Fascinating fun facts and fallacies about Friday the 13th

On top of everything South Africans have recently been going through and yesterday’s full moon, today is Friday the 13th. Here are 12 (not 13) facts to help you make up your mind about getting out of bed.


Unlucky Friday 13 is mostly a Western thing on the Gregorian calendar. Both the day Friday and the number 13 are considered unlucky, but there is no evidence of the two together being unlucky before the 19th century.

1. More than 20 million people in the U.S. affected

According to the Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by an irrational fear of this day. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines, doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.

2. Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví for Friday and dekatreís for thirteen. Ja, ja there is a kat in dekatreis, but that’s no reason to panic. The ancient Greeks couldn’t speak Afrikaans.

3. Black cats

Black cats have nothing to do with Friday the 13th or any so called evil for that matter. However, since the Middle Ages they have been associated with witches and witchcraft – myths that have been perpetuated by Hollywood. Major celebrities like Norman Reedus, Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigit Bardot, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta have all had black cats.

4. The Last Supper

Judas, the apostle believed to have betrayed Jesus, is believed to be the 13th guest at the Last Supper. But according to the Gnostic lost Gospel of Judas, Jesus asked Judas to betray him. The Gospel of Judas contains conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot.

5. Thirteen comes after twelve

Thomas Fernsler an associate policy scientist at the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Centre at the University of Delaware says the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12. Twelve is considered a complete number – 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labours of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus – whereas 13 is not. But were there 12 or 13 apostles?

6. Panic on Wall Street on Friday the 13th and a 1907 novel

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to the superstitious fear of the day spreading. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

7. The Knights Templar

A suggested origin of the superstition is that Friday, 13 October 1307, was the date on which Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of Knights Templar, who he had tortured into giving false confessions, and then burned at the stake. This date is mentioned in Maurice Druon’s 1955 historical novel The Iron King; in John J. Robinson’s 1989 Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry; in Dan Brown’s 2003 best seller The Da Vinci Code, and in Steve Berry’s 2006 The Templar Legacy.

8. Automotive safety awareness in Finland

In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, promotes National Accident Day (kansallinen tapaturmapäivä) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th. The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995.

9. Traffic incidences in the UK

A study in the British Medical Journal concluded that there “is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK”.

10. Skipping 13

The fear of the number 13 is so common that many buildings around the world skip the thirteenth floor, with the numbers going straight from twelve to fourteen.

11. Twice in 2019 – 13 weeks after the previous one

Friday, 13 December 2019, gives us the second Friday the 13th of this year, 13 weeks after the previous Friday the 13th in September. Friday the 13th occurs at least once every year, but it can occur up to three times in the same year. There were two in 2018, two in 2019 and there will be two in 2020, but in 2021 and 2022, there will only be one per year.

12. Of course it’s irrational

For many people, superstitions are based more on cultural habit than conscious belief. If you are surrounded by certain beliefs and superstitions they are probably going to affect you in some way or another whether tongue in cheek or for real.