How Friday The 13th Got Its Spooky Reputation

By

Word Count

526 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

Photo Credit: realdepartment.com

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. While the dreaded combination evokes feelings of unease even among non-believers, for the superstitious, it is the unluckiest day of the year. Their intense fear, dubbed friggatriskaidekaphobia, leads to symptoms that range from mild anxiety to a nagging suspicion of bad luck to full-blown panic attacks. While some of the trepidation can be attributed to the namesake movie series, the day’s ill-fated reputation was well-established long before Jason Voorhees, the film’s hockey-masked villain, first appeared on the big screen in 1980.

Some experts think it all starts with the fear of 13 or Triskaidekaphobia. According to University of Delaware associate policy professor Thomas Fernsler, 13 is considered unlucky because it follows the “perfect” number 12. There are, after all, 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, etcetera.

Image Credit: Succo via Pixabay.com CCO

Folklore historian Donald Dossey attributes the number’s bad reputation to a myth from the time when the Vikings occupied Scandinavia. A dozen gods were enjoying a quiet dinner party in Valhalla, the mythological Norse heaven, when Loki, the god of mischief, walked in uninvited. According to the legend, he instigated Hoder, the blind god of darkness, into killing Balder, the god of joy and gladness. Dorsey says to this day, Nordic residents avoid dinner parties with 13 guests, for fear that one of them will end up dead.

Legend has it that US President Franklin D. Roosevelt hated the date so much that he never traveled on the 13th nor invited just 13 guests to a meal. American author and humorist Mark Twain became a believer after he was left starving as the 13th guest at a party that had catered food for only 12. The French even go as far as 'renting' a special 14th guest, or quatorzieme, to avert bad luck.

Image Credit: michelinam.wordpress.com

Friday has its own set of problems. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on this day. While the date was not the 13th, it was shortly after his final meal, the “Last Supper,” which featured 13 guests, including Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins. Some biblical scholars think that it was on a Friday that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit, though the date is unknown. The only historical event believed to have occurred on Friday the 13th is the slaying of Adam and Eve’s son Abel by his brother Cain. A more recent tragedy was the sinking of the Costa Concordia, the world’s largest passenger ship, on Friday, January 13th, 2012.

Photo Credit: slideshare.net

Experts estimate that American businesses lose as much as $900 million every time the 13th falls on a Friday because many people avoid getting on airplanes or making substantial purchases like a home or car. Though bad for the economy, the irrational fear does benefit non-believers. Airlines often offer discounted fares and many retail stores have special deals to attract customers to stores. So, instead of cowering in fear, use the dreaded day to firm up your summer travel or buy the game you have been eyeing for so long.

Happy Friday The 13th

Resources: wikipedia.org, businessinsider.com, history.com

Workbook

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
1127 Comments
  • basketballanime
    • adroit_avimimus
      That's pretty interesting, but I know someone who was born on Friday the 13 in March, and they are a pretty good kid!
      • coolish
        coolish10 months
        I kinda have a fear of of heights but nothing too extreme
      • jessicakuo925
        jessicakuo92510 months
        Spooky article!😱
        • jazmine2008
          jazmine2008about 1 year
          wow cool. btw I always wanted to see the movie Friday the 13th but my parents don't allow it :)
        • masmas
          masmasabout 1 year
          My brother was born on Friday the 13
          • galaxygamer_ty
            galaxygamer_tyover 1 year
            i love the movie friday the 13th
            • wizardgirl
              wizardgirlalmost 2 years
              animereina2020, I agree. We should always face our fears. I have a fear of singing in front of people, even though my family says I am good. So for the school talent show I uploaded a video of me singing! I still have the fear, just not as much.
              • musicfangirl
                musicfangirl9 months
                I'm actually in a band. Yet, I'm scared to sing in front of people. (When I was younger, I sang at my aunt's wedding!!!) If this helps think that your the only one there! (BTW: we don't really preform unless it's for family.)
                • horse123456
                  horse123456over 1 year
                  Yeah, I have the same fear. My voice is pretty good, but I wouldn't love it if I had to do a solo
                • wizardgirl
                  wizardgirlalmost 2 years
                  I agree with helen0916
                  • helen0916
                    helen0916almost 2 years
                    _WOah THAT LOOKS SUPER NOT SCARY