Friday the 13th
We’re getting three instances of Friday the 13th this year, so if you’re among the approximately 20 million Americans who are uneasy on these days, maybe we should take a minute to understand this thing properly.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the scientific name for the fear of Friday the 13th, while fear of the number 13 itself is the fun-to-say triskadekaphobia.
The history of these things are necessarily murky, but two popular origins come from stories which both feature an unlucky thirteenth guest to a dinner party. In one tale the guest is the Norse trickster god, Loki, who arranged for one god to kill another, sending the world into darkness. In the other, the dinner in question is better known as The Last Supper, and the extra seat at the table was filled by Judas Iscariot, whose treachery saw Jesus Christ crucified on the next day, a Friday, making both Fridays and the number 13 unlucky, which may provide an explanation for the perceived “double jeopardy” combination of Friday and the 13th day of the month.
In addition, we know from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that Friday was an unlucky day to begin a journey and further that the dwarfs wouldn’t set out on their journey to reclaim their kingdom under the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug unless they added a 14th member to their party…wait – that was The Hobbit, not real. Never mind…
Over 80% of high-rise buildings do not have a named 13th floor. While building designers do this today for marketing reasons and to account for the overwhelming superstition, the practice probably started when early skyscraper developers were cautioned not to build over 13 floors for business reasons.
Fun fact #2:
One person probably not troubled by the number 13 is the subject of our most recent #BostonFirsts article, Bill Russell, who played in the NBA for 13 years, during which he won 11 NBA championships. He also won two NCAA championships in college, making him a 13 time champion.
Read our article on Bill Russell and the many African-American firsts in Boston here:
Bill Russell and Many African-American Firsts