Friday the 13th, few can surmise why, but a quick look through superstition guides, movie and book titles and stories that all children know, tells us we should be afraid of something. Friday the 13th could come in the middle of summer on the prettiest day possible, but something just feels like fall, lite autumn came early and a storm is on the horizon. But if everyone knows that Friday the 13th is a bad day, and 13 a bad number then why can’t any seem to come to a conclusion over where the idea originates?
There are many historic and rrban legends that come to mind when we think of why people fear the number 13. Here are three such tales which are widely accepted as true, but simply come up short:
1. There are 13 steps to a hanging platform.
2. The Guillotine fell 13 feet.
3. The H.M.S. Friday, commissioned and launched on the 13th was never seen again.
A quick search through any search engine the Internet will give lists of many such other instances, but like so many great stories, people take too much at face value. For one, the Guillotine fell between 14 and 15 feet and not all were built to the exact same specifications, other than to insist that they be level to prevent jamming. Secondly, gallows also were not all built the same and when referring to the most famous of the hangman homes, Fort Smith, the gallows had twelve steps, not thirteen.
As for the tale of a ship commissioned on the 13th, named in spite of and designed by a man named Friday and launched on the unluckiest day of all never being heard from again, it’s all a bit of legend meant to inspire and carry on a worn out tradition.
However, the number 13 cannot be completely ruled out as bad number, even if it may not be bad tradition. It is true, that many hotels and other buildings ignore the 13th floor, skipping it entirely and that in many cities there is no 13th street, meaning that at some point in the past, people became phobic of the number 13.
Egyptians: There were twelve steps of life and 13 in death. However, the 13 in death were actually a growing experience, and may have gained a bad omen from the destruction of the empire and a lack of understanding.
Nordic Traditions: Often, the stories for the 13th God in the pantheon of deities meant an unpleasant end.
France: Nobles employed a fourteenth man to be at the dinner when only 13 had been invited, perhaps more for even numbers and conversation, but the slightly flawed logic still seduces many and there is little proof to say otherwise.
Knights Templar: Jacques DeMolay and many other members of the famed order were captured, imprisoned and tortured on Friday the 13th 1302 under the orders of Frank the Fair and with the permission and encouragement of the Pope.
Bible: Jesus and the Disciples made for 13 at the last supper.
Witches: A perfect coven is composed of 13 witches.
So, is it enough to build a legend around? Modern fascination would tell us the answer is a resounding yes; although, there isn’t much else to go on, and those interested in investigating the origins of the fear around the number 13 would do well to double check all of their facts against truly reliable sources. Until then, we will all just have to admit that a little bit of fear and superstition, while serving little purpose, happens to be a whole lot of fun.