What’s so scary about Friday the 13th?

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Friday 13th

If you want to book an event and aren’t superstitious, then go for Friday the 13th: a surprising number of venues offer a discount for that day… or perhaps it’s not that remarkable. The number 13 has a lot of negativity associated with it. It’s not unusual to find a city lacking a 13th street or a 13th avenue, many hotels and hospitals will omit 13 from their room numbers, high-rise buildings avoid having a 13th floor, and you don’t often come across gate 13 at an airport. We’ve been surrounded by rumours and myths concerning Friday the 13th for over 900 years. It’s one of the most well recognised superstitions of the western world and it’s likely to have permeated the psyche of even the most rational person.

The ‘fear’ is real

Fear of ‘Friday the 13th’ is a real thing: it’s got its own rather impressive name: paraskevidekatriaphobia. But where the fear itself comes from isn’t that clear. The phenomenon has many theories associated with it. Urban legend has it that in the Middle Ages, the Knights of Templar were burned to death on Friday the 13th. They’d managed to get the wrong side of the King of France. But some say it all began with The Last Supper: there were 13 people in the room and Jesus died on Good Friday.

‘Friday the 13th’ becomes a hit

There are lots of references to the superstition in literature, and those gather pace in the 1900s with the publication of a novel, “ Friday, the Thirteenth” by Thomas W Lawson. It’s the story of how a stockbroker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on Friday the 13th. Then of course there was the 1980s box office slash hit Friday the 13th with the (very scary!) Jason. And the more recent Da Vinci Code, in 2003, which discussed the events surrounding the killing of the Knights Templar, mentioned above.

Is ‘Friday the 13th’ really unlucky?

A lot of people, possibly more than would care to admit it, avoid walking under ladders, will prevent a black cat from crossing their path, and will feel terrible for breaking a mirror (7 years’ bad luck), but what about what happens on Friday the 13th – is there any evidence as to whether it really has been unlucky?
It seems that we are victims of our own superstition. Wall Street always sees a very quiet trading day on Friday the 13th and retailers also see poor sales. Because people don’t go out and shop as they might on any other day, sales slump. The North Carolina Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute reports that 800-900 million dollars are lost in the US each year due to shoppers remaining at home or deciding not to travel. That’s a lot of bad ‘luck’!

Accidents rates on Friday the 13th

And there’s one area we’re possibly most interested in: accidents. There have been a lot of investigations into the occurrence of accidents. Comfortingly, according to research completed at the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) in 2008, there were fewer accidents and reports of theft or fire on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. However, a 1993 study in the British Medical Journal, suggested that it’s safer to stay off the roads on Friday the 13th: It reported a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day. Plus, the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%.

Do we secretly love the drama of ‘Friday the 13th’?

It’s been dramatised and memorialised for years: we love to scare ourselves with stories surrounding the superstition. In 2014, this tweet went out: “Spooky fact: 2014 is the first year in 666 years that Halloween falls on Friday the 13th.” It got retweeted more than 2,500 times. Wow, spooky! None of those retweeters stopped to think that Halloween is always and has always been on 31st October. It could never fall on the 13th……………just check the calendar if you don’t believe us!

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