Friday the 13th

By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 13, 1996

Chris Richards
Arizona Daily Wildcat


Today, Friday, falls on the 13th day of the month, which turns what normally deserves a "T.G.I.F." into a day that is cursed and unlucky.

Unlucky, because it brings to mind those terrible "Friday the 13th" movies (all six of them), not to mention the television program of the same name that was probably even worse.

When you feed the numbers into a computer, according to a home page about urban legends, over the 4,000 years from the year 1800 to 5799, Friday the 13th occurs 6,880 times - far more often than the not-so-unlucky Saturday the 13th, or the hardly ominous Monday the 13th.

Thirteen or not, Friday beats Monday in my book.

Personal preferences aside, what makes today different than any other?

Nothing, except perhaps the number 13.

According to Popular Superstitions by Charles Platt, 13 is known in Scotland as the "Devils Dozen."

The number 13 seems to have a very bad reputation, and not simply among trick-or-treating children that believe in the Easter bunny either.

Adults, namely the ones who construct buildings, and who knows what else, seem to avoid the old one-three like the plague.

What about the people on floor 14 of the hotel? Do they not realize that disaster will befall them before the other hotel patrons? Does it not seem funny that in the elevator the buttons go from 1 to 12 and then from 14 on up?

The question of where this aversion to "13" came from lead me to find out more.

One obvious origin of the Friday the 13th myth is the Bible.

In Douglas E. Winter's book Narrow Houses, Winter writes about the Last Supper and the 13 gathered around the table.

In John 6: 70-71, "Jesus answered them, 'have not I chosen you 12, and one of you is a devil?' He spake of Judas Iscariot for it was he that should betray him."

It is because of the Last Supper that it is still considered bad luck to seat dinner parties in groups of 13.

In Magic and Superstition Douglas Hill writes, "Thirteen is especially unlucky in terms of dinner parties, referring back to the Last Supper or the Norse Feast: it is believed that one of the 13 diners will die within a year."

Friday is also the day of the crucifixion, and for that reason the day itself is considered unlucky.

Hill continues, writing "Fear is also aroused if the 13th of the month falls on a Friday - in itself a notoriously unlucky day, largely (because of the) association with Good Friday."

There is also an old superstition that it is unlucky to sail on a Friday.

In Those Superstitions, Sir Charles Igglesden explains, "We all know of sailormen who considered it unlucky to sail on a Friday, but of recent years dread has been overcome by the sailing of hundreds of ships on that day."

Igglesden continues, "But although the prejudice against the sailing of a ship on a Friday has been overcome, superstition firmly steps in when the Friday falls on the 13th day of the month."

The old myths do not stop there. It is unlucky to turn a bed, wash blankets, shave or cut your hair, cut your nails, or do just about anything on a Friday, according to Igglesden.

Luckily, old Iggy did not say anything about drinking.

Platt also describes another reason for anti-Friday sentiment.

"The fish was an emblem of Freyja, and as such was associated with the worship of Love. It was offered by the Scandinavians to their goddess, on the sixth day of the week, i.e., Friday. Unfortunately this worship of Love on the Friday of each week gradual ly developed - or degenerated - into a series of filthy and indecent rites and practices."

I assume he means sexual intercourse.

So the reasons, historically, for fears about Friday and the number 13 are many, but perhaps people are starting to give up on superstition.

I also contacted some major airlines to find out if they offer seats in row 13.

America West Airlines Sales Representative Michelle Qy said that the airlines does offer row 13 seats.

American Airlines Representative Kevin Currence said he believes in the past, airlines did not offer row 13 seats, but have since decided to throw superstition to the wind.

Among students I asked about Friday the 13th and its superstition, most are not worried about the dreaded day.

"I don't have any forebodings about Friday the 13th or the number 13," said Jim Gossett, an undeclared sophomore.

Keith Hilzendeger, a classics junior, said he does not believe in Friday the 13th.

"I've never had anything bad happen to me," he said of living through Friday the 13ths.

"No, I'm not superstitious at all," said Dana Miller, an art history senior. "I have no problem walking by a black cat, or under a ladder. But I do throw salt over my shoulder when I spill it."

And while some do not think of it as a problem, one thinks it is lucky and another thinks it is fun.

John Coffey, a religious studies sophomore, said, "I'm very superstitious in general, but Friday the 13th seems to be a lucky day in general for me."

"I think it's fun to indulge in superstition," said Carol MacDonald, a nutrition sophomore.

"I've heard about it but nothing has happened to me before," said Cindy Hu, management information systems graduate student. She said whether or not she is superstitious depends on the situation.

A much more familiar face, however, seems to embrace the number 13.

George Washington.

American currency, at least on the one-dollar bill, on the side opposite Washington's bust, there is a pyramid with 13 steps, an American Bald Eagle holding 13 arrows in one talon, and an olive branch with 13 leaves and 13 berries in the other talon.

There are those who would say the design is a reference to the original 13 colonies, like Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who was secretary of the treasury at the time, according to "Treasury of Superstitions" by Claudia De Lys.

But I know better. Those dollar bills are evil.

Maybe that is why the ATM ate my bank card.

If you want to learn when the next Friday the 13th is, ride the web to