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13 Facts about Friday the 13th

Posted Wednesday, Nov 11, 2009 by Allen B. Ury

Friday the 13thFriday the 13th only comes around two or three times per year. (But then, so does Thursday the 13th and Monday the 23rd.)

Still, to many people in the Western world, Friday the 13th is a day filled with dread. In fact, fear of Friday the 13th is so common it even has two names: “Paraskavedekatriaphobia” and “Friggatriskaidekaphobia.” (The better-known “Triskaidekaphobia” is mere fear of the number 13 itself.)

Here, then, for all you black cat, spilled salt and broken mirror avoiders, are 13 fascinating fun facts about Friday the 13th:

1. There is no single historical source for the Friday the 13th superstition. However, both Christian and Norse history/mythology is littered with negative references to the number 13 (e.g., 13 guests at the Last Supper, 13 guests at a disastrous banquet in Valhalla, etc.), as well as lousy Fridays (e.g., Judas betrayed Jesus on a Friday, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the Great Flood began on a Friday). In the United States, Fridays are often associated with Stock Market crashes. Put the two together, and you have the makings for a very, very bad day.

2. Another reason the number 13 has such a bad rap is that it has the misfortune of following the number 12—a “perfect” number according to the ancient Greeks. Babylonians were nuts about the number 12, hence 12 months in a year, 12 signs in the Zodiac, 12-hour clocks, etc. The number 13? Not so much.

3. Months with a Friday the 13th always begin on a Sunday.

4. Oh, one more reason 13 is “bad.” It’s traditionally the number in a witches’ coven (12 witches and Satan). Witches purportedly celebrate 13 “Witches’ Sabbaths” annually.

5. On Friday 13, 1066, England’s King Harold II gave orders for his troops to go into battle the following day rather than rest after an exhausting three-day-long march. At the subsequent Battle of Hastings against the Norman army of William the Conqueror, things did not go well for King Hal, giving Friday the 13th another bad rap.

6. Perhaps the most notorious Friday the 13th was October 13, 1307. According to legend, that was the day French King Philip IV had hundreds of Knights Templar—a wealthy and powerful group of religious warriors—arrested, imprisoned and, in many cases, killed for posing a threat to his power base. Jacques de Molay, the last of the Templar Grand Masters, was purportedly burned to death outside Notre Dame Cathedral on Friday, March 13, 1314—cursing the King and 13 generations of his family to lives of misery in the process.

7. The traditional hangman’s noose has 13 twists of the rope. And there are 13 steps to the gallows.

8. Many high-rise hotels, apartment towers and office buildings have no “official” 13th floor.

9. Most airlines have conveniently “forgotten” the 13th row and have no flights “13” or “1313.”

10. Traditionally, sailors will not start a voyage on Friday the 13th.

11. Prior to the launch of his moon shot, astronaut James Lovell poo-pooed any suggestions that his mission’s number boded ill for success. On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 hours (according to the clock at Mission Control in Houston). Two days later, on April 13, an oxygen tank in the ship’s command module exploded, forcing the crew to abort the moon landing and nearly dooming the entire mission to failure. (For the record, April 13 was a Monday.)

12. No cars in Formula 1 racing use the number “13.” NASCAR is not so fussy…although no NASCAR Car 13 driver has ever ranked higher than 23 (Ted Musgrove, 1998).

13. Director Alfred Hitchcock, the “Master of Suspense,” was born on Friday the 13th (August 13, 1899). For the record, so was actor Steve Buscemi (Friday, December 13, 1957).

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