13 surprising facts about Friday the 13th: Demystifying the superstitious date

The infamous date has more to its seemingly haunted background than you would think

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published October 13, 2023 6:13AM (EDT)

Friday 13th on a calendar (Getty Images/Studio-Annika)
Friday 13th on a calendar (Getty Images/Studio-Annika)

The date Friday the 13th sends shivers down many people's backs. As another Friday the 13th arrives in the spooky month of October, it raises the question of why we are so averse to the haunting date. The infamous and superstitious date is notoriously known for being one of bad luck, so some people avoid fear-induced activities on the date. It has played a significant role in Western superstition and it has developed into an irrational fear for most as the date swings around every year.

Considered a harbinger of bad luck, Friday the 13th is very misunderstood. There is no clear-cut answer as to why the date stokes paralyzing terror into people but the lore is said to be traced back to ancient Christian mythology. Some say that the day is so unlucky because Friday was the day that Jesus was crucified and 13 symbolizes the number of disciples at the Last Supper, with the duplicitous Judas as the 13th person seated at the table.

Regardless if you do not believe in all the hoopla surrounding the date and its superstitious origins and implications, you may have experienced the woes of this bad luck Friday one way or another. But for the most part, the date doesn't deserve the reputation it receives from the general public. Here are 13 surprising facts about Friday the 13th that will help de-horrify the seemingly dark-side date.

Friday and 13 weren't always unlucky together. Here's when we think it started
Some historians trace the cursed idea back to Norse mythology, when Loki (not Tom Hiddleston's Loki y'all), the god of mischief, crashed a banquet in Valhalla bringing the number of gods at the event at 13. Loki then tricked one of the gods into shooing his brother, Balder the god of light and goodness. The superstition traveled its way throughout Europe and found its way to the Mediterranean by the start of the Christian era. Enter Jesus and the Last Supper. 
The Last Supper comprised Jesus and his 12 disciples, with some counting the 13th attendee as Judas Iscariot, the disciple who famously betrayed Jesus, leading to the messiah's crucifixion on Good Friday. Friday is also said to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit; the day Cain murdered Abel; and the day Noah's ark set sail in the Great Flood. All of these significant biblical events, cemented Friday as a historically bad day, but it wasn't until the 1800s were Friday 13th became synonymous with bad luck.
But it's mostly Western Christianity that formed our ideas of the date's misfortune. In pagan times, Friday was believed to have a unique association with the divine feminine and 13 the number was associated with the lunar and menstrual cycles in the calendar year.
Famous people born on Friday the 13th
Most importantly though, the date hosts many birthdays for our favorite celebrities like the Olsen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley who were born on June 13, 1986. Multiple Emmy winner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was born on Jan. 13, 1961. Comedy actor legend Steve Buscemi was born on Dec. 13, 1957. Riverdale star Lili Reinhart was born on Sept. 13, 1996.
Dates that other cultures find unlucky
Friday the 13th isn't the only other unlucky day of the year. April 4th is unlucky for the Chinese — 4/4 is considered the unluckiest day of the year. Most hotels in the country do not even have a fourth floor. Italy has Friday the 17th. Japan has September 9th. The Spaniards have Tuesday the 13th.
Real people are afraid of Friday the 13th
If you can believe it, people are actually afraid of Friday the 13th for real. The phobia even has an official name called paraskavedekatriaphobia while fear of the number 13 itself is called triskaidekaphobia. It affects an estimated 17 to 21 million people, according to NBC News. This is the avoidance of the number 13 because it brings immense fear and anxiety.
According to Saybrook University psychology professor Stanley Krippner, “people are hard-wired to find meaning in various patterns, connections and perceptions. They need someone or something to blame when stuff goes wrong, and numbers are an easy target,” he told TIME Magazine.
Finland chooses Friday 13th on purpose for their National Accident Day
To bring awareness to car safety in Finland, the Nordic country chose Friday the 13th of each year to be National Accident Day because there is at least one accident on the date every year. The day of awareness was started in 1995.
More accidents do happen on Friday the 13th
Yes, there are more accidents on Friday the 13th but it is nothing to be incredibly alarmed about. A 2017 study showed that there were 12 percent more car crash accidents on the 13th and there are claims that Fridays in general are typically worse for emergency rooms in hospitals. But most of the time, these accidents just happen by chance and are not really defined by the date or superstition. But there is conflicting numbers on whether this is the case everywhere else in the world as the U.K. reportedly had less accidents.
An asteroid will fly by Earth on Friday the 13th, 2029
The asteroid named Apophis, which was once thought to be a collision course with Earth will fly by us in six years to the date. But the near-Earth flyby could bring serious damage to our Earth as it is estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across.
Apophis will get within approximately 20,000 miles of Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. Space.com has reported that the asteroid will be ten times closer to us than our moon and will be visible to the naked eye in some parts of the world during its travels.
It's Taylor Swift's birthday number and favorite number
The number 13 is the pop star's lucky number. She was born on December 13, 1989, and the number has been prominent in the singer's life ever since.
Swift said: "I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first #1 song had a 13-second intro. "Every time I've won an award I've been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter."

Alfred Hitchcock was born on the 13th

Horror and suspense genre mastermind Alfred Hitchcock was also born on the 13th. His birthday to be exact is August 13, 1899. His directorial debut was a film called "Number 13." But the film never launched into success due to some financial troubles. His other works "Psycho," "Vertigo," and "The Birds" blasted him to the heights of Hollywood filmmaking success. 
Humans find comfort in superstitions
There's no question that the reason we feel connected to keeping the traditions surrounding Friday the 13th is because it makes us feel united in something to potentially fear together. It is a part of making peace in the chaotic world in which crazy things happen all the time and these crazy situations happen to all types of people — not just good or bad. We believe in it because it explains the disjointed nature of the human experience
Don't worry, the 13th is mostly like other days
While we may feel a sense of heightened anxiety on Friday the 13th, there isn't need to worry. It is truly like most days. There are some good and bad days — it isn't defined by the specific date. A 2015 study found that the day had no effect at all on personal luck. “We found no effect,” said Jan Fidrmuc, one of the study’s authors, who is now a professor at the University of Lille in France. “There is nothing to the superstition.”
Friday the 13th comes in threes
Even if you fear the day, you're in luck! There cannot be more than three Friday the 13ths in any given calendar year and the longest we will go without seeing one is 14 months. There's nothing to be afraid of, as even Friday the 13th follows the rule of thirds.
The date inspired the slasher horror series "Friday the 13th"
Finally, the date has inspired one of the most classic slasher films of all time "Friday the 13th." The franchise is a behemoth starting in 1980 with 12 films following since its release. It was also the highest-grossing horror franchise before Jamie Lee Curtis' "Halloween" toppled its record.
The franchise mainly centers on the horrifying masked killer Jason Voorhees, who was believed to have drowned as a boy during summer camp. Decades later, the camp and lake were deemed cursed and is the setting of a series of mass murders of teenage camp counselors, picked off one by one as they attempt to re-open the abandoned and creepy camp Jason allegedly died at.
The original film made about $59.8 million worldwide and its budget was only half a million dollars.

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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