Is today your unlucky day? Why we fear Friday the 13th

Will Watts

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition.

It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which is guaranteed to happen at least once every year, and as many as three times in the same year.

Jason Vorhees (pictured) is the arch-villain in all but two of the long-running 'Friday the 13th' series.

In 2017, Friday the 13th occurred twice, on Jan. 13 and Oct. 13. In 2018, it happened on April 13 and it’s happening today, July 13. There will be two Friday the 13ths every year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence.

In scientific speak, the fear of the number 13 is called "triskaidekaphobia"; and specifically, fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia.

What makes this Friday the 13th extra frightful is a partial eclipse, which hasn’t coincided with this date since Dec. 13, 1974. The next partial eclipse to occur on Friday the 13th will be on Sept. 13, 2080.

Unlike the 2017 eclipse, tonight’s partial solar eclipse won’t be visible to the United States — or most of the world. It will mostly hover over the open ocean between Antartica and the southern tip of Australia, according to the UK’s Nautical Almanac.

The superstition surrounding Friday the 13th may have arisen in the Middle Ages, originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion. There were 13 individuals present in the upper room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

Another suggested origin of the superstition — Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar.

While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th Century.

There is one early documented reference in Henry Sutherland Edwards' 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th. “He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.”

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to spreading the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

Certainly modern times was helped by not one, but 11 “Friday the 13th” movies. Just two more to go?