It’s Friday the 13th

It seems appropriate today to talk about the Friday the 13th phenomenon. While not necessarily in the “paranormal” sphere, it certainly is an event that causes people to alter behaviors to avoid befalling an “unlucky” fate. Welcome to the supposedly unluckiest day ever, folks! Here’s some educational background on the date (for anyone who is curious).

Today marks the third time this year the 13th has fallen on a Friday. That’s the most possible in a year, and something that happens just once every 11 years or so.Fear of the 13th is called — are you ready for this? –paraskavedekatriaphobia. It prompts millions of people to avoid travel, surgery and important business. Henry Ford, Napoleon and FDR had it, the Associated Press says.

“FDR would not depart on a (train) trip on the 13th,” said Thomas Fernsler, a University of Delaware mathematician who has studied the number enough to earn the moniker “Dr. 13.” The former president would order the train to leave the station before midnight on the 12th or after midnight on the morning of the 14th.

The phobia around the 13th is a cousin to triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. The supposedly unlucky number, triskaidekaphobes say, is the reason behind the explosion of Apollo 13, which took off at exactly 1:13 p.m. (1313 military time) on 4/11/70 (digits that add up to 13).

The origin of these phobias? No one knows for sure. Some trace it to Jesus, who was crucified on a Friday after a Last Supper attended by 13 people. Or to Norse mythology when the mischievous Loki crashed a party of 12 gods at Valhalla. Or maybe it’s just because it comes after 12 — a good number. Think 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus.

Belief that a specific date can result in bad events is somewhat paranormally related. And think about what a strong hold the number 13 has on our society – how many multi-story buildings skip the 13th floor? Calling the “13th floor” the “14th floor” doesn’t change the fact it is, numerically, the 13th floor of the building. But I have rarely seen elevator buttons that don’t skip from 12 to 14. Overall, these behavioral modifications show that belief in something intangible and unproven can be strong – and what is more intangible and unproven than the entire paranormal field?

Have a lucky day, everyone.

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