Today is Friday the 13th. Here at the Farmers’ Almanac, Friday the 13th is special, because our managing editor, Sandi Duncan, was born on a Friday the 13th. To others, though, the date carries more sinister connotations.
Fear of the number 13 is so prevalent that the Greeks even had a special word for it – “triskaidekaphobia.” To this day, many people believe it’s bad luck to sit at a table set for 13, a tradition that likely has roots in the story of the Last Supper, when Jesus announced to his 12 disciples — a table of 13 — that one of them would betray him. In many communities with numbered streets, 13th Street gets skipped. Likewise, there is no 13th floor many high-rise buildings. And in some towns, there are no houses with the number 13.
No one knows exactly where the fear of 13 started. Some say it stems from medieval England, when a hangman was paid 13 pence for doing his grisly duty. While that’s an interesting theory, the superstition goes back even farther. In ancient Rome there was a “Thirteen Club,” which defied the superstition by holding dinner for 13 members on the 13th of each month.
If you think superstitions around the number 13 are just ancient silliness, consider the following: When Apollo 13 became damaged on April 13, 1970, some people commented that they knew something would happen, because there were too many 13s associated with the mission. The ship blasted off at 13 minutes after two o’clock from pad 39 (three times 13), and the astronauts were scheduled to open the hatch of the lunar module and step on the moon at 13 minutes after two several days later. Of course, the astronauts did arrive home safety …
What about you? Does Friday the 13th just make you think of the 11 movies featuring superstar slasher Jason, from Camp Crystal Lake, or does it make you want to stay home with the blankets drawn over your head? Are there other superstitions you believe in, like the sight of a black cat or a ladder in your path? Share your thoughts in our forums.