Today is Friday the 13th this week. For many people, this means an attack of paraskevidekatriaphobia or a fear of Friday the thirteenth. Paraskevidekatriaphobia is derived from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).
The origins of this fear are are not well known, but several theories exist. One claim is that it originates from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, known to Christians as Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.
Other theories abound as well.
Some historians have claimed it was the day on which Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, the great flood began, and the building of the Tower of Babel. Documentation of the date of the events is difficult to find, however.
On Friday, 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar and almost wiped out the order. In his novel The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown cites the 14th century execution of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, which took place on Friday the 13th. He cursed the Pope and the King of France, and this spread misfortune down the ages.
A popular 1907 novel, Friday the Thirteenth, Thomas W. Lawson described an unscrupulous broker taking advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt did fear several things, including fear itself. He refused to travel on Friday the 13th. In fact, he barely escaped the day in death. Franklin D. Roosevelt died on Thursday, April 12, 1945.
Dr. Caroline Watt of the University of Edinburgh says that it is the belief in the Friday 13th superstition that could, in fact, prove the greatest risk to the average person:
“If people believe in the superstition of Friday the 13th then they believe they are in greater danger on that day. As a result they may be more anxious and distracted and this could lead to accidents. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
“It is like telling someone they are cursed. If they believe they are then they will worry, their blood pressure will go up and they put themselves at risk.”
Perhaps the safest thing to do is to stay in bed on this week’s Friday the thirteenth. Of course, that didn’t work for New Yorker Daz Baxter who was apparently afraid of Friday the 13th. He decided the safest place to stay was in his bed. However, Mr. Baxter was killed when the floor of his apartment block collapsed and he fell six stories to his death on Friday the 13th, 1976.
If you are superstitious, you might want to be careful on Friday the 13th. However, I would not suggest remaining in bed. That didn’t work too well for Daz Baxter !