Ah, Friday the 13th. That old harbinger of bad luck, that ill-fated day of dread is back — and so perfectly placed, right smack-dab in the middle of October! Could there be a more appropriate month for it? Methinks not.
What is it about Friday the 13th that continues to stir up fears of misfortune and feelings of unease? The rational mind knows that there is no way a specific day or number can really claim powers of cause-and-effect over our daily lives. And yet, this specific day has managed to keep hold of our collective nerves for generations, inspiring secret societies, literary works, and an entire franchise of horror movies.
There are even two absurdly long words to describe the fear people feel for this unlucky day: paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia. That’s right, people have such negative feelings about Friday the 13th that the English language developed not just one, but two words to describe those feelings. Two words I don’t think I could pronounce properly even if you paid me.
As with most superstitious beliefs, the origin story on this one is a bit muddied. Sure, there are theories — there are always theories — but nothing is really clear. And really, if we haven’t been able to pinpoint it after several hundred years of postulating, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion this might be an agree-to-disagree scenario.
Some say the fear of the 13th first appeared in the Middle Ages and may have Biblical origins — in the New Testament there were 13 people present at the last supper, and that 13th person just so happened to be Judas, the man who would go on to betray Jesus. Others say our superstitious beliefs about the day began in the 14th century, when King Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar on, when else, Friday the 13th, 1307.
Chances are we are never going to get to the centre of that Tootsie Pop, but at this point, does that really matter? Arbitrary as superstitions like this one may be, they are persistent. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, explains of superstitions, “once they are in the culture, we tend to honor them … You feel like if you are going to ignore it, you are tempting fate.”
Donald Dossey, a folklore historian, told National Geographic that an estimated “$800 or $900 million [U.S.] is lost in business on this day, because people will not fly or do business they normally would do.”
The whole thing is pretty circular, and has been spinning so long that I don’t even know if I would want it to stop. “Unlucky” things happen every single day, but on Friday the 13th, our eyes are wide open; we are looking for the unlucky things to happen. We are waiting for them to happen! So, when a plane crashes or a cyclone hits or Tupac dies and it’s the 13th … well, we knew it. We knew something was going to happen.
Even people who don’t actively believe in the “curse” may find themselves giving into the power of superstition once in awhile. I, for instance, still feel strangely compelled to knock on wood any time I mention the possibility of someone I love getting sick. I don’t think my knocking on wood is going to change that likelihood, but until I do it, I just sit there uncomfortably, thinking to myself, “might as well just do it.” And then I do.
So, take care today. If you’ve got an extra rabbit foot laying around, maybe throw it in your purse or pop it on your keychain. I’m not saying that something is going to happen, but I’m also not saying you’re safe. DUN DUN DUN!
In honor of this, the most unlucky of days, here are some of our most unlucky — at times unsubstantiated — odds for what horrors may, or may not, befall you today.
Odds you get stuck in an elevator: 5/4
Especially in my building. I’m taking the stairs today.
Odds you break a mirror and have seven (more) years of bad luck: 4/1
Think of how many mirrors you pass and/or look at during the day.
Odds your plane gets pulled into the Bermuda Triangle: 9/1
What? You say the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t exist? You don’t think that there is a geographical/meteorological anomaly that has sunk countless ships, and crashed many a plane over the years? Okay. All I’ll say about that is you better not be flying to the Bahamas today.
Odds you learn your entire life has been lived à la The Truman Show and that nothing you know is real: 100/1
I think about this scenario way more than a rational human should.
Odds we learn that Tupac Shakur is alive after all: 100/1
I’m never saying never on this one. Tupac died on Friday, September 13th, 1996, further convincing the world that this is a cruel and cursed day. But, what a fantastic turn around it would be for the 13th if it were to totally redeem itself by giving us back Tupac!
Odds you’re struck by lightning: 82,000,000/1
The odds of being struck by lightning at some point in your lifetime run at about 3,000/1, but that number varies significantly from person to person based on things like lifespan and tendency to sit in large open fields during storms. That being said, it is Friday the 13th. But, it is also only one day out of the roughly 27,375 you’re going to spend on this Earth. You’re going to be okay.
Odds you win the lottery: 14,000,000/1
This is bottom of the list, always. I’m not even going to entertain the idea that it might not be today, because guess what, you’re not going to win the lottery. Especially not on a day touted for bad luck. In fact, just steer clear of anything even resembling gambling. Don’t play cards. Don’t try to sneak through a yellow light. Don’t even walk past the casino. Just stay away.
O/U how many banana peels you step on: 1.5
Has anyone in any this century stepped on a banana peel? Is this something that actually happens to people? I truly have no idea. But I do know that if it is, today is bound to be the day it happens — and it’s going to be hilarious.
Odds Aaron Judge goes hitless in Game 1 of the 2017 ALCS: 7/4
Judge went hitless in just 45 of his 155 regular-season games this year. But he’s a superstitious man, meaning the import of the day could be on his mind every time he steps to the plate. You need laser-focus to hit a Dallas Keuchel sinker.
Odds one of the Chicago Cubs gets injured even though it’s an off-day for the team: 9/1
In theory, the historically downtrodden team bucked the curse of the billy goat last year. But that only means it’s time to start a new curse.
Odds the San Antonio Spurs rest all of their starters out of superstition: 7/2
Gregg Popovich doesn’t need any extra reason to rest his stars, but with the NBA’s new regulations on the matter, he might as well throw every reason at the wall and see if any stick. (Oh shush, I know the regulations don’t apply to pre-season games; we’re having some fun here.)
Odds 76ers center Joel Embiid tears his ACL on a drive to the basket: 50/1
When Sam Hinkie was crafting “The Process,” did he make a fatal miscalculation when he forgot to account for Friday the 13th? The brittle frame of the Sixers’ star may answer that in the affirmative.
Odds the Sacramento Kings fail to score a single first-quarter point against the Warriors: 1000/1
They’re bad, but c’mon, they can score a point in 12 minutes. It’s not like they’re the Bulls.
Featured Image: Black cat (PublicDomainPictures.net [CC License])
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