Friday the 13th: a brief history


Mr. Smith

Today is the last Friday the 13th of the decade

Abigail Hancsin and Kadie McNally

This Friday is the last “Friday the 13th” in the year of 2019, but what is the significance of this day and how is it tied to being “unlucky?”

The number 13 has had negative superstitions for centuries, but no one knows exactly when this tradition of the day began. One of the oldest theories dates back to biblical times. According to the Bible, the day before Jesus’s crucifixion, 13 guests sat down for the Last Supper. The seating arrangement is believed to have created a superstition that having 13 people at a table was bad luck, which ultimately led to a death: Jesus’ crucifixion. 

In the late 19th century, a man named Captain William Fowler wanted to remove the negative stigma of the number 13. He created a club called the Thirteen Club. The club would meet on Friday the 13th, dine in room 13, have a 13 course meal, and they would also pass beneath a ladder and banner reading “Those of us who are about to die salute you.” Even former presidents attended club meetings, including Theodore Roosevelt. 

Some go so far with their fear of Friday the 13th (paraskevidekatriaphobia) that they avoid going out or doing work at all. Some research and analysis shows that about 1 billion dollars a year are lost as plenty of superstitious people choose to not do any business on this day. More than 17 million people are affected by this phobia, which became more popular in the 20th century due to pop culture. A similar phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, is a fear of the number 13, which is why some architects build a building without a thirteenth floor. This superstition is so widely known that on episode 20 of the 8th season of Friends, Ross is asked what Triskaidekaphobia means, but he thinks it’s the fear of Triscuits.

Many horrible events have also occurred on Friday the 13th. Famous rapper Tupac Shakur died of a gunshot wound on September 13, 1996. On January 13, 2012 the Costa Concordia cruise ship struck a reef off the Isola del Giglio and began to tilt. Thirty-two people died in the wreck. On October 13, 2006 a freak blizzard had hit Buffalo, New York, leaving 22 inches of snow. This caused over 1 million power outages which lasted for about a week.

Is Friday the 13th really a cursed day, or is it just a phobia that millions of people suffer from? It is up to you to decide this for yourself.