Similar to avoiding walking under a ladder, avoiding black cats, or fearing a broken mirror, many are convinced that Friday the 13th is a harbinger of bad luck. While the origins of this specific belief remain hazy, the unease surrounding the number 13 has persisted for ages.
In contrast, the West has traditionally linked the number 12 with wholeness — consider the 12 days of Christmas, 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 Herculean tasks, 12 Olympian deities, and the 12 tribes of Israel as just a handful of examples. However, 13, the number that follows, has been consistently seen as a symbol of bad luck.
A case in point is the ancient Code of Hammurabi, which is believed to have skipped its 13th legal provision. While this might have been a mere oversight, those prone to superstition view it as evidence of the number’s age-old inauspicious reputation.
Such is the trepidation around the number 13 that it even has a clinical name: triskaidekaphobia.
Why is Friday the 13th unlucky?
As per Christian scriptures, the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday was attended by 13 individuals: Jesus and his 12 disciples, with Judas notably betraying him later. The day that followed was Good Friday, marking Jesus’ crucifixion.
This configuration at the Last Supper has led many to believe in a Christian myth suggesting that a gathering of 13 at a dining table invites misfortune, even potentially beckoning death.
Is there any evidence to support Friday the 13th being unlucky?
In 1993, a study in the British Medical Journal indicated a notable rise in incidents on Friday 13th. However, the study’s author later admitted it was conducted in jest, customary for the journal’s Christmas edition.
There are, nonetheless, tales that reinforce the day’s unlucky reputation. For instance, in 1976, Daz Baxter from New York was so apprehensive about Friday the 13th that he chose to remain in bed. Tragically, his apartment building’s floor gave way that very day, causing his demise.
Meanwhile, in 2009, Thorpe Park launched its £13.5 million SAW ride on a Friday 13th, only for it to be temporarily closed due to a software glitch.
In a striking coincidence in 2010, a 13-year-old boy from Suffolk was hit by lightning on Friday the 13th, precisely at 13:13.
Pop culture and Friday the 13th
A pivotal moment in the chronicle of the Friday the 13th superstition, distinct from the general lore surrounding the number 13, came in 1907 with the release of the novel “Friday, the Thirteenth” by Thomas William Lawson.
This narrative revolves around a New York City stockbroker who exploits the date’s superstitions to sow mayhem on Wall Street and reap massive profits.
Fast forward to 1980, the horror film “Friday the 13th” thrust into popular culture a hockey mask-clad murderer named Jason, becoming arguably the most iconic representation of this superstition in the entertainment sphere. This movie set off a series of follow-ups, alongside comic books, short stories, video games, a range of merchandise, and innumerable spine-chilling Halloween outfits.
How often does Friday the 13th happen?
Annually, we experience Friday the 13th at least once, and at most three times. 2022 had it marked on the calendar only once.
Come 2023, the eerie date makes its appearance twice, in January and October.
Chilling, indeed. Yet, for the majority of Brits, Friday the 13th remains just another day on the calendar. Do we really have bad luck on Friday the 13th? Hmmm… The jury is still out.
Looking for spooky films this Friday the 13th?
If you’re having an evening in this Friday 13th, and you’re looking for some spooky films to keep you entertained, look no further than the obvious: The Friday the 13th series.
Here’s the lowdown on each.
Friday the 13th (1980)
While occasionally adhering to the typical slasher cliché, the 1980 original Friday the 13th can be credited with defining the campy slasher genre. With a cast that includes Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, and Kevin Bacon, the movie tracks a group of teenage counsellors at the recently reestablished Camp Crystal Lake. There, they swiftly delve into the camp’s ominous history as they become prey to a mysterious assailant.
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Featuring Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Walt Gorney, Amy Steel, and John Furey, “Friday the 13th Part 2” closely follows the narrative of its predecessor. Yet, it introduces the notorious villain Jason Voorhees, who eventually becomes the centrepiece of the series.
Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Picking up directly after the events of Part 2, “Friday the 13th Part III” introduces a fresh set of teenagers journeying into the realms of Camp Crystal Lake. Regrettably, they decide to stay in the very house where Jason Voorhees is hiding.
A commercial success, Part III undoubtedly propelled the franchise forward and marked the first appearance of Jason’s now-iconic hockey mask.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Despite its name suggesting a conclusion, “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” is far from the series’ end, as evidenced by the eight sequels that followed. In a signature twist of the enduring franchise, the movie starts with Jason escaping a hospital morgue, initiating another round of chaos at Crystal Lake.
While the production team initially approached the film as the series’ potential swan song, it instead paved the way for a fresh narrative arc, introducing Jason’s adversary, Tommy Jarvis.
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Despite its hopeful title, “A New Beginning” is often regarded by fans as a less stellar instalment in the Friday 13th series. Venturing into uncharted territory by excluding Jason, the movie brings back Tommy Jarvis. He grapples with the haunting memories of his past run-ins with Jason while confronting a new faceless menace on the prowl.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
In what marks Tommy Jarvis’s last appearance, “Jason Lives” showcases a climactic confrontation between Tommy and Jason, after an inadvertent resurrection. By its sixth instalment, the franchise had firmly established its standing, and “Jason Lives” adeptly capitalizes on this legacy, cementing its place in the series.
Additionally, the transformation of Jason into an undying entity provides a convenient rationale for his enduring escapades.
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
For those residing near Crystal Lake, such blunders often involve inadvertently bringing Jason Voorhees back to life. In this instalment, a young girl with psychokinetic abilities unintentionally awakens Jason from the depths of Crystal Lake. As Collider mentioned, the movie was touted as “Jason vs. Carrie.” If that concept piques your interest, you’re in for an engaging ride.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Though the title might evoke vibes of a jovial adventure similar to “Muppets Takes Manhattan,” “Jason Takes Manhattan” actually portrays the famed antagonist wreaking havoc in New York City. Predictably, the narrative begins with an unwitting individual reviving Jason from Crystal Lake’s depths.
He then finds his way onto a ship filled with high schoolers headed to NYC, pursuing the teenage survivors within the city’s confines. Despite being the lowest-grossing instalment in the series thus far, its unique backdrop offers a refreshing twist, especially if you’re watching it as part of a series binge.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
After his NYC escapade, Jason is on a direct route to the inferno. However, he takes a brief detour back to his familiar haunts in Crystal Lake. Interestingly, he meets his demise early in the film. Yet, in an unforeseen twist, he’s inadvertently brought back to life! This revival is attributed to a coroner who, in a bizarre turn, consumes Jason’s pulsating heart, leading to possession.
The narrative takes a dive into deeper supernatural realms, revealing that only a blood relative can truly end Jason’s reign of terror. But there’s a catch: Jason can possess those very relatives. The movie concludes with a nostalgic ’80s teaser: Freddy Krueger’s iconic glove snatching Jason’s mask.
Still hungry for more? If you fancy another dose of bad luck this Friday 13th… Get a load of even more Friday 13th movies:
- Jason X (2002)
- Freddy vs Jason (2003)
- Friday the 13th (2009)