Superstitions Surrounding Friday the 13th

I  opened my eyes this morning exactly at 4:59 AM. Just like every other morning. Then, my phone screen let me know that today was Friday the 13th of January. I’d heard it since I was in middle school that Fridays on the 13th day of the month were unlucky. Many of my friends would speculate stuff about the day way ahead of the actual date and there were various stories surrounding it.

Studying in Nepal, you all will agree that every school you went to was a graveyard or a hospital at some point in history. I went to four, and in every school, the legend existed. With it came the stories of Friday the 13th. How someone had died on that day some decades ago, how the bathrooms (that were flooded with ghost stories) were very scary to enter and the stories continued.

So, this morning, it popped into my mind that I’d never actually given a second thought to it. So I decided to check out the “History” of this ominous day. To see what it was truly that caused these superstitions to arise. Friday the 13th, after all, is so famous and believed that the Friday the 13th movie franchise is one of the highest grossing ones. The movies surely didn’t help by making Friday the 13th even more mainstream.

Friday the 13th movie poster

Friday the 13th has become so much more than a day filled with bad luck. It’s turned into a culture and for some a way of life. A way of life because it decides what you should and shouldn’t be doing on that day.

Some activities like cutting your hair or nails, shifting to a new house, commencing a new venture, purchasing a new vehicle, etc. are avoided by many on Fridays or on the 13th day of the month. There are many stories and myths attached with this date.

Moreover, many hotels omit the room number 13, high rise buildings simply don’t have a 13th floor and there are negligible houses numbered 13. There are many stories and myths attached with this date.

Running up a Google search, here’s what I came to know about this unlucky day.

Friday the 13th – Superstitions

Did you know that there are actual terms for fear of the number 13 and the Fridays that fall on the 13th? No. Neither did I.

In fact, they’re actual phobias that many people need to be treated for.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of a Friday that falls on the 13th.

The phobias are such that many people don’t refrain from canceling important meetings, travel plans or even daily activities on the said day. On this day, a loss of millions of dollars is recorded every year. Not to forget the day comes 2-3 times a year. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 17 to 21 million people suffer from a fear of Friday the 13th, according to a study by the North Carolina Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute. Many just linger back at their homes on the day for fear of bad things happening if they went outside (Yeah! Like bad luck is scared of your front door!)

Some prevalent superstitions:black cat

  • If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.
  • If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.
  • Do not start a trip on Friday or you will encounter misfortune.
  • If you break a mirror on Friday the 13th, you will have seven years of bad luck.
  • A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.
  • Ships that set sail on a Friday will have bad luck.
  • If you walk under a ladder or if a black cat crosses you on Friday the 13th, you will have bad luck.

While I’m writing this, a total of over 230,000 births has been estimated and the counter is still going. And it’s only midday. Given that 360,000 births take place in a day, I can only sigh. Poor babies, doomed to bad luck since birth. Luckily, the bad luck doesn’t actually happen.

Friday the 13th – Legends

Friday the 13th has been known to be around since a very long time. But most of the historical beliefs, what I found to be, are just that – beliefs.

It is said that the Egyptians considered the number 13 to be a symbol of death. But then, the Egyptians also believed in mummification and life after death.

Let’s talk about the Norse gods. We all know Thor, don’t we? Thor is the Norse God of Thunder. Now that you have a vague idea of Norse gods, let me tell you a story.

balder the god

“Baldur’s Death” by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg


Once upon a time at Valhalla, the heaven of the Norse Gods, Balder – the God of Joy and Gladness, invited the fellow Gods for a huge party. A total of 12 Gods were having a great time partying. When the party was in full swing the God of Mischief Loki walked in. Loki, the 13th God in the party, was uninvited. He unleashed his anger on Balder by making Hoder, the blind God of Darkness to kill Balder with a poisonous mistletoe arrow. After the incident, it is believed that the Earth plunged into darkness and evil took over the reign. This could be one of the reasons why some people consider number 13 to be ominous and unlucky.

the last supper painting

“The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci

Most Christians also believe the 13th day of the month falling on a Friday to be inauspicious. Some also believe that Jesus was crucified on that very day. Also most also believe that it was on a Friday that Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Many Christians worldwide believe that number 13 brings ill luck because there were 13 people at “The Last Supper”. People also believe that it was a Friday the 13th that Cain killed Abel. (I can’t help but wonder who kept a calendar in those days, if those days did exist, that is.) The Old Testament also says it was on a Friday that God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel; it is also believed that the Great flood of the Greek myth in which Noah is the hero, began on a Friday and also that the Temple of Solomon was demolished on a Friday.

13 mukhi rudraksha

13 Mukhi Rudraksha


On the contrary, the number 13 holds no association with bad luck in the Hindu mythology. Instead, the 13th day of the waxing moon is the day of the Shiva and observed as a fast of the Pradosham brata by devotees. Also, the 13-mukhi(faced) Rudraksha is considered sacred to Lord Indra and Lord Kama. It is worn to enhance charisma and self-confidence.

Friday the 13th – History

Additionally, the Middle Ages can also be called the age of the Friday, the 13th superstition bloom. Historical records say that Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knight Templars was arrested on October 13th, 1307 AD – a Friday. He was executed in 1314 AD. Hence, Friday, the 13th is considered to be an unlucky day in Europe.

Some more historical events:

  • Five German bombs hit Buckingham Palace on Friday, September 13, 1940. Both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came close to being killed. One member of the royal staff died and the palace chapel was destroyed
  • A Chilean Air force plane ‘disappeared’ in the Andes on Friday 13 October 1972, with 16 survivors turning up two months later. They had been forced to eat dead passengers in order to survive
  • Rapper Tupac Shakur died of his wounds on Friday, September 13, 1996, six days after being shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting
  • The Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground on Friday 13 in January 2012 off the western coast of Italy killing 30 people
  • ISIL carried out seven coordinated terror attacks in Paris killing 130 people on the evening of Friday 13, November 2015.

Don’t get scared people. All this is at most a co-incidence. At most, because maybe the criminals actually choose Friday, the 13th for the attacks to confirm on the superstitions related to the day.

However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) on 12 June 2008 stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.”

The superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th are passed over from one generation to another. As a result of which, even today, many do not dare to venture outside their house, travel or launch new business. People would rather bear the losses than be a victim of bad luck. Traditional weddings are usually not set on this day. However, with the emergence and stronghold of the Goth subculture, a lot of Gothic weddings are, sometimes, scheduled on the 13th, just for the ominous effect.  This day is known as the devil’s day. This day symbolizes death and is considered to be unlucky.

However, with the emergence and stronghold of the Goth subculture, a lot of Gothic weddings are, sometimes, scheduled on the 13th, just for the ominous effect.

Similarly, in many non-western countries that are rapidly developing, many parties are held by youngsters on Friday the 13th due to the spookiness that comes with the name. After all, it is known as the devil’s day, one that symbolizes death and is considered to be unlucky.

Personally, I am a firm denier of superstition and beliefs. Therefore, I decided to check on the facts of the ominous day that is today. By the way, did you know there is one more of these ominous days in 2017? The next one falls on Friday, the 13th of October.

Are any of you superstitious? Has there ever been an incident on some said “unlucky” day that made you think twice about the superstition? Share your experiences and imaginations with us.


References: Buzzle, Wikipedia, The Telegraph, Crystallinks

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock