About 21 million Americans suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th, or Black Friday.
They avoid daily activities that could potentially put them in harm’s way and some are too afraid to get out of bed in the morning.
But why? Where did the superstition come from?
One theory suggests 12 is the most complete number. It occurs in common cultural references – 12 months in a year, signs of the Zodiac, labors of Hercules, tribes of Israel, gods of Olympus and apostles of Jesus Christ. Thus, 13 is considered irregular.
Friday has been considered unlucky, and therefore a bad day to start a new journey or project – stemming from the Canterbury Tales. Also, according to Christian scripture, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
In the 13th century, the Knights Templar were arrested by King Philip in France on Friday the 13th.
Another belief comes from Norse mythology, in which Frigga, the goddess of love, was banished to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. Every Friday, Frigga would call 11 other witches to the top of the mountain to plot evils for those below. The 12 witches would gather with a 13th guest – the devil. Similarly, in Roman times, witches are said to have gathered in groups of 12 with the 13th member being the devil.
Another part of Norse mythology states 12 gods were gathered at dinner in heaven – Valhalla – when an uninvited 13th guest, the god of darkness, shot Balder, the god of joy and gladness. When Balder died, the world went dark, and from that moment 13 was considered ominous.
There is no written evidence of a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century. The first written reference was in 1869 in the biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. Generally, Italians separately regard Friday and 13 to be unlucky, but on Friday the 13th, Rossini died.
But do terrible events really occur on Black Fridays?
Several natural disasters have occurred on this day, including Hurricane Charley in 2004, the unexpected snow storm in Buffalo in 2006, the Andes flight disaster of 1972 and a large-scale ship disappearance in 1773.
The arrest of Al Capone occurred on a Black Friday, as did the death of Tupac Shakur. Friday the 13th has also been associated with the stock market crashes, and Henry Ford would never do business on Friday the 13th.
Friday the 13th occurs at least once a year but no more than three times – the next one is not until August 2010.
Statisticians have researched the day’s events, and it has been proven that car accidents increase 60 percent every Black Friday. However, studies have also shown that, due to alcohol, every Friday generally has an increased number of crimes, murders and accidents on the road.
Oddly enough, studies have shown that crime and accidents somewhat decrease on Friday the 13th because people are alert.
Cambridge University physiologist Richard Wiseman has theorized that people who consider themselves to be unlucky are more likely to believe in superstitions like Friday the 13th.
More than 80 percent of highrises do not have a 13th floor. Many hotels and hospitals will not have a room 13, and in Florence, Italy, the house number between 12 and 14 is 12 1/2.
In some places in America, Friday the 13th Clubs were formed, in which the members only gather on Black Friday and decided to defy society’s views by smashing mirrors, scattering salt, opening umbrellas inside and letting black cats out.
Friday the 13th is today. Stay in or go out, but realize those with superstitions may be the unlucky few.