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Thirteen

According to John Roach’s article on National Geographic:

On average, about 800 – 900 million dollars are lost every Friday the thirteenth because people are so scared and superstitious they don’t want to go to work, take a flight, or even get out of their beds. Symptoms range from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. The latter may cause people to reshuffle schedules or miss an entire day’s work.

Triskaidekaphobia is the scientific name of your condition if you’re anxious about the number thirteen.

“Bad” Thirteen

There is no definitive explanation on why the number thirteen generates such anxiety. The most accepted reason is that it is the number after twelve.

In ancient numerology, twelve is the number representing completeness and it is well considered in many cultures. Probably, the fact that it is divisible by two, three, four and six explains this aspect. In many myths, the number twelve is associated with divinity or harmony: there were twelve gods, twelve months in a year, twelve signs in the Zodiac, twelve tribes of Israel, etc. Because adding one breaks all the numeric properties – thirteen is a prime number – everything twelve represented is destroyed by thirteen: positiveness replaced by negativeness, completeness by lack, etc.

There is really no real evidence of this superstition before writer John Aubrey, in a letter in 1697 to London bookseller Awsham Chruchill, referred to the June 25th 1695 edition of a magazine, The Athenian Mercury. He told about a short story in this magazine where a ghost is advising a lady that she will die after participating to a dinner as the thirteenth guest.

Probably, this made people think about other instances of dinners with thirteen guests and it’s not difficult to imagine that the thoughts were directed to Jesus’ Last Supper or to the Norse legend when Loki came to dinner with twelve others and did away with the god Boden. Today it is frequent to notice that there is no thirteenth room in most hotels, no thirteenth floor in most buildings, no thirteenth seats row on most planes, no thirteenth table in most restaurants, no car number thirteen in F1 Grand Prix….

“Good” Thirteen

In Italy, the number thirteen is fortunate! In Naples, it’s the number of St Anthony (sant’Antonio). The winning combination of a once popular betting game on soccer matches is made of thirteen entries. Most yearly salaries are divided in thirteen instalments: a double one is paid in December: it’s called tredicesima (the thirteenth).

The American flag has thirteen stripes representing the first thirteen colonies.

It is said that Colgate University was started by thirteen men (six clergymen and seven laymen) with thirteen dollars, thirteen prayers and thirteen articles. Colgate’s address is 13 Oak Drive, and its zip code is 13346 (which starts with 13 and ends with three digits whose sum is thirteen). It ranked thirteenth on the Forbes’ top liberal arts colleges list in 2013. Plus, alumni wear Colgate apparel on every Friday 13th, which is designated as Colgate Day.

Friday The Thirteenth

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the scientific name for the fear of Friday 13th!

This is a XX century thing: it emerged after the publication of Thomas William Lawson’s Friday The Thirteenth (mind the spelling: no numbers!) in 1906. Bad luck on Fridays and bad luck related to the number thirteen had not previously been linked. But they were since, almost immediately after this bestseller. Somebody, probably, made the connection with the arrest of the Templars, order by French king Philippe IV, on October 13th 1307: it was a Friday….

“Good” Friday 13th

According to Nathaniel Lachenmeyer’s 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition, there is a Civil War veteran, Captain William Fowler, who fought in thirteen battles in the war. He also belonged to thirteen social clubs. One day, he decided to tempt fate: he started, in New York, a new dinner cabaret club, the Thirteen Club, which would meet on the thirteenth of each month and sit thirteen to a table: at the first meeting, on Friday, January 13th 1881, at 8:13 pm, thirteen people sat down to dine in Room 13 of the venue! This was not enough: members had to walk under ladders, face spilled portions of salt, and so on. The fundamental result is that no one dining at tables of thirteen had any particular bad luck.

In the cinema industry, some also tried to make significant money out of it. In 1913 (!), Friday The Thirteenth was issued under the direction of Carl Gregory. In 1916, director Emile Chautard directed Friday the 13th (mind the spelling: numbers!): it was the cinema version of Lawson’s novel. In 1922, the Hal Roach Studios produced a Friday the 13th part I and part II: short comedies directed the first by Craig Hutchinson and the second by James D. Davis. In 1933, Victor Saville directed Friday The Thirteenth (you can see or download the full movie here!). All of these were good movies that didn’t leave the mark but, in 1980, a horror movie originally titled Long Night at Camp Blood was renamed Friday the 13th. It took the name from a previous and much less successful one, Friday the 13th: the Orphan, issued in 1979. The 1980 movie was actually the start of a horror sequel: Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Friday the 13th Part III (1982), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), Jason X (2001), Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and Friday the 13th (2009)! The films have grossed over 465 million dollars at the box-office worldwide…. Maybe it’s not that unlucky…. There must be a reason if, in Spain, bad luck comes on Tuesday 13th and, in Italy, on Friday 17th….!

“Good” luck or “bad” luck?

And now an episode that I can’t classify properly….

As reported by the Daily Mirror, a boy has been struck by lightning while he was among another 150,000 people at an airshow in Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK! It is unusual but how about the fact that he was thirteen years old and that it happened on Friday August 13th (2010) at 1:13pm (i.e. 13:13)? Is it a sign of “bad” luck to be struck by lightning or a sign of “good” luck that the boy fully recovered from the few burns on his shoulder?

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