID IT START?
There are a number of theories about the origins of Friday 13th and its association with all things unlucky.
One theory is that the superstition stems from early Christianity, as Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday and Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest at the Last Supper.
While another is that the date associated with such bad fortune began later with King Philip IV of France commanding hundreds of Templar Knights be arrested on the date in 1307, and then be tortured and burned alive.
In Norse mythology, Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility, was labeled a witch and banished when tribes converted to Christianity. Legend has it that every Friday, the malicious goddess assembled the devil and eleven other witches (13 in total) and plotted evil deeds for the coming week. For centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was therefore known as the “Witches’ Sabbath.”
Superstition around the date also stems from the negativity associated with number 13. Another story from Norse mythology also tells the tale of when a dinner party was once ruined by Loki, whose appearance plunged the world into darkness and led to the death of a God called Balder. Loki was the 13th guest at the gathering.
One of the oldest references is in ancient Babylonian history (1700s BC). In the Code of Hammurabi, an early law code, the laws are numbered and skip from 12 to 14. Possibly the Babylonians considered 13 to be unlucky because of the Song of Ishtar, an ancient Babylonian epic poem. The thirteenth line contains the name of the Goddess of the Dead.
The number 13 has always been seen as a bit of an oddity while 12 has been seen as a number denoting ‘completeness.’ There were 12 Gods of Olympus and 12 hours of the clock. There are also 12 months in a year and the equivalent number of signs in the Zodiac, as well as 12 Apostles of Jesus. And, you apparently need 13 witches to form a coven.
And Friday has also been a day some associate with bad luck. For example in Wales there was a belief that Friday was an unlucky day, with miners refusing to start new work at the end of the week.
It is also possible that the association in part with the day and a bad run of fortune can be linked to Thomas W. Lawson’s novel Friday, the Thirteenth, released in 1907.
Fear of Friday 13th has continued as more unlucky events have happened on this date, both in history and modern times. This has seen some hotels refuse to have a room 13 and others, like the Carlton Hotel in London, refuse to have a floor 13 entirely. Some planes also do not have a row 13.
DISASTERS AND UNLUCKY EVENTS HAVE HAPPENED
The Costa Concordia disaster, which saw 32 people drowned when it sank off the coast of Tuscany took place in January 2012 when the ship struck a rock.
On Friday 13th October 1972 Air Force Flight 571 from Uruguay crashed in the Andes, while flying members of a rugby team. Out of 45 passengers, 29 died from impact injuries, frostbite, starvation and an avalanche, with the remaining 16 forced to preserve the dead passengers in the snow and eat their flesh. The story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was made into a book and a film — Alive — narrated by actor and director John Malkovich and the survivors are national heroes.
One young boy saw everything unlucky collide when he was left with burns after being struck by lightning at 13.13 on Friday 13th in 2010. He was 13 at the time.
An unlucky event on a Friday 13th led to a whole new psychological theory being developed. Kitty Genovese was murdered on 13th March 1964. The then 28-year-old was stabbed in Queens in New York as allegedly 38 neighbors did nothing. While there is dispute over whether people did come and help her, and call the police, the killing led to the development of the Bystander Theory. This finds that a single witness to a crime is more likely to do something than if they are part of a large group of people. Winston Moseley was jailed for life for the killing and died in prison last year.
Four people were injured and one died when Buckingham Palace was bombed during the Blitz on Friday 13th September 1940. The Palace was hit by five German bombs and one member of the Royal staff was killed.
On Friday 13th August, 1976, New York man Daz Baxter elected to stay in bed to ward off bad luck. But his choice was to be an unlucky one, as the floor of his apartment block collapsed and he fell six storeys to his death.
And on 13th May 1981 the Pope was shot at four times. Pope John Paul II, formerly Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Poland came out of hospital two weeks later but was readmitted due to a lung infection. He later made a full recovery.
The date is also associated with weather crisis. On Friday 13th October 13, 2006, 36 inches of snow fell on upstate New York. The ensuing chaos claimed three lives and incurred $130 million of damage.
There have been a number of famous deaths on Friday 13th – including Tupac Shakur on 13th September 1996 six days after he had been targeted in a drive by shooting, wrestler Lance Cade on 13th August 2010 and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Malik Meraj Khalid died on 13th June 2003.
The stock market has also not escaped a brush with bad luck. On Friday 13th October, 1989, global markets plunged when a buyout for a United Airlines parent company failed. It later was referred to as Black Friday .
DO PEOPLE REALLY FEAR IT?
Companies report that people are reluctant to book weddings on Friday 13th, with some venues even offering sizeable discounts for people who want to gamble on this date. Data from TheKnot.com found that 1,345 fewer couples wed on Friday 13th July 2012 compared to those who tied the knot the following Friday.
Michael Chopra and Heather Swan married on Friday 13th in 2008 but the pair split up later after arguing throughout their honeymoon. And on this ominous date Bill Murray and Jennifer Butler finalized their divorce after 10 years of marriage.
Richard Riakporhe, Professional Boxer, worries about superstition when it comes down to his fights. He said: “I would feel slightly cautious because of so much stigma being attached to that date.”
“Also growing up watching a vast amount of superstitious horror movies since youth has left that percentage of doubt in me that something could possibly go wrong on fight night.”
THE GOOD NEWS
For people who refuse to fear it, Friday 13th can have some benefits.
According to Zoopla, properties that are number 13 are £9,000 cheaper than neighbouring houses and flats.
And Friday 13th is the cheapest day to fly in the UK, with many avoiding that day for fear something could go wrong.
As a number of people feel 13 is an unlucky number, you have a higher chance of winning if you pick it in the Lottery.
Taylor Swift refuses to be governed by superstition. The pop star was born on 13th of December and turned 13 on Friday 13th. Her first album also went gold in just 13 weeks.
And, back in 1940 the North Devon Club in Metherell – Britain’s first nudist joint – was opened. MIRROR