Behind the myth of Friday the 13th- how did it get to be so unlucky?


The superstitions behind Friday the 13th have always been around, however, no one has really delved into why we are so terrified of the day. At 1428 Elm, we decided to get to the bottom of this dilemma.

“If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.” – Unknown

It Had to Start There

Many theories exist on exactly how the concept of Friday the 13th got started. One school of thought claims it is biblical. The origin lies within the story of creation.

Apparently according to Today I Found Out, the date marks the momentous occasion when Eve gave Adam the apple thus casting them out of the Garden of Eden forever. However, this has been debunked because the concept of “Friday” didn’t exist and neither did the apple.

So, if that particular religious explanation doesn’t cut the mustard, what about another one courtesy of Supposedly, Jesus was crucified on Friday the 13th. Then of course, there is another potential account.

This one concerns the Knights Templar and their dissolution and arrests by King Philip IV of France in October on the 13th day in the year 1307. What day of the week did this unfortunate event fall on? Friday!

Continuing with the spiritual line of possibilities, Friday was considered very unlucky in Norse cultures. Before the time of Christianity, the goddess Frigg for whom the day was named, was considered a demon by the Church.

Let’s face it, nothing is more terrifying than a demon. Well, maybe that guy running around at that summer camp on that lake killing teenagers and camp counselors. also talks about a 20th century origin for the unlucky 13th. In 1907, an author named Thomas Lawson penned a thriller called ironically enough, Friday the 13th. It was a story about a broker who attempted to bring down Wall Street.

13 Is the Loneliest Number

Perhaps maybe we should delve into the aversion to the number 13. Much like the concept of Friday the 13th being evil, this particular numeral is disliked for many reasons.

Chief among them being the fact that 13 people sitting around a table is bad luck. Despite this sounding ridiculous, the roots of this somewhat irrational superstition are found in Christianity. The Last Supper had 12 apostles sitting around Jesus.

Judas Iscariot was number 13 and ended up betraying Christ leading to his suicide and Jesus’ death. Hindus also believe that 13 people in the same place at the same time is terribly unlucky. Even the Vikings have a tale about the god Loki wreaking havoc at a dinner of 13 people.

Not every culture or person finds 13 to be hapless. Conversely, in my own life, 13 was a very lucky number for me and my Dad. As a matter of fact, I wore that number and had the best basketball and softball seasons ever.

In Italy, Friday the 17th is considered the “bad” date. Spain considers Tuesday the 13th to be their day to avoid.

Myth Busting

As with every superstition there will be those individuals that set out to prove them to be unwarranted. For example, in the latter part of the 19th century in New York, a gentleman named Thomas Fowler created the Thirteen Club.

Fowler was a Civil War veteran who had a “Defiant fondness for the dreaded figure: He had served with distinction in 13 major battles, retired from the army on August 13, 1863, and leased the club’s future headquarters, a Manhattan tavern called the Knickerbocker Cottage, on the 13th day of the following month.”

Basically, this club took on every myth and set out to bust it. Fowler would invite 13 of his friends to dinner on Friday the 13th. They would also walk under ladders and deliberately spill salt. It was a very popular organization and before it closed in the 40s, it could claim five presidents as honorary members.

It’s a Good Day or Is It?

Today I Found Out talks about a survey that a Dutch insurance company did several years ago. It proved that Friday the 13th is actually a safer day for many drivers as compared to the rest of the week. While cites CNBC as saying that financially, Friday the 13th is actually a good day for the market.

Friday the 13th is much like the superstition or belief that full moons cause people to behave erratically. Ultimately, the reason why the misconception is still popular in today’s more sophisticated world is very simple. If something negative occurs on that date, it is difficult to refute that it is the day and not the circumstances.

So, Happy Friday the 13th! Oh, and watch out for that black cat…

Do you believe in Friday the 13th? Have any harrowing tales to tell? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We want to hear from you.

Next: 5 horror films from 1960 to 2000 still defying the passage of time

Susan Leighton can be found on Twitter and Facebook @SusanontheLedge. She can also be heard talking up Ash vs Evil Dead every Monday night on the Nerdrotics Podcast at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT as well as their Pop Culture Wrap Ups every Friday night at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.