Tracing the origin of Friday the 13th superstitions by David Emery



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Why Is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?

Tracing the origin of Friday the 13th superstitions

by David Emery

Updated January 09, 2017 
Adapted from: https://www.thoughtco.com/why-is-friday-the-13th-considered-unlucky-3298238?print

I have before me the abstract of a 1993 study published in the British Medical Journal provocatively titled, "Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?"

Its authors compared the ratio of traffic volume to the number of automobile accidents on two different dates, Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th, over a period of years in hopes of mapping "the relation between health, behavior, and superstition surrounding Friday 13th in the United Kingdom."

Interestingly, they found that while consistently fewer people in the region sampled chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on Friday the 6th.

Their conclusion?

"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 percent. Staying at home is recommended."



Paraskevidekatriaphobics — those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th — will be pricking up their ears about now, buoyed by evidence that the source of their unholy terror may not be so irrational after all. It's unwise to take solace in the results of a single scientific study, however, especially one so peculiar. Surely these statistics have more to teach us about human psychology than the ill-fatedness of any particular date on the calendar.

"THE MOST WIDESPREAD SUPERSTITION," SAYS PHOBIA DOCTOR

The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia) Dr. Donald Dossey, it's the most widespread superstition in the United States today.

Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won't dine in restaurants; many wouldn't think of setting a wedding on that date.

So, how many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century actually suffer from this condition? According to Dossey, the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he's right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition.



Exactly how old is difficult to say, because determining the origins of superstitions is an inexact science, at best. In fact, it's mostly guesswork.

LEGEND HAS IT: If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don't have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck (e.g., Jack the RipperCharles MansonJeffrey DahmerTheodore Bundy, and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.

STOP….and discuss:
1. What interesting fact about driving on Friday the 13th did the British study uncover in 1993?
2. What is Paraskevidekatriaphobia? Who coined the term? 

3. According to Dr. Donald Dossey how many people may suffer from the phobia? What can you infer about the author’s use of the word “superstition”?


Why Is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?
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