It’s Friday 13th! Are you cowering under your duvet in fear with the lights off or have you decided to brave the forces of the universe and head into work? Did you perhaps avoid booking a flight because it fell on this unlucky day? Or turn down a medical procedure?
Friday 13th has become shorthand for bad luck, although no-one really quite knows why. You’d be forgiven for thinking it has something to do with the incredibly successful movie franchise of the same name, but the origins of the day are thought to have religious origins. Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and there were 13 people at the Last Supper - with Judas being the 13th person seated at the table. Numerology fans have long believed in the number’s unsettling power.
To celebrate, here are some fun and freaky facts about the most superstitious day of the year.
1. The Statistics
All calendar years have at least one Friday 13th, but can have no more than three. The longest time it is possible to go without seeing a Friday 13th is 14 months.
And for a month to have a Friday 13th, it has to begin on a Sunday.
2. More Numbers
There is a calendar-based method to the famed madness of Friday the 13th. Whenever a common year begins on a Thursday, the months of February, March, and November will have a Friday the 13th. This will happen 11 times in the 21st century.
The February-March-November pattern repeats in a 28-year cycle. In the 21st century, the cycle began in 2009. In 2015, six years later, Friday the 13th occurred in February, March, and November. This won’t happen for 11 more years until 2026 and we’ll have to wait again for 11 years until 2037 to see the February, March, and November trilogy.
This pattern will repeat itself starting 2043, six years after 2037.
Three Friday the 13ths can occur in a leap year as well. If 1 January of a leap year falls on a Sunday, the months of January, April, and July will each have a Friday the 13th.
In the 20th century, this happened in 1928, 1956, and 1984. And in the 21st century this will happen four times in 2012, 2040, 2068, and 2096. There’s that 28-year cycle again!
3. Fear of 13
The scientific name for a fear of Friday 13th is ‘friggatriskaidekaphobia’ - the name comes from Frigg, the Norse goddess of wisdom after whom Friday is named, and the Greek words triskaideka, meaning 13, and phobia, meaning fear.
The fear is thought to be related to a general fear of the number 13 - Triskaidekaphobia - the fear that has led to high-rise buildings, hotels and hospitals skipping the 13th floor, and for airports to skipping a 13th gate.
4. Cradle to the Grave
Celebrities born on Friday the 13th include Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Steve Buscemi, Samuel Beckett and Fidel Castro.
Tupac Shakur died on Friday, September 13, 1996.
5. Taylor Swift
Further fueling suspicion that she is The Antichrist, Taylor Swift has said thinks of 13 as her lucky number. Speaking to MTV in 2009, she revealed the following damning evidence: “I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first #1 song had a 13-second intro”. Spooky.
6. The Sabbath
Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album on Friday 13th February 1970. It went on to reach number 8 on the UK album charts and is widely regarded as the first heavy metal album, so the day clearly wasn’t a bad omen for them.
7. Something Bad
On Friday 13 October 1972, a plane carrying 45 Uruguayan rugby players crashed into the Chilean mountains. Only 27 of the original 45 passengers survived and without supplies, the survivors had to eat their dead teammates. A few weeks later, an avalanche killed eight more. The 16 remaining survivors were not rescued until the end of December. The 1993 film Alive was based on the true story.
8. Something Good
In Ontario, Canada, there is a Friday the 13th Motorcycle Rally held every time the day comes around. It’s been going since 1981 and the typical summer attendance exceeds 100,000 bikers.
9. Safety First
Since 1995, Finland has dedicated one Friday the 13th in a year to observe National Accident Day. The day aims to raise awareness about safety – on the roads, at home, and at the workplace.
10. Everybody goes to Hollywood
The Hollywood sign went up on Friday 13th July 1923. The sign was meant to be an advertising hoarding for the Real Estate industry in Los Angeles and originally spelled HOLLYWOODLAND - the last four letters were removed in 1945
11. Unlucky Strike
On Friday 13th August 2010, the day lived up to its reputation for one teenager from Suffolk: the 13 year old was struck by lightning at exactly 13:13 whilst watching a display of the Red Arrows during a storm. Luckily, he only suffered a minor burn.
12. Tuesday 13th?
Friday the 13th is not a universal day of misery - in some Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is feared, due to the day’s association with the Roman god of war, Mars. In Italy, the number 13 is considered to be lucky, and it is Friday the 17th that is considered to be the day that brings bad luck.
13. Near Miss
On Friday, April the 13th, 2029 a large asteroid will fly close enough to the Earth to be visible without a telescope in Africa, Europe and Asia, according to NASA. When it was first discovered in 2004, it was thought to have a small chance of colliding with Earth. But you can rest easy because since then, scientists have revised their findings which show that there is absolutely no risk of the asteroid impacting the Earth or the Moon.