Why Are People Scared Of Friday The 13th?

Originally a christian superstition, the day has inspired novels, a secret society and a whole franchise of horror films.

Paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia is an extreme phobia of Friday the 13th.

What drives people to be scared of or wary of a particular number? This Friday the 13th National Geographic explores the meaning of Friday the 13th and why some people are driven to Paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia.

It’s a superstition similar to walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror or walking in front of a black cat. The idea that Friday the 13th or even the number 13 is bad luck. The source of this fear isn’t so easily traceable. However, the number 13 has been historically unlucky in western culture for hundreds of years.

The first reference to 13 being unlucky came from the Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian set of laws and edicts that omitted the 13th law.

Superstitious Christians believe 13 is an omen, according to the New Testament, 13 people attended the last supper, ushering Jesus’ crucifixion the following day.

Friday’s link to superstition is tenuous but again is believed to derive from Christianity. Friday was the day Jesus was crucified, it was said to be the day Eve gave the apple to Adam and the day Cain killed his brother Abel.

The fear was so extreme in some places that many hotels and buildings excluded a 13th floor in construction. However, some were not fazed by the superstition. In the late 19th century an American, Captain William Fowler founded the Thirteen Club, a society wishing to remove the stigma surrounding the number 13.

They did this by regularly dining on the 13th day of the month, in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage. Guests enjoyed a 13-course dinner and would pass underneath a ladder and banner that read: Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for:

“Those of us who are about to die salute you.”

The club was so popular, four US presidents attended their dinner parties.

BRAIN GAMES DIY: SUPERSTITION Yale University's Brian Scholl has a little fun with your superstitious brain.

There is a long history of bad things happening on Friday 13th including the German bombing of Buckingham palace in September 1940 and a vicious cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh in November 1970.

Perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing event that occurred on Friday the 13th was the arrest of the Knights of Templar. The Knights of Templar were an elite group of “knights” who fought to protect Christian pilgrims during the crusade. They eventually controlled a vast financial network that included real estate, banking, and even a prototypical version of Western Union leading to their eventual downfall and arrest on Friday the 13th, 1307 by the French King Phillip IV. They were tortured and put on show trials. Many were executed.

Image: The Knights Templar escort Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem in an illustration from around 1800. Centuries after the Templars’ dissolution, Friday the 13th was erroneously attributed to their arrest., ILLUSTRATION BY UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE, GETTY

According to British historian Dan Jones, author of The Rise and Spectacular fall of God’s Holy Warriors, the mystery of the Templars and their arrest on Friday the 13th lies in the sequence of events that occurred after they were burnt at the stake:

“One eyewitness says the Templar master asked God to take revenge on the people who had tormented him. Lo and behold, within a year, both Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V were dead.”

Whether you believe that Friday the 13th is truly unlucky or not, bad things have happened on Friday the 13th (as they do on every day of the year) so today on this Friday the 13th:

“Those of us who are about to die salute you.”

Lead Image: Legendary traitor Judas (fourth from left) is said to have been the 13th guest at Jesus' Last Supper. PAINTING BY LEONARDO DA VINCI VIA GETTY IMAGES

Related Articles

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit