Friday the 13th History

Shaw

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Be wary. Be scared. The Friday no one celebrates. Friday the 13th comes back around. And best of all it’s in October! One of the most “unlucky” days in the month of Halloween. But why is Friday the 13th so bad?

Though folklorists claim there is no written evidence for the superstition before the nineteenth century, the date has long been connected to notorious events in history and religion.

According to Catholic belief, one of the most significant events in their religion – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – took place on Friday the 13th. Also, the day before was the last supper. Along with Jesus, there were 12 disciples at this meal, and Judas has come to represent betrayal and bad luck in Western societies. Even if there is no direct biblical evidence linking Judas to the 13th place at the table, the number of guests at the Last Supper and its significance in the Christian religion could have been enough to cement the idea of 13 as an unlucky number in Western cultures, particularly if this idea was promoted by the superstitious Victorians.

Geoffrey Chaucer also made reference to the apparent unluckiness of the day, recording in his Canterbury Tales that it was bad luck to start a journey or a project on a Friday.

One of the most popularised myths attempting to explain the origin of the Friday 13 superstition stems from events on Friday 13 October 1307, when hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested and burnt across France.

Ironically, the superstition of the event may be linked back to an American club that attempted to debunk the superstition surrounding the number 13 and its associated bad luck date. The Thirteen Club first met on 13 September 1881, (a Wednesday) and determined to actively flout any and all established ‘superstitions’ they knew about.  With this in mind, the group of 13 would meet on the 13 of each month, sit 13 to a table, break mirrors, spill salt with abandon, and walk under ladders – all while carefully recording how many members died. Over the years the group grew to roughly 400 members – including a number of US presidents – but the group’s notoriety just added to the date’s significance in the public psyche.

Then, in 1907, eccentric stockbroker, Thomas Lawson published a book called Friday the Thirteenth. It detailed an evil business’s attempts to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the year. The book was a sell-out and in 1916 made into a feature-length film.

Finally, the myth acquired the first seal of Hollywood in 1980 when Paramount Pictures released Friday the 13. Fridays would not be the same again after Jason proceeded to slash his way across a summer camp and US box offices.

So, whether you believe the superstitions or not, Friday the 13th comes with spooky connotations. Go about your day but keep your wits about you. Something bad could happen, or not.

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