Why is Friday the 13th Feared?

If a month begins with a Sunday, it will have Friday the 13th that month. This year, it occurs just once. Let us examine the genesis of this deep rooted phobia.

Friday the 13th is unlucky. People in North America, large parts of West Europe and Australia believe that it causes misfortune and death.

The superstitious fear is so deep rooted that there is word paraskevidekatriaphobia for it. The Telegraph, UK, elucidates it: “Paraskevidekatriaphobia – from the Greek words paraskeví (meaning ‘Friday’), and dekatreís (meaning ‘thirteen’). The fear of the number 13 itself is called triskaidekaphobia.”

The widespread fear traces its genesis to two separate phobias. The fear of Friday and the number 13. Both these have its roots in the Christian and pagan beliefs.

The Bible says that 13 people present for Jesus’s last supper on Maundy Thursday. Judas, who betrayed Christ, was the 13th guest to arrive for the last supper. All these happened the day before crucifixion of Christ’s on Good Friday.

There is a belief, according to some historians, that Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge on a Friday. The Great Flood also began on a Friday.

In fact, folklore and literature too gave credence to this deep rooted fear. In Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, mentions that it is unlucky to begin a journey or a project on a Friday.

King Philip IV of France, arrested and executed hundreds of the Knights Templar, on Friday October 13, 1307. Dan Brown cites the infamous 14th century execution in his novel Da Vinci Code.


Furthermore, Friday, the Thirteenth, a popular novel of Thomas W. Lawson, published in 1907, reinforced the superstitious fear.

Friday the 13th spawned a successful movie series. It inspired an excellently kitsch slasher horror franchise comprising twelve films.

A boy was drowned at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of the camp staff. The cursed lake becomes the setting of mass murders. Though not popular among the critics, Friday the 13th has been a successful media franchise. It was a box office hit. The films inspired merchandise and tattoos.

The British Medical Journal, in a 1993 study, titled an article, ‘Is Friday the 13th Bad for your Health?’ Its authors studied the ratio of traffic volume to the number of accidents on two dates, Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th , over several years. Their finding was, “Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 per cent.”

Some doctors believe that anxiety and fear psychosis trigger stress related problems like blood pressure, heart problems and are also responsible for vehicular accidents on the roads.

Renowned phobia specialist Dr Donald Dossey points out that it’s the most rampant of all superstitions in the United States, even now. He points out that as many as 21 million Americans, about eight per cent, have this phobia. They avoid going to work on this day.

Hotels in many parts of the world do not have room No 13. In high-rise buildings, the 13th floor is missing.

Friday the 13th is one of the biggest enigma. There are cultures who do not fear Friday the 13th but one must be sensitive about the belief systems of others and make no fun about it.

We can say with certainty that all of us have some fear or the other. Some, like Friday the 13th , traces its origin to very ancient times. It’s one of the many primeval fears of mankind. It’s a part of our collective unconscious.

©Arindam Roy 5/12/16

Pix from Net.

Arindam Roy

Arindam Roy

Arindam Roy has 35 years experience in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgoan-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.
Arindam Roy