Why are people superstitious of Friday 13th?

Emma Kemp

As one of the most popular myths to permeate modern society, Friday the 13th has been widely synonymous with bad luck since the 19th century. If you have heard of the classic 1980 horror film ‘Friday the 13th’ then you will know what we are talking about.

Most Brits have participated in superstitious activities at some point – most of us will avoid walking under ladders or stepping on cracks. But this particular day has such an impact that an irrational fear of Friday the 13th has its own official names: paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia.

This condition is not quite as niche as it sounds, with many people actually avoiding getting behind the wheel or taking flights when this day comes along.

So, how do you spot this day before it hits? Look out for months that start on a Sunday. There will be a Friday the 13th 12 days later.

Thankfully, this week’s Friday the 13th is the only one that superstitious citizens will have to endure this year, unlike next year when there will be Friday the 13th triple trouble.

With superstition being irrational as it is, it’s almost impossible to pin down precisely why this combination has become associated with such misfortune.

The most common theory states that it is a modern amalgamation of two much older superstitions – that 13 is an unlucky number and Friday an unlucky day. Throw them both together and you’ve got, well, very bad luck.

Some of this apparently comes from the New Testament of the Bible, which states that Jesus died on a Friday. It also says that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and likewise that the Great Flood wiped out the entire human race on this day of the week. It can’t get much worse than that really.

According to numerology, the number 12 is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the 12 months of the year, 12 hours of the clock, and the 12 gods of Olympus. In other words, the number 12 is smooth and popular, which makes the number 13 it’s dorky brother.

Alarm in the face of the number 13 is a phenomena that pervades many of facets of society. Taller buildings are known to skip the 13th floor, many hospitals have no room 13 and some airline terminals omit Gate 13. Italy has even omitted the number 13 from its national lottery.

Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was known for his refusal to host 13 guests at a meal, and would never travel on the 13th day of any month.

A 1993 study in the British Medical Journal that compared the ratio of traffic accidents between Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th found a significant increase in traffic-related accidents on Friday the 13th.

However another study in 2008 by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) stated that due to people taking preventative measures, fewer accidents occurred when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Friday.