The fear of Friday the 13th: Superstition and phobia

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 26th Feb 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Phobias

This article talks about the origins, fear, superstition and phobia surrounding the dreaded Friday the 13th


Do you have a fear of Friday the 13th? Do you know anyone who has the fear of Friday the 13th? Can you even imagine that some people would even have a fear of Friday the 13th? The answer is yes they do. It is a phobia just like some people will have a fear of heights or snakes or getting into elevators. It is a real fear that disturbs a person’s life by preventing them from doing anything productive on Friday the 13th or even in some cases avoiding the number 13 completely on any day of the year.

Parskavedekatreaphobia is the clinical name for the fear of Friday the 13th and friggatriskaidekaphobia is the more general fear of the number 13. The words come from the Greek where many of our medical terms comes from, the other portion of our clinical terms comes from Latin. This fear has been with us since the dawn of humanity or at least until humans developed a number system for classification. People share this fear all over the world. However, it is not always Friday the 13th that is feared, in some parts of Greece and Spain it is Tuesday the 13th, which is feared the most.

Origins of the fear of Friday the 13th

The ancients believed that 13 was a number out of balance with the cosmos. The Babylonians were great astrologers and astronomers. It is said there is a planet and a complementary astrology sign between Sagittarius and Capricorn and that made the astrological horoscope having 13 houses. Since 12 was considered the perfect number and 13 was putting the cosmos out of balance, this astrological sign was lost forever in time.

Another theory is that 13 became a number, which was associated with the woman’s menstrual and lunar cycle, and when patriarchal religions replaced the older goddess religions the number 12 was considered completion and the number 13 was vilified.

The ancient Egyptians had a twelve stage system representing life and a 13 stage system representing afterlife or beyond death.
It is possible that over the years the ancient Egyptian systems was misinterpreted to mean that the 13 stages of afterlife were related to death thus causing the fear of death associated with the number 13.


Norse (Viking) mythology

The origins of the fear of Friday the 13th were steeped in Norse mythology. The prankster God Loki was not invited to the table of the gods. There were already 12 gods at the banquet in Valhalla and Loki would have made 13. When he found out he convinced the blind God Hod to kill another God by the name of Balder and that put a damper on the festive occasion.

Others say legends about Fridays, the number 13, and Friday the 13th goes back to bible tales.

· It was supposedly a Friday when Eve tempted Adam with the apple.
· It is also believed that the Great Flood happened on a Friday.
· There were 13 disciples present at the last supper and the 13th was Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.
· Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
· God punished the builders of the Tower of Babel on Friday by making them speak different languages so that they would not understand each other.

Execution day in ancient Rome and hangman’s day in Britain was on a Friday.

The witches’ Sabbath was said to be on Fridays, (odd though because the Jewish Sabbath begins on the Friday as well and that is okay).

The Demise of the Knights Templar

This high order of knights who fought the crusades were raided and arrested on Friday October 13, 1307.

The legends or fears continue today and are acted out in some pretty strange ways.

Many large office buildings do not include a 13th floor and many apartments do not have an apartment number 13.

Crazy legends

If you change your bedding on the 13th you will have bad dreams. If you cut your nails on the 13th you will bring sorrow.

The legend of the H.M.S. Friday was said to have happened over one hundred years ago . The H.M.S Friday was a ship intentionally commissioned, by the British government to make her maiden voyage on Friday to dispel the myths that sailing on Friday was bad luck. She set sail and was never seen again.


We have gone through the origins of the fear of Friday the 13th but how is this fear recognized as a phobia?


A phobia is an extremely intense and irrational fear of a person, place, or thing that has no basis in reality and the fear of Friday the 13th is no exception. It is estimated that 25 million American suffer from this fear and will change their habits and practices on Friday the 13th to avoid the harm they believe comes along with this infamous day.

What is the cost of this phobia?

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina, this phobia costs Americans 800 million dollars each day from lost of work and other behaviors associated with the fear of Friday the 13th. Americans will stop going to the mall, take airplane trips, go to work or church or grocery shopping on Friday 13th. They may even be afraid of driving their cars and taking public transportation.

In contrast according to Finnish researchers for The Center for Insurance Statistics, Friday the 13th is safer than any other Friday in the year because there is less traffic on the streets. They claim that there are less fires and thefts on days, which have some kind of superstition attached to them.

Will something bad happen because we believe something bad will happen on Friday the 13th?

Researchers have done several studies to see if the psychological fear that something bad will happen will lead to an actual misfortune happening.

In 2002, a Finnish research team found that 63 percent of women actually died on Friday the 13th as compared to any other Friday. They concluded that the fear that something bad will happen causes worry and anxiety leading to dire consequences and thus creating something bad happen.

The British Medical Journal also published a research article on hospitalizations occurring from traffic accidents on Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th and found that the hospitalizations were up by 53 percent on 13th. They recommended that people having this fear stay home on Friday the 13th.

On the other hand, Professor David Philips of the University of California did not find any significance in deaths occurring on Friday the 13th, but he did find a significant difference in deaths occurring the 4th of the month within the Japanese and Chinese population. These two groups find the number 4 unlucky.

He found 27 percent more deaths from cardiac arrest among Asians on the 4th of the month, in California, where there is a high Asian population. There were 13 percent more deaths across the United States. The word 4 sounds like the word death in the Cantonese dialect.

Of course other researchers disagree. It has longed been known that people tend to find what they are looking for. It becomes a form of tunnel vision. When a person is looking for something bad to happen because it is Friday the 13th they will find it. Some of the very things they find bad are things that can happen on any other day of the year, or things they would not normally consider bad at all.

For example, I have very poor spatial awareness; I don’t have a sense of where I am when I am in a strange place. I don’t really know north from south, east, or west when put in the middle of nowhere. If I am familiar with the area than I have a handle of where I am, but if I don’t I am lost. I took the bus to school for the very first time on my own on a Friday the13th and I took the bus going into the wrong direction. Was it because it was Friday the 13th that it happened? Of course not! I could have done the very same thing on any other day of the year.

If we stub our toe on Friday the 13th, could it not have been something we would have done on any other day? Of course it could have, and most likely we would yelp or mumble a few choice words, but we would not have said ah ha its Thursday the 28th that is why I stubbed my toe.


The fear of Friday the 13th is steeped in superstition from an earlier time period. There is no real basis to prove that anything bad will happen on the day that would not have happened on any other day. It is just pure coincidence, or it is something you are looking for to happen and because you are looking, you are sure to find.

All photos are taken from the public domain

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Friday 13Th, Phobia, Phobias And Friday 13Th, Superstition Friday 13, Superstitions, The Fear Of Friday The 13Th

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Feb 2015 (#)

Being a son of the 13th day - I of course will always kick back and say that when the thirteenth day falleth on the Friday then that day shall be full of joy.

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author avatar Carol Roach
26th Feb 2015 (#)


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author avatar pohtiongho
26th Feb 2015 (#)

Carol: It is indeed very sad that people are so easily deceived, just like those who believe their god wants them to cut the throats of the non-believers.

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author avatar ladybird
3rd Mar 2015 (#)

Nice post, but superstition is part of life

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author avatar Carol Roach
3rd Mar 2015 (#)

not part of everyone's life

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