It’s called paraskevidekatriaphobia
As Friday the 13th approaches once again, you might already be planning on avoiding mirrors, ladders and walking over drains.
The ominous date, perhaps only second in the calendar spooky stakes to Halloween, has long been fear fodder for horror films. It even has its own franchise: 12 slasher movies featuring fictional killers Freddy and Jason.
But it’s not just the stuff of Hollywood. In the Western world, some hotels will have no room 13, while a lot of tall buildings “don’t have” a 13th floor, jumping straight from 12 to 14.
So where does our superstition surrounding this particular date, known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, come from? And why are we so afraid of the number 13? Is it at all rational?
Here’s everything you need to know about Friday the 13th.
Where did the superstition come from?
It’s not just the stuff of horror movies
The fear of Friday the 13th is so widespread that it’s even cheaper to travel by plane on the date. But the superstition, found mostly in Western culture, has been around since long before air travel was invented.
Thirteen is arguably the most vilified number, and has countless malevolent origins. The most notorious appearance of the number 13 comes from the Bible. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is thought to have been the 13th guest to sit down to the Last Supper. In Norse mythology, a dinner party of the gods was ruined by the 13th guest called Loki, who caused the world to be plunged into darkness.
Friday doesn’t have a good reputation either. Good Fridaywas the day of Jesus’s crucifixion, and in the UK, Fridaywas once known as Hangman’s Day because it was usually when people who had been condemned to death would be hanged.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century, he says “and on a Friday fell all this mischance.”
So why Friday the 13th?
Members of the Eccentric Club of London in 1936, at their annual “Friday the Thirteenth” lunch, surrounded by omens of bad luck (Getty )
According to folklorists, the combination of Friday and the number 13 as a day of particularly bad luck seems to be a relatively recent tradition – perhaps only about 100 years old.
One of the most popularised myths attempting to explain the origin of the Friday 13 superstition stems from events on Friday 13 October 1307, when hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested and burnt across France.
In modern times, the unfortunate demise of the famous order of knights captured the public’s imagination when it was used by Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code, among other historical fiction writers. The Knights Templar has been peddled by conspiracy theorists linking the Knights Templar to the Holy Grail.
The Eccentric Club, one of London’s oldest gentleman’s club has held special Friday the 13th dinners since the 18th century, seating 13 people at a dinner table surrounded by “unlucky” objects.
Is there any evidence that it is unlucky?
Will you be avoiding mirrors in case they smash this Friday? (Getty)
In 1993 a British Medical Journal study claimed there was a “significant” increase in incidences on a Friday the 13, but the author of the study later confessed it was “a bit of fun” as traditional in the Christmas edition.
There is anecdotal evidence that unlucky things will happen on Friday the 13th. In 1976, New Yorker Daz Baxter was apparently so afraid of Friday the 13th he decided the safest place to stay was his bed. Mr Baxter was killed when the floor of his apartment block collapsed that day.
Closer to home, in 2009 the In 2009, the £13.5 million SAW ride at Thorpe Park had its opening premiere on Friday 13th, only to be shut down due to a computer programming fault.
While in 2010, lightning struck a 13-year-old Suffolk boy on Friday 13th at 13:13.
How often does Friday the 13thhappen?
At least once a year, and up to three times a year. There will be two Friday the 13ths per year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence.
Spooky stuff. But for most Brits, Friday 13th will be just another day.
Or will it…