Friday the 13th is infamous for its superstitions, bad omens, phobias, and for being perhaps the unluckiest date in the Gregorian calendar. When the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday, millions of people suddenly become wary of misfortune, or worse, fear to suffer a frightful fate.
Here are 3 Fast Facts you might not know about Friday the 13th.
1. Fear of Friday the 13th Is a Real Phobia Affecting Millions and Businesses
The fear of Friday the 13th has not one but two scientific names: friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia, according to TimeAndDate.com. The phobia afflicts over 60 million people worldwide, and as many as 21 million people in the United States, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C. They estimate that $800 million to $900 million is lost by domestic businesses every Friday the 13th.
For frequent fliers, the drop in airline ticket sales makes Friday the 13th one of the cheapest days of the year to fly, according to the Huffington Post. This is great for travelers, so long as they’re not friggatriskaidekaphobic! But if they are, the Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Center in Philadephia hosts parties to help participants cure themselves of superstitions and common phobias in an entertaining way.
Etymologically, friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia are equally fascinating. Frigg is the Norse goddess of wisdom for whom Friday is named after, and Paraskevi is the Greek word for Friday. Triskaideka and dekatria are both Greek words for 13, and phobia means fear.
Triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13, is a far more common phobia that is woven into the superstitions of cultures around the world. Horror novelist Stephen King considers himself to be a triskaidekaphobic. Hotels and tall buildings tend to skip the 13th floor and hospitals often omit a 13th room, and being the 13th guest at the dinner table is considered bad luck.
2. The Date Inspired a Lucky Horror Film Franchise
A rare exception to the unlucky curse seems to be at the box office. A little independent horror film titled Friday the 13th, made on a meager production budget of $550,000, released on May 9, 1980 and went on to gross $39.7 million domestically. Calculating for inflation, in 2017 that would have been a $1.5 million production budget, and $178 million earned at the box office.
A Long Night at Camp Blood was the film’s original working title, but producer and director Sean Cunningham wanted to capitalize on the public’s frightful fixation on the ominous date. It went on to spawn a successful 12-film horror franchise that has grossed over $464 million, starring the hockey mask-wearing undead murder-machine known as Jason.
A 13th film was planned for release on Friday, October 13th of this year, but production was cancelled back in February, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps Jason’s luck finally ran out.
3. A Fearless Society Founded Around Friday the 13th
In 1881, U.S. Army captain and friggatriskaidekaphile William Fowler founded the Thirteen Club - a group of 13 men in Manhattan devoted to dispelling superstitions associated with Friday the 13th. They walked under ladders, broke mirrors, and dined in groups of 13 in a 13th room. The Paris Review explains their purpose:
The Thirteen Club’s existence was always more important than its specifics: it had been established as a blow against superstition, friggatriskaidekaphobia, and the prevailing prejudice that’s existed toward Friday the thirteenth since (depending on who you ask) the Last Supper or a certain fateful dinner in Valhalla.
They maintained a strict membership of 13 whenever they convened, which would only happen on Friday the 13th. Their exploits were published in the local newspapers, and over the years the club’s alumni has grown to include five former U.S. presidents as honorary members - Theodore Roosevelt being one of them.
Happy Friday the 13th - may you survive the day without misfortune!
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