Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Author: Jonathan Scotten

Triskaidekaphobia (tris·kai·dek·a·pho·bi·a), better known as the fear of the number 13, is a phobia that has caused airlines not to have a thirteenth row, tall buildings not to have a thirteenth floor, and people to never have a party with only thirteen guests. Why are people so worried about a simple little number? The answer, as best as I can find, is that no one really knows. There are several theories, and ideas as to where this fear started; Norse mythology, Christianity, and other historical places.
             The fear of the number thirteen may have started in Norse mythology. At one point in Norse mythology twelve gods came together for a feast, and Loki, the god of evil, arrived uninvited, making thirteen guests. Loki then orchestrated the murder of the god of light, starting the tradition that if thirteen people sit down to dinner one will die within a year. In France people would often hire themselves out to be fourteenth members of a dinner party, they were called “quatorziens” or “fourteeners” President Franklin Roosevelt would often invite his secretary to dinner parties, if only thirteen guests would be there.
            Other people say that the fear of the number thirteen started in Christian history. At the last supper there were thirteen dinner guests, Jesus and his twelve disciples, after the dinner Jesus was betrayed. In some pagan religions the number thirteen is actually considered to mean good luck, and another possible starting point for the idea that 13 is unlucky,  is that the Pope declared the number thirteen unlucky to discourage paganism. However, the number thirteen is not considered all bad in Christianity. The thirteen Attributes of God, found in Exodus 34: 6-7, have to be labeled a good thing because God is good.
            The number thirteen by itself is considered bad, but it gets worse when a “Friday” comes before it in a sentence. Friday the thirteenth is considered to be the unluckiest day of the year. According to Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, every Friday the thirteenth, $800 to $900 million dollars are lost in business, because people don’t fly or make business transactions, because of this it has been nicknamed the Billion Dollar Phobia. This tradition is rumored to have begun in medieval France. It was suggested, in the book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry by John J. Robinson that on October 13, 1307, a Friday, King Philip IV of France ordered the mass arrest of the Knights of the Templar. Before becoming king, Philip attempted to become a member of the Knights, but was turned down. So in 1307 He ordered their arrest, and that they all be charged with heresy. Those who denied any heresy were tortured until they admitted to it, and were then put to death. Friday the thirteenth normally happens around twice a year in our calendar, but for everyone who thinks the world is ending in 2012; this is a fact that is interesting. In 2012 Friday the thirteenth has occurred 3 times, each thirteen weeks apart. If thirteen is unlucky, and Friday the thirteenths are bad, then when three Friday the thirteenths happen thirteen weeks apart, something bad might happen.
            The fear of the number thirteen has many possible origins, including: Norse mythology, Christian history, and medieval history. No one is completely sure where it started, but Triskaidekaphobia is a real thing, and whether it is unlucky or not, the number 13 is a number people will talk about for a long time.

Works Cited:
Adams, Cecil. “Why is 13 unlucky.” The Straight Dope, 6 Nov. 1992. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.  

Fritscher, Lisa. “Triskaidekaphobia Fear of the Number 13.”, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.

Roach, John. “Friday the 13th: Why We Fear It; Why It Can't Strike Again in 2012.”, 22Oct. 2012. Web. 24 July 2012.

Robinson, John J. “Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry” New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc.,  1989. Print.

Unknown. “Unlucky number?  The story behind dreadful 13 (and 12 other superstitions).” Today.msnbc, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 22 Oct 2012.

Fergerson, Alex. “Unlucky 13.” Photograph. 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2011    

Links for further research:
Friday the 13th: Why We Fear It; Why It Can't Strike Again in 2012
This was a really helpful article, from National Geographic.

Unlucky number?  The story behind dreadful 13 (and 12 other superstitions)
This article was posted by the news program Today so it should be very reliable.

Triskaidekaphobia Fear of the Number 13
This site will tell you a lot about triskaidekaphobia, and was really helpful.