Most people know the familiar tropes and traditions that go along with the unluckiest day (or days) of the year. So to have a bit more fun, we dug up 13 of the less talked-about wacky facts to share with family and friends!
Believe it or not, the Friday the 13th fear is real. It’s a phobia and it has a name: friggatriskaidekaphobia. The word stems from “frigg,” the old Norse root for “Friday,” “treiskaideka,” Greek for the number 13 and “phobos,” also Greek for “fear.”
2. Freaked-Out Franklin
Speaking of phobias, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from a related condition known as triskaidekaphobia: a fear of the number 13. He refused to travel on the 13th day of any month or host a dinner with 13 guests.
3. The Quatorzieme
That triskaidekaphobia? Roosevelt is not alone. Just ask a Parisian. French for “fourteen,” a quatorzieme is literally a paid fourteenth dinner guest, hired to keep the party safe when only 13 are in attendance.
4. Ill-Timed Space Disaster
The Apollo 13 capsule launched at 13:13 on April 11, 1970 (the sum of the date’s digits—4-11-70—is also 13) and the spacecraft suffered a catastrophic explosion on April 13!
Thankfully the crew made it safely back to Earth.
5. The Missing 13th Floor
“…as many as 85% of the high risers in the world do not have a 13th floor.” –Dilip Rangnekar, Otis Elevator Company
This may or may not be true, but it is a fact that in many hospitals and skyscrapers the 12th floor goes straight to 14 for fear of fires, scaring away tenants and other unwanted circumstances.
6. Fatal Misfortunes
While bad things are just as likely to happen on any other day, several tragic events have infamously taken place on a Friday the 13th, including the WWII bombing of Buckingham Palace, the death of rapper Tupac Shakur and the 2012 Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster.
7. You Mean, it’s Not Unsafe?
Rumor has it, triskaidekaphobia costs the U.S. roughly a billion dollars a year in canceled travel plans and missed work. But data points to no added danger on Friday the 13th. Following a 3,281-day observation of 27,914 patients, a 2011 German study concluded there was no link between that day and an increase of emergency room visits.
8. Actually, it’s Lucky
A 2008 Dutch study showed that there are fewer car accidents, fires and crimes on Friday the 13th (but it might just be because superstitious types make a special point to stay out of harm’s way).
9. Taylor Swift’s (and Italy’s) Lucky Number
Not only is Taylor unphased by the number 13, she’s made it her own.
Her birthday is December 13, her song, “The Lucky One” is the 13th track on the album Red and she’s said she paints it on her hand before every show.
It turns out Italians agree: for them, “13” is lucky and their day of bad luck is the 17th.
10. Covens Come in Thirteens
Taylor isn’t the only one who appreciates the number 13—modern-day witches consider it sacred. A coven traditionally has 13 members. Incidentally, the association with witchcraft with the number 13 is another reason it has such a bad rap.
11. Friday the… What?
While Friday the 13th is widely considered unlucky in the states, in Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky.
12. Luck of the Irish… License Plates
Prior to 2013, Irish license plates included the year. Starting in 2013, to avoid the bad luck associated with “13,” cars registered for the first half of the year instead read “131” and “132” if registered in the second half.
13. Friday the 13th: the Film
No Friday the 13th list would be complete without the popular 1980s horror franchise of the same name. While you may think it was inspired by its namesake day, you would be mistaken.
Filmmakers, eager to replicate the success of Halloween, just needed another spooky day to keep the formula going.