Beware - Friday the 13th looms

Tomorrow is Friday 13th. The dreaded, superstition-laden, eternally unlucky day, writes Imogen Rohrs.

Will you avoid walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?
Will you avoid walking under ladders on Friday the 13th?

Even though it arguably just marks the onset of the weekend, it turns out that one third of British people are actually expected to alter their plans on this day for fear of the bad luck it may bring.

Even US President Roosevelt refused to travel on Friday the 13th.

This phobia is so common in Britain that psychologists have now even come up with a special name for it - ‘triskaidekaphobia’, while superstition surrounding this day is known as ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’.

More than 60 million people worldwide claim to be affected by this phobia, and three-quarters of adults also claim to have suffered from bad luck on a past Friday 13th.

This could be bad news, as there will be two Fridays this year that fall on the 13th, one tomorrow and another in October.

So why is this day so traditionally unlucky?

Some historians claim it was the day that Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, or even the day that the great flood began.

In the New Testament, there were 13 disciples, and the traitor Judas was the 13th to sit down at Jesus’s last supper and, of course, Christ’s crucifixion was on a Friday.

On Friday 13th October 1307, Philip IV of France arrested thousands of Knights of the Templar. Hundreds were meant to have suffered excruciating torture and more than 100 died.

In numerology, 13 is considered to be an irregular number.

It’s also the number of witches you need to form a coven.

What bad things have actually happened on Friday 13th?

In 1976, in New York, a man called Daz Baxter was so afraid of Friday the 13th he decided the safest place to stay was in his bed.

However, he was then killed when the whole floor of his apartment block collapsed that same day.

In 2009, the £13.5 million roller-coaster ride ‘SAW’ at Thorpe Park had its opening premiere, only to be shut down on the same day due to a computer programming fault.

In 2010, a 13-year-old boy was struck by lightning in Suffolk at exactly 13:13.

Rex Clarke, a St John Ambulance team leader, said at the time: “It’s all a bit strange that he was 13, and it happened at 13:13 on Friday 13th.”

A Welsh bus conductor called Bob Renphrey has crashed fours cars, fallen into a river and been made redundant on a variety of Friday the 13ths.

Dr Caroline Watt, of the University of Edinburgh, says that it is the belief in the Friday 13th superstition that could, in fact, prove the greatest risk to the average person: “If people believe in the superstition of Friday the 13th then they believe they are in greater danger on that day. As a result they may be more anxious and distracted and this could lead to accidents.”

A recent report by Travelodge surveyed 2,500 British people to find out their views on luck and superstition.

The findings reveal that 65 per cent of British adults believe in the power of lucky numbers and will always try and use their personal lucky number to improve their fortune.

The report also reveals that 40 per cent of Britons are generally superstitious and will be taking some form of action tomorrow to avoid bad luck, such as not travelling for fear of an accident or long delays, rescheduling an important meeting to avoid the wrong outcome, moving their dentist appointment, avoiding making a big purchases and keeping well away from mirrors and ladders.

After the number 13, Travelodge hotel managers reported that room 101 is the second least requested room number and room 666 is the third least popular.

The research also reveals that 68 per cent of adults are so superstitious about Friday 13th that they cannot get through the day without some kind of gesture to bring them good luck, such as throwing salt over their shoulders.

Are you superstitious? Do you consider Friday the 13th to be an unlucky day? Has anything bad ever happened to you on this day before? What’s your lucky number? Have you suffered from the curse of Friday 13th? Do you have any superstitions to help you avoid bad luck?

Add your comments below.