The Spooky History Behind Friday the 13th

| © Zhen Hu / Unsplash

Social Media Editor

While normally the last day of the working week is greeted with open arms and joyful cries of ‘TGIF!’ from the Western world, there is at least one Friday every year that’s not so welcome: the infamous Friday the 13th.

Although the origins of Friday the 13th as a day of bad luck are somewhat murky, the most probable theory dates back to the Last Supper. It is said that 13 people were sat at the table the night before Jesus’s crucifixion on Good Friday, and historians like Phillips Stevens, Jr., associate professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo, believe that this is what gave rise to the number becoming a taboo. During the Middle Ages, seating 13 guests around a table was actually considered an omen of death.

Leonardo da Vinci painted 13 people at the table for the Last Supper

The associations with Friday as a negative day of the week are not quite as clear, although some believe its roots lie in Christianity also. Apart from being the day Jesus was crucified, it is believed that the iconic biblical events of Adam accepting the apple from Eve and Cain killing his brother Abel both occurred on a Friday too. ‘When “13” and Friday come together, it is a double whammy for people,’ Stevens says.

Fascination surrounding the fateful date has continued throughout the centuries. There is even a word dedicated to it, triskaidekaphobia, which describes an extreme superstition surrounding the number 13. In the late 1800s, US Army Captain William Fowler went so far as to found an exclusive members club, the Thirteen Club, whose purpose was to turn the reputation of the number around. The society, which counted five former US presidents as members, would meet on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of a building and eat a 13-course dinner.

Triskaidekaphobia is an extreme superstition surrounding the number 13

The 1907 novel Friday, the Thirteenth by Thomas William Lawson tells of a New York City stockbroker who takes advantage of people’s fear of the date to cause upheaval on Wall Street and make a major profit. Then there is the popular Friday the 13th horror-film franchise, which has been terrifying moviegoers since the 1980s with hockey-mask-wearing villain Jason.

Fairy tales aside, the day has known its fair share of real life bad luck, and, as it occurs at least once a year and will come twice in 2018, it’s worth knowing what might be around the corner.

The September 1940 German bombing of Buckingham Palace, the November 1970 deadly cyclone in Bangladesh, the October 1972 disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane over the Andes Mountains, the September 1996 death of rap icon Tupac Shakur and the January 2012 crash of the Italian Costa Concordia cruise ship all happened on Friday the 13th.

While most would label these incidents as coincidence, you never quite know what forces might be at work, so it’s best to be prepared.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article