History of Friday the 13th - Is it really bad luck?

Friday the 13th’s unlucky reputation is pretty well known at this point. There’s an entire horror film franchise based around the superstition, and it’s certainly helped to keep people associating fear with the day. But the movies have only been around since 1980, so how long has the idea that Friday the 13th is unlucky persisted? How did Friday the 13th start?


credit for calendar photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dskley/6689739073


Well, the origins of the fear and trepidation associated with Friday the 13th are a bit unclear. Fears surrounding Fridays and the number 13 both have been around for centuries, but any beliefs about the specific day, Friday the 13th, have only been popular in the 20th century.

The number 13 alone is still considered an unlucky number by many people. Fear of the number 13 even has a specific name, triskaidekaphobia. The history behind uneasiness with 13 dates back to two stories about something bad happening after a dinner party with 13 guests. In the Christian story of the Last Supper, Judas was the 13th guest to arrive. Jesus was then betrayed and crucified. The other story comes from Norse mythology. The god of evil and chaos, Loki, shows up uninvited to a dinner party, making him the 13th guest. He then kills Balder, the god of joy and happiness.

13 could have earned its unlucky reputation because it comes after 12, which is considered a complete number. 12 shows up in many different aspects of culture. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 disciples of Jesus for example. The number 13 then disrupts the balance created from and associated with the number 12.

Captain William Fowler formed the Thirteen Club in the late 19th century to work against the popular notion that 13 was an unlucky number. He would hold their meetings on the 13th of the month, where 13 guests would enjoy a 13-course dinner in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage.

Friday may be your favorite day of the week now, but people haven’t always been excited about the Friday looming ahead. Like the number 13, Fridays have their own ill-fated and superstitious history. Most of these beliefs have Christian roots, just like with some of the fears surrounding 13. Some people view Friday as an unlucky day because it was the day that Jesus was crucified, and is believed to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

Fridays also make people uneasy because in the Middle Ages, it was the day executions were carried out. So you could say it has a history of not being the most pleasant day of the week.

credit for gallows photo: Wikimedia Commons

There’s nothing specifically about Friday the 13th that inspired the superstition, but when you combine people’s existing fears of Friday and the number 13, that makes for one spooky holiday.

Going back to Friday being the day for executions, there were also supposedly 13 steps up to the gallows.

A few unfortunate accidents and catastrophes have taken place on Friday the 13th throughout history, which only serves as evidence for those who believe it to be an unlucky day. History.com points out the German bombing of Buckingham Palace in September of 1940, the murder of Kitty Genovese in March of 1964, a cyclone in Bangladesh that killed more than 300,000 people in November of 1970, the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in October of 1972, the death of Tupac Shakur in September of 1996 and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy in January of 2012 as some of the traumatic events that have happened on a Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th didn’t start showing up in pop culture until the 20th century, and by then the superstition was solidified in people’s minds. In 1907, Thomas Lawson wrote a book titled “Friday, the Thirteenth,” about a broker who uses the superstition to influence the stock market. This book is believed to have popularized the idea that bad things happen on Friday the 13th.

And of course, there is the popular “Friday the 13th” slasher movie franchise featuring Jason Voorhees as the masked murderer. Jason is one of the most iconic and recognizable horror villains, and with 12 movies, it’s not hard to see how people are still holding onto a little Friday the 13th-induced fear.

Friday the 13th isn’t globally viewed as a superstitious day. In Spain and Greece, it’s actually Tuesday the 13th that’s considered an unlucky day. And in Italy, you’re more likely to see people nervous about the looming Friday the 17th instead of the 13th.

The idea that bad things are more likely to happen on Friday the 13th may seem kind of ridiculous to a lot of people today, but you’d be surprised by how many people still hold onto the superstition. Over time, people have noticed that some things actually do happen because of Friday the 13th, but it might not be in the way you think. Businesses tend to do poorly on Friday the 13th because people stay home and avoid making any critical decisions in case it does happen to turn out poorly. Accidents also happen at a slightly reduced rate because people are so cautious.

spider dog costume

If you know that Friday the 13th is supposed to bring bad luck, you’d probably be more aware of something bad happening on that day than any other day. There’s nothing to prove that Friday the 13th has ever actually been the cause for misfortune. But if you’re still worried, you can always throw some salt over your shoulder or burn some sage. This wikiHow article gives specific details on how to avoid bad luck and get rid of it.

spider cat costume

To avoid any Friday the 13th-related misfortune, you need the proper tools. Through our extensive research here at Pet Krewe, we have found that the absolute, most surefire way to ward off bad luck is to arm your pet with a scary spider costume. It’s spooky enough to counter whatever misfortune that could be heading your way.

Or, at the very least, it’s something cute to take your mind off of all the bad things that might happen.  

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