By Ryan Gauthier
It's Friday the 13th, are you freaked out?
Maybe not. But where does the superstition come from?
No one really knows the exact origins of Friday the 13th, but historians speculate that it has to do with the combination of two superstitions—that Friday is an unlucky day, and 13 is an unlucky number.
The combo-superstition is a fairly recent one, at least in the written sense; there are few references to it earlier than the beginning of the 20th century. Friday has been an unlucky day since at least the 14th century, when folks believed it was bad luck to start a journey on a Friday.
The number 13 has been considered unlucky as far back as biblical times, when the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus. It might even date further back, to Norse mythology, which featured 13 gods who all met grisly ends.
Regardless of how it began, the fear of Friday the 13th gets people panicked. Here’s a few facts about just how much of a grip the superstition has on the world:
1. More than 60 million people worldwide are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th, many of them so much so that they will not drive a car, leave the house, or even get out of bed. In fact, there is purportedly a significant increase in traffic accidents on that particular day.
2. The fear of Friday the 13th is calledfriggatriskaidekaphobia. The fear of the number 13 is calledtriskaidekaphobia, and both Napoleon Bonaparte and President Herbert Hoover were infamously stricken with it.
3. Five of the 12 movies in the Friday the 13th franchise have been released on Friday the 13th, including the 2009 remake.
4. Legendary rapper Tupac Shakur died on Friday the 13thin 1996, while Fidel Castro, Steve Buscemi and Margaret Thatcher were all born on a Friday the 13th (1926, 1957 and 1923, respectively).
5. Many hospitals don’t have a room 13, in the same way that many airports don’t have a gate 13. Some establishments will instead call it 12a, or just skip right ahead to 14, as is the custom for tall buildings. Really—visit downtown Minneapolis and try to find a high-rise elevator with a 13 button!
6. Ever wondered why a baker's dozen consists of 13? The story goes that a witch in New York used to demand 13 items whenever she visited a particular bakery. When the baker could not afford the extra item one time, the witch supposedly cursed the baker and he suffered horrible luck. It wasn't until he brought the witch another 13 rolls that things changed and he apparently broke the curse. The custom is still sometimes practiced today.
7. The fear of Friday the 13th actually dates all the way back to Norse Mythology. Many of their thirteenth gods ultimately endured violent deaths, including Loki the trickster.
8. Sinking ships. Last Friday the 13th—Jan. 13, 2012—saw the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia sink near the island of Isola del Giglio. A total of 64 passengers were injured, while 16 were killed.
9. Friday the 13th could spell the end of the world in 2029. The asteroid 99942 Apiophis is set to make a close encounter with Earth on April 13, 2029. Apiophis is the size of The Rose Bowl and about 1,100 feet in width. It will come as close as 18,000 miles from Earth. The asteroid is expected to be close enough to Earth that, even in daylight, observers will see a bright object move across the sky. If the asteroid enters a specific trajectory known as “the keyhole,” Earth’s gravity will ensure that the asteroid heads off towards the Sun on a trajectory that will guarantee it will strike the Earth the next time it comes around. That impact could be the equivalent of 100,000 nuclear bombs and would destroy thousands of square miles.
10. A heavy dose of bad credit also hit earlier this year. On Jan. 13, 2012, Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit ratings of France, Austria, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
11. Good things are simply not in the cards. Tarot Card number 13 is the Death Card, depicting the Grim Reaper. Things aren't as bad as they seem, however, as the card is read as transition or change and not literal death.
12. It doesn't actually scare everyone. In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th—not the 13th—is considered a day of bad luck. Coincidentally, Italians generally consider 13 to be a lucky number.
13. I'm sensing a trend here. Any month's 13th day will fall on a Friday if the month starts on a Sunday.
Happy Friday the 13th! And to all the friggatriskaidekaphobics of the world… well, maybe you should have just stayed in bed.