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Weird History: 13 Facts About Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th, which is something of a mini holiday in the horror community. There are two Friday the 13ths in the 2023 calendar year, the first of which took place in January. It's a day known for the strange, uncanny, and unfortunate. There's an entire horror movie franchise named after it. But where does Friday the 13th's reputation come from originally? Is there a name for fear of the number 13? These are the areas we're exploring this week in weird history.

So, without further ado, here are 13 interesting facts about Friday the 13th!

13. Fear of the number 13 has a name

Triskaidekaphobia is official term for the fear of the number 13. Millions of people have it. According to Time, "those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia associate the number 13 with bad luck or danger due to superstitions."

12. Stephen King has this phobia

Acclaimed horror author Stephen King wrote about his experience with Triskaidekaphobia in 1984. "I always take the last two steps on my back stairs as one, making 13 into 12 (there were, after all, 13 steps on the English gallows - up until 1900 or so - and executions were traditionally carried out on Fridays)," he wrote at the time. "When I am reading, I will not stop on page 94, page 193, page 382, et al. - the digits of these numbers add up to 13. Such behavior is, of course, neurotic, but I sometimes think it is neurosis and not love that really makes the world go round - think of all those basketball players who cross themselves before taking foul shots, not to mention stockbrokers who carry lucky coins and carpenters who wouldn't think of completing a house without first nailing a branch to the rooftree. It's neurotic, sure. But it's also . . . safer."

11. Celebrity birthdays

A number of celebrities were born on Friday the 13th, including Steve Buscemi, Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Frances Conroy.

10. Plenty of elevators don't have a 13th floor

Superstition is so strong, that some elevator companies will skip the 13th floor if the owner requests it. Time wrote in 2017 that two of the biggest elevator makers in the world, Otis and Kone, offer this service.

9. Planes do the same thing

Most airlines don't include row 13 in their planes, either. Rows just jump from 12 to 14.

8. The unlucky day of the week varies by language

"While Friday the 13th may feel like a rare phenomenon, our Gregorian calendar means that the 13th of any month is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week," explains CNN. "It is not, however, a universal superstition: In Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered a day of bad luck, while in Italy, it is Friday the 17th that is met with fear."

7. Friday the 13th is a great day for a tattoo

Many tattoo parlors use the day as an opportunity to provide "flash tattoos" at a discounted rate. The tattoos available for these sales are usually spooky in nature and theme. Ghosts, fangs, spiders, moons, etc.

6. The famous movie named after it originally had another title

Screenwriter Victor Miller called the script A Long Night at Camp Blood while he was working on it. Director Sean S. Cunningham is the one who changed it to Friday the 13th.

5. The title swap was inspired by another horror film

According to The Saturday Evening Post, Cunningham was inspired by Halloween and wanted his film to have a "similarly sinister date" associated with it to build interest.

4. Cat adoption events are often held on Friday the 13th

Black cats have a spooky reputation. According to a 2020 study, black cats have a lower rate of adoption because of "bad luck" superstitiously associated with them. So, Friday the 13th has come to champion cats, with plenty of black cat adoption days taking place on Friday the 13th all across the United States. Check your local area!

3. Friday the 13th is a western tradition

The roots of this phenomenon can be traced back to Norse mythology as well as the Christian Bible. National Geographic notes that the origin could come from the fact that Judas was the 13th guest at The Last Supper, but at the same time...

2. It's also a patriarchal tradition

That's right! A few years ago, CNN explored the 13th's significance in pre-Christian goddess-worshipping cultures. "As Christianity gained momentum in the Middle Ages, however, paganism stood at odds with the new patriarchal faith," explained CNN in 2017. "Not only did its leaders take objection to the worship of multiple gods and goddesses, but the celebration of Friday, the number 13, and the goddesses who invoked love, sex, fertility, magic and pleasure were deemed unholy. So revered were these deities, though, that making people relinquish them proved a real challenge. But Christian authorities persisted with their campaign, branding both the deities and the women who worshiped them witches."

1. There will be two Friday the 13th's in 2024

The first Friday the 13th of 2024 won't take place until September, which is nearly a year away. The second and final Friday the 13th of 2024 will happen in December.

[Image Credit: photo courtesy of SC Leme via Pexels]

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1 Comment

Pauline Verona
Pauline Verona
Oct 17, 2023

This is very interesting. It makes me wonder how the Jewish tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and the coming of age takes place on the 13th. Maybe it's our Jewish way of saying "We are not afraid."😊

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