It’s Friday the 13th. Cue “Twilight Zone” music.
Superstitions about Friday the 13th have been around for centuries, and there are even two different names to describe fear of Friday the 13th: Friggatrikaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia.
The Fridays the 13th of 2012 are special for multiple reasons. First, there are three this year, and that happens only every few years. The last was in 2009 and the next will be in 2012. There was only one Friday the 13th in 2011.
In addition, this year’s Fridays (Jan. 13, April 13 and July 13) are all exactly 13 weeks apart, which hasn’t happened since 1984.
Tom Fernsler, a University of Delaware math professor who goes by the name Dr. 13, told USA Today that the three Fridays in 2012 are happening during a leap year, which won’t happen again until 2040.
However, he did point out that in a 400-year period, the 13th falls on a Friday 688 times. That’s more than any other day of the week.
So why are people so antsy about Friday the 13th? There are several origins to the belief, rooted in mythological, religious and cultural traditions. In Christianity, Judas was the 13th guest of the Last Supper. Judas went on to betray Jesus, who was then crucified on a Friday. The medieval Knights Templar were imprisoned on a Friday the 13th. Rap icon Tupac Shakur died on Friday, Sept. 13, 1996, and to this day mysteries and conspiracy theories surround his death.
The number 13 itself carries negative connotations. Ancient Romans believed that witches gathered in groups of 13 and the 13th person joining them was the devil.
The majority of buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor, and some airports don’t have a thirteenth gate.
While people may say the superstition doesn’t affect them, numbers don’t lie. The Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute notes that people do avoid doing business or flying on Friday the 13th, and estimated that $800 million to $900 million is lost on the date.