A light-hearted look at an unlucky day
Why are we so suspicious of this particular day of the year? What’s so risky about a Friday and the number 13? After all there’s at least one Friday the 13th in every year and in some years, three. Next year there are two in January and October.
Historically there’s evidence that Fridays and the number 13 are considered unlucky, so when they come together it’s a day to take care! If you’re suspicious then there’s not a lot you can do to control what might happen to you – or is there? You can stay in bed, check you’ve locked the doors and windows an extra time before going out and unplug the TV at night. But will that make any difference?
There is limited scientific evidence to suggest that Friday 13th is any ‘less safe’ than any other day of the year. In fact there are conflicting one-off studies carried out in the UK and the Netherlands. In 1993 a study in the British Medical Journal found a significant increase in traffic accidents on Friday 13th in comparison with any other day. On the other hand a study in the Netherlands an insurance company found fewer accidents happen on a Friday the 13th when compared with the average Friday.
For some people it’s the fear of something bad happening that causes them to behave differently. The scientific name for this fear is paraskevidekatriaphobi from the Greek and this phobia is estimated to affect between 17 and 21 million Americans. It has been estimated that the changes people make in their behaviour on Friday 13th results in a loss of about $850 million as people adapt their normal routines. In extreme cases some people stay in bed all day whilst others avoid flying.
The Origins of Friday 13th’s notoriety
The religious significance of the 13 men present at Jesus’ last supper and the crucifixion being held on a Friday provide grounds for the superstition. In the 20th century the inauspicious date has been referenced in the title of a very popular novel, ‘Friday, the Thirteenth’ written by Thomas W Lawson which was published in 1907. It tells the tale of a stockbroker who capitalises on the date to cause panic on Wall Street.
Other authors have used Friday, 13th October 1307 – the date of Philip IV of France’s arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar – as significant dates in their plots. The most famous of these in recent years is Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’.
Personally, I treat one date much like another. After all it’s our only Today