The Myth of Friday 13th

Today I noticed that my morning train was less busy than usual and there were fewer cars on the road. It wasn’t until I reached our local social club this evening and saw barmaids dressed in Halloween costumes that I realised the reasons why. The notion that Friday 13th is unlucky has spawned a horror franchise comprising twelve films and a television show whilst also persuading otherwise rational individuals to avoid travel and other activities. It is not an old belief. The first known reference in English is in 1869, in a biography of the Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini who died on Friday 13th November 1868. We next hear of it in a 1907 novel called Friday the Thirteenth by Thomas William Lawson. Both books are largely forgotten today but the superstition they reference has survived.

Originally two different facts arising from the first Easter were separate. There were thirteen seated at the Last Supper and Friday, the following day, Jesus was crucified. History does not give a valid reason for making Friday 13th a bad omen. In some cultures, Friday 17th is considered unlucky and, in others, Tuesday 13th. The worst things to happen in the West on Friday 13th were an order to assassinate the Knights Templar and the bombing of Buckingham Palace. Given our violent past this is unremarkable.

It presents another example of how we prefer to draw our inspiration from fiction instead of reality.

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