Including which U.S. city is most superstitious about the 13th floor

By Alex Heigl
March 13, 2020 10:40 AM
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Fear ye, oh fear ye, it’s Friday the 13th.

Before it was known for being a string of films about a disgruntled hockey player, Friday the 13th was known as a day of terror. But why exactly? Well, apparently no one really knows. But it’s been around long enough that we’ve accrued a lot of facts about it. So let’s do this thing.

Hammurabi was anti-13
The Code of Hammurabi is a set of Babylonian law codes of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1754 B.C. For whatever reason, there’s no 13. They just skipped right over it.

Some historians date 13-related bad luck to dinner parties
For one, the Last Supper: There were 13 people (12 apostles, one Jesus) at that dinner? And two of them (Jesus and Judas) didn’t … have the best time afterward? Also, there’s an ancient Norse legend about Odin having a dinner party that was crashed by Loki, the god of chaos and evil — Loki was the 13th arrival at that party. Also, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which may be where Friday and 13 dovetailed in the realm of superstition, Michael Bailey, a history professor at Iowa State University, told USA Today.

“Paraskevidekatriaphobia” is the official name for a fear of Friday the 13th
In 2013, Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, estimated that “$800 or $900 million is lost in business on [Friday the 13th] because people will not fly or do business they normally would.”

However, there was, at one point, a pro-13 club
It was called, unsurprisingly, the Thirteen Club, and its stated mission was to improve the standing of the holiday and also flout all manner of superstitions. At its first meeting, all 13 members walked under ladders into a room filled with spilled salt. The group’s ranks swelled to 400 eventually, taking in five U.S. Presidents: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

That legend about buildings not having a 13th floor is true
At least in Chicago. “There is no 13th floor here – it goes from 12 to 14,” a front-desk employee at the city’s 106-year-old Hotel Burnham told The Huffington Post in 2015. “People don’t really notice it; I think it’s standard practice in Chicago. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a 13th floor [in the city].”

It’s not unlucky for Taylor Swift
“I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first No.1 song had a 13-second intro,” Swift told MTV in 2009. “Every time I’ve won an award, I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.”

There’s no getting away from it
In the Gregorian calendar, there will always be at least one Friday the 13th … so you know when it’s coming.

Statistically speaking, it’s actually safer than most days
Whether this is because people are staying at home, fearfully tucked in bed, seems unlikely, but the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics conducted a study in 2008 that showed there were fewer traffic accidents, fires and robberies on Friday the 13th, compared to other Fridays.

But it is a bad day to be a black cat
Black cats already have a rough life, but they get it especially bad on Friday the 13th. So that was why, starting on October 13, 1939, The New York Times reported that French Lick Springs, Indiana, enacted a law that all black cats in the area would wear bells “as a war measure to alleviate mental strain on the populace” and presumably make the cats easier to avoid.