It may be an unwieldy term, but paraskavedekatriaphobia literally means ‘fear of Friday the 13th’. In Ancient Greek, Paraskave means Friday and dekatria means 13. But what about this specific day that makes everybody so fearful of Friday the 13th?
The number ’13’ has long been harbinger of bad luck – sometimes they’re omitted from multi-storey buildings (the same way the number ‘4’ – a bad luck number in Asia – is omitted) in the West. It’s uncertain when the fear of the number began, but we do know that it has a biblical tradition: 13 guests attended the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles), and one of his apostles betrayed him. And the reason Friday is bad luck could be attributed to the fact that Jesus was crucified on Friday; it was also the day Eve gave Adam the fateful apple.
Modern incarnations of paraskavedekatriaphobia
Friday the 13th has inspired a secret society, a novel, and – most popularly – a horror film franchise that most people today associate the day with.
In the late 19th century, there was a secret society in New York called the Thirteen Club that dined regularly on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage, where they sat down for a 13-course dinner. In 1907, the novel Friday, the Thirteenth, written by Thomas William Lawson, told the story of a New York City stockbroker who plays on superstitions about the date to create chaos on Wall Street, and make a killing on the market.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the horror movie Friday the 13th introduced the world to a hockey mask-wearing killer named Jason. The movie not only spawned multiple sequels, it also gave birth to the now-popular tradition of wearing the terrifying hockey mask on Friday the 13th.
Real life horrors
Some of the biggest disasters happened on Friday the 13th. For instance, Buckingham Palace was bombed during WWII, and a number of flights – Uruguayan Flight 571, Aeroflot 217, and a Swedish DC flight – crashed or went missing on Friday the 13th.
There were infamous murders too – rapper Tupac Shakur was shot and killed on Friday the 13th in 1996, and Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered while in her own apartment in 1949. In 1989, the ‘Friday the 13th Virus’ swept through the UK, deleting personal files from hundreds of computers.
While we’re lucky enough to not have Friday the 13th incidents in Singapore, we may have to watch out for April 13, 2029 – an asteroid called Apophis will come within 22,000 miles of the Earth and while it may not hit our planet, its proximity could cause damage.
How many Friday the 13th are there in a year?
There can be up to three Friday the 13th in a year, when you have a non-leap year starting on Thursday. In 2019, there are two Friday the 13ths – one earlier in September and one in December – since our year started on a Tuesday.
Now that you know the inspiration of Friday the 13th, and how frequently they occur, do you suffer from the fear of Friday the 13th – or paraskavedekatriaphobia?