Why is Friday the 13th so feared as an unlucky day in Western superstition? The truth is, no one can answer that with 100% certainty. Though, there are a few theories.
1. The Last Supper Theory
The first is that it relates to The Last Supper. There were 12 disciples and Jesus himself. Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th person in the group. This is why the number 13 is considered unlucky in most Catholic countries.
Going further back in Biblical tradition, Friday is said to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and the day Cain murdered his brother, Abel.
2. The Friday the Thirteenth by Thomas William Lawson Theory
Another theory comes from the 1907 publication of T. W. Lawson’s famous novel Friday, the Thirteenth. The story revolves around an unscrupulous broker taking advantage of superstition to create a Wall Street panic on Friday the 13th.
3. The Norse Mythology Theory
A third theory goes as far back as Norse mythology. According to a Viking myth, 12 gods had a banquet in Valhalla when an uninvited guest known as Loki — the god of mischief — arrived, making him number 13 at the table.
Loki then deceived the blind god of darkness, Hodr, into shooting the god of joy and gladness, Balder the Beautiful, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Balder died, and the earth turned dark. From then on, 13 was considered an unlucky number.
4. A Mental Disorder
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) recognizes Triskaidekaphobia as a mental disorder. The condition characterizes an irrational fear of the number 13.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia or Friggatriskaidekaphobia is an extension of Triskaidekaphobia that, you guessed it, is a fear of Friday the 13th. An estimated 17-21 million Americans are affected by the condition. Napoleon, Mark Twain, and Franklin Roosevelt all had Triskaidekaphobia. Legendary horror writer Stephen King also suffers from the disorder.
5. The 13th Floor
Triskaidekaphobia is also why some architects design buildings without a thirteenth floor. More than 80 percent of hi-rise buildings in the U.S. do not have a 13th floor, and most hotels, hospitals, and airports avoid using the number for rooms and gates. Also, some cities don’t even have a 13th Street because of this.
6. Some Superstitious Women Schedule to Have Their Babies Before Friday the 13th
Did you know some women are superstitious enough to schedule cesareans or induce labor to avoid giving birth on Friday the 13th? Thousands of babies are born on the day, but it’s around 800 fewer because of this practice.
FiveThirtyEight reports: “Lots of parents would rather not take their chance with a date that delivers a double whammy of superstitious bad luck, tying together longstanding fears about Fridays and the number 13.”
7. Alfred Hitchcock Was Born on Friday the 13th
The original cinematic father of horror, Alfred Hitchcock, was born on Friday, the 13th of August, 1899. Hitchcock is best known for films including Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, The Birds, Psycho, and Rear Window.
8. Tupac Shakur Died on Friday the 13th
Legendary rapper Tupac Shakur died six days after being shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on Friday, September 13, 1996. His murder has remained unsolved. However, recently (September 29, 2023), 27 years later, Duane “Keefe D” Davis has been arrested after being indicted by a grand jury for the first-degree murder of Tupac Shakur.
9. The Army of God
History reports that on Friday the 13th, 1128, Pope Honorius II granted a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it an “Army of God.” The Knights Templar, widely believed to be the protectors of the Holy Grail (the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper) and other holy objects, also acted as a bank to European kings.
10. The Mass Arrest and Execution of the Knights Templar Began on Friday the 13th
After losing a war with England and becoming heavily indebted to the Knights Templar, French King Philip IV conspired with Pope Clement V to have them arrested and charged with crimes, including Satanism. They tortured and massacred over 100 Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.
11. German Forces Bombed Buckingham Palace
The Royal Family’s Twitter account shares that on Friday, September 13th, 1940, Buckingham Palace was bombed by German forces during The Blitz amid World War II.
12. Friday the 13th in Port Dover
The largest one-day motorcycle event in the world assembles every Friday, the 13th, in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada. It all began in 1981, when 25 friends got together at the Commercial Hotel (now known as Angelo’s of Dover) on Friday, November 13th, 1981. They had such a fantastic time they made it an annual tradition.
13. Businesses Lose Big Money
The world’s economy loses around $800-900 million because people are afraid to work and travel on Friday the 13th, according to the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, Donald Dassey.
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.