Tales and Origins of Friday the Thirteenth

Kate Wiggins, Features Editor

Friday the Thirteenth, which can occur up to three times a year, is commonly associated with bad luck and spooky juju. But what gave Friday the Thirteenth its eerie aura, and why has it become such a staple in American superstitions?

   Similar to black cats, a broken mirror, or walking under a ladder, Friday the Thirteenth is believed by many to bring bad luck. Although its direct origin is unknown, its superstitions have been around for centuries. According to the History Channel website, the fear of the number 13 itself could have originated from the Ancient Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest written legal codes, which omits a thirteenth law from its legal rules. Although it could have easily been an error, many pair this with the long-lasting negative association with the number 13. The fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia, and the fear of Friday the Thirteenth is paraskevidekatriaphobia — quite a mouthful (history.com).  

   Unless you have been paying attention to previous Friday the Thirteenths, you probably would not realize how many unlucky events have taken place on this day in the past. According to the History Channel, on October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France started arresting hundreds of the Knights Templar, members of a religious and military order, and most were executed later that day. Many believe that this is what started the fear of the day Friday the Thirteenth. More unfortunate events to take place on Friday the Thirteenth include the German bombing of the Buckingham Palace in 1940, a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh, the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane, and the death of legendary American rapper, Tupac (history.com). 

   Even this year, Friday the Thirteenth has proven to be an unlucky day for many. Senior Luis Vega shared, “I somewhat believe in the superstitions around Friday the Thirteenth. I know that we left school because of COVID-19 on Friday the Thirteenth, so maybe there really is some sort of bad luck involved.”

   Friday the Thirteenth is sometimes associated with the pop culture world. Friday the Thirteenth is one of the most iconic horror movies in the slasher movie world, with multiple spin offs and sequels, giving viewers that classic gore and suspense during Halloween time. Hockey-masked Killer Jason has haunted the pop culture world for decades, giving Friday the Thirteenth a thrilling ora. The concept of the character Jason and the movie itself has overlapped into almost every other genre in the pop culture world, having references to it in multiple t.v. shows, music, comics, and video games.

   Not everyone shares the same dismal view of this notorious day, though. In hopes to take the stress away from the unlucky 13, Captain William Fowler started an exclusive society called The Thirteen Club. According to a mythology blog, The Thirteenth Club met on the thirteenth day of the month, consisted of 13 men, and they ate a dinner with 13 courses, and dined in the thirteenth room of Knickerbocker Cottage. Members also walked under a ladder before each meeting and recited, “Morituri te Salutamus” which in Latin translates to “Those of us who are about to die we salute you,” The club has had its fair share of famous members, including several former U.S. Presidents such as Theodoore Roosevelt, Benjamin Harrison, and Grover Clevland (medium.com).

   Whether you believe the bad luck and superstitions revolving around Friday the Thirteenth or not, there is no denying that it has brought forth some of the most outrageous stories and events, which might have been just horrible coincidences. However, Friday the Thirteenth has had such great influence in today’s pop culture, that it’s tales will surely not be forgotten.