Friday the 13th is considered the unluckiest day in the calendar, and while many merely denounce it as silly superstition, others dread the date to the point where they will refuse to leave their homes.
But why is this date so notoriously considered unlucky, to the extent that we have even developed a word to recognise a fear of this date – paraskevidekatriaphobia.
If you were looking for a definitive answer, then sadly you will be disappointed. Like many cultural traditions and long-running superstitious beliefs, the exact source is unknown, and is most likely the result of many different factors, strengthened over time by a combination of specific incidents, folklore and religion that have evolved over hundreds of years to create what we now refer to as the unluckiest date in the calendar.
Both the day Friday and the number 13 have long been considered unlucky in their own rights for centuries. Friday, for example, is often considered unlucky by Christians because of its Biblical origins; Eve bit the apple in the Garden of Eden and was thus expelled along with Adam, an event many historians believe occurred on a Friday.
Again, according to the Bible, Jesus was crucified on Friday, commonly known as Good Friday. This theory also encompasses the number 13 too, since the day before, during The Last Supper, Jesus sat down with 13 of his disciples, the 13th of which was Judas, who betrayed Jesus.
Friday is also the day where criminals would be commonly executed in both Britain and Rome, and many dubbed the day Hangman’s Day.
The number 13 on the other hand is considered unlucky by many religions. Hindus believe it is unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place, whilst Scandinavians believe 13 signified bad fortune because the 13th demigod – Loki – was a sign of bad fortune and evil.
Folklore plays a part too. The 13th Tarot card, for example, is the sign of Death. The card itself features an image of the Grim Reaper. Many hotels will avoid having a room number 13 because of the stigma attached to the number.
Perhaps the most compelling theory is that on Friday 13th 1307, Philip IV King of France and the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar. The Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who was later burned at the stake, cursed both the King and Pope with bad fortune. Both died within a year of Molay, leading to the belief that de Molay’s curse would echo throughout time affecting potentially anyone on the day the King’s arrest orders were made, on Friday the 13th.