By Jean Henry Mead
An estimated 20 million people in this country fear Friday the 13th. Some are so paralyzed with fear that they avoid going to work, traveling or even getting out of bed, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina. The fear results in an $800 to $900 million lost in business for the day.
The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. According to folklorists, there is no written evidence of a Friday the 13th superstition in the U.S. before the 19th century. The earliest known documented reference in English occurred in an 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossin, according to the Wikipedia:
[Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; and if it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died.
There is also a myth that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. Were there not thirteen people at The Last Supper?
Friday has been considered an unlucky day since the 14th century when The Canterbury Tales was published. Friday has also been considered an unfortunate day to travel or start new projects. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s. And Friday has also been known as the day that Jesus was crucified.
Another theory involves the arrest of the legendary Knights Templar. According to one expert the Knights Templar was a monastic military order founded in 1118 C.E. in Jerusalem. Their goal was to protect Christian pilgrims during the Crusades. The Knights Templar was a powerful as well as wealthy group over the next two centuries. King Phillip felt threatened by them and was determined to acquire their wealth. And on Friday, October 13, 1307, he ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar.
Today, although a large number of us are afraid to leave home on Friday the 13th, Dutch insurers report that fewer accidents are reported on this day because people are consciously more careful. However, the British Medical Journal reported in a 1993 study that there was a significant increase in traffic accidents between Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th.
So, whether you consider black cats and walking under ladders unlucky on Friday the 13th, take heart. If you toss salt over your left shoulder, carry a four leaf clover in your lapel and drink a blender full of goat’s milk seasoned with grated frog’s tongue and gnat’s eyelashes, you'll forestall any unfortunate occurrences that may happen on this day, particularly if you stay in bed and read a good book until sundown.