The History Behind Friday the 13th

Every since any one of us can remember, Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day. Friday on its own is quite unlucky, but when you throw in the number 13, you get a day that could easily terrify anyone. Even before the coming of Christ, people held 13 with a lot of suspicion and fear. Oddly enough, the fear of Friday the 13th has a scientific name: Paraskevidekatriaphobia. This literally means “The fear of Friday thirteen”
While 13 is seen as an outlier or a sign of bad luck, number 12 on the other hand, is seen as a number of completeness and perfection. This could be because, there are 12 months in a year, 12 hours in a clock, there are twelve gods of Olympus, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 descendants of Muhammad Imams.

Even today, we can still see people avoiding the number 13 at all costs. Most tall or commercial buildings in the west, such as the Carlton hotel in London are designed without a 13th floor. The unlucky number 13 is often left out when numbering houses, hotel rooms and even apartments.

We have seen many stories in the media over the last few decades about freak accidents happening on Friday the 13th. A recent example is the 2010 incident of a 13-year old boy in Suffolk. He was struck by lightning at approximately 13:13 on Friday the 13th. During the early 90s, Bob Renphrey, a retired bud conductor decided to stay in bed after suffering a string of bad luck, such as losing his job on a previous Friday the 13th. Understandably, he decided to stay indoors and in bed. A few hours later, the roof caved in and crushed him to death.

Nobody can really explain how or why this day became marred in so much controversy. However, there are quite a number of theories made up over the years to try to explain this phenomenon. According to the 1898 “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” by Cobham Brewer, Jesus was crucified on Friday the 13th. Many Christians also believe that perhaps Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden on a Friday the 13th.

According to “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun” (A myth of 13 gods), by Donald Dossey, a thirteenth guest appeared uninvited at a dinner party that had been previously arranged for only 12 guests. It is considered very unlucky for thirteen people to dine together, and the first to rise will reach serious misfortune. The god Loki, who was the trickster god, then proceeded to shot Balder, the god of joy and happiness. In the Biblical tale of the last supper, Judas the betrayer is portrayed as the thirteenth or the unlucky guest. The number 13 signifies the number of the one who betrayed the messiah.

It is possible that Thomas William Lawson helped propagate the fear of this date through his novel, “Friday the 13th.” This novel was the tale of a deceitful stockbroker who decided to exploit people’s fear of the date to gain from the stock market. Most people who were already superstitious became even more terrified of Friday The 13th.

Another influential figure who played a major role in popularising the myth surrounding Friday The 13th was a famous soldier known as Cpt. William Fowler. Cpt. Fowler studied at Public School No. 13 and he fought in 13 battles during the civil war. According to his obituary, when Cpt. Fowler noticed that the number 13 seemed to have been woven into his past, he decided to confront the superstitious beliefs surround the number.

In the 1800s, Cpt. Fowler started a society that he named, the Thirteenth Club. The Thirteenth Club held its first meeting on the 13th of September in 1881. All 13 guests at the first meeting of the club had to pass under a ladder on their way to the table. The Fowler had also spilt salt all over the meeting room.

The 1980 horror movie, “Friday The 13th” also played a major role in confirming people’s fear of the date. Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked killer in the movie had been the inspiration of many films and novels after the release of the movie. It is unsurprising that Google searches of the phrase “Friday The 13th” brings up references to the movie.

In the Canterbury Tales, George Chaucer referred to the obvious unluckiness of Friday the 13th.
He wrote that it was bad luck to start a project or any journey on a Friday, much less a Friday that falls on the 13th.

It is also possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth played a part in spreading the superstitious beliefs. In the novel, an unscrupulous stockbroker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.
One other incident that possibly led many people to believe this day to be cursed is the 1307 arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar by King Philip IV of France.

From the above, it is evident that both “Friday” and the number “13” are considered unlucky. The following are additional superstitious beliefs that affect Friday the 13th.
• Many people believe that it is bad luck to start anything on a Friday. Such things include, starting a journey, starting on a new job or project, getting married, moving, and even giving birth.
• Many people also believe that it is unlucky to cut your hair or fingernails on a Friday.
• Early Britons hanged condemned people on Fridays, and set up 13 steps to lead the condemned up the gallows.
• Some Christians believe that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday.
• Some people also believe that Adam and Eve both died on a Friday. Adam died first and then Even died years later on the exact date.
• In some parts of the world, it is believed that even calling a doctor for the first time on a Friday the 13th could mean death to you.
• People in Somerset belive that when you turn your bed on a Friday the 13th, a ship will capsize.
• When a baby happened to be born on a Friday the 13th, he or she would be laid on a bible before leaving the room.

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