Triskaidekaphobic? Don't walk under a ladder this Friday

As the first of 2012's three Friday 13ths looms, The IoS sorts fact from fiction linked to the date

Some people will refuse to leave their homes; a few will not even venture out of bed. They are among the millions of people who believe Friday the 13th is unlucky. As many as one in four are believed to subscribe to the superstition, according to research.

If you are one of them, 2012 may not be your year. There will be three Friday the 13ths: this coming Friday, then two more in April and July. To mark the occasion, The Independent on Sunday has investigated the superstitions, events and strange happenings associated with the date. There are 13 of them, so look away now if you are triskaidekaphobic (afraid of the number 13).

1. The fear of Friday the 13th is known by one of two names: paraskevidekatriaphobia (stemming from the Greek words for Friday, 13 and fear), or friggatriskaidekaphobia (Friday derives its name from the Norse goddess Frigga and triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13).

2. Friday 13 August 2010 proved particularly unlucky for a 13-year-old boy who was struck by lightning at Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival in Suffolk. To add to the strangeness, the time when St John Ambulance volunteers treated him was 13.13. Luckily, he suffered only a minor burn.

3. When an aircraft crashed in the Andes on Friday 13 October 1972, survivors had to resort to cannibalism, eating the dead passengers to survive before being rescued more than two months later.

4. The heavy metal band Black Sabbath released their eponymous debut album on Friday 13 February 1970.

5. An article, "Is Friday 13th bad for your health?", published in the British Medical Journal in 1993 concluded the date was unlucky for some and that it might be safer to stay at home. The authors found "the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 per cent".

6. Research in 2003 suggested people who thought they were unlucky were more likely to believe in superstitions linked to bad luck which could, in turn, actually lead to bad luck. Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, said Friday the 13th could make some people anxious and therefore more accident-prone.

7. Nevertheless, every Friday 13th, motorbike enthusiasts gather in Port Dover in Ontario, Canada, to celebrate. The tradition, said to have started in 1981 with about 25 friends, is now enjoyed by thousands of bikers and visitors.

8. A virus programmed to delete files struck IBM computers across Britain on Friday 13 January 1989.

9. Tube trains were cleared out of the path of a runaway engineering train, which went through six stations during a 13-minute journey on London's Underground, on Friday 13 August last year. The unmanned train, which had become uncoupled when being towed, ran for nearly four miles on the Northern Line.

10. American rapper Tupac Shakur died on Friday 13 September 1996 after being shot six days earlier.

11. Friday 13 May 1927 became known as Black Friday after the stock market in Berlin collapsed.

12. There are many proposed origins of the Friday the 13th superstition, including some linked to the Bible. One theory is based on an amalgamation of two ideas: 13 is unlucky because there were 13 diners at the Last Supper and Friday is unlucky because it is the day when Jesus was crucified.

13. More than 60 million people worldwide are reported to suffer from fear of Friday the 13th. Dr Donald Dossey, of the Stress Management Center/Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, estimates this costs as much as $900m to the US alone.

Additional research by Omar Shahid and Nicholas Butler

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence