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Friday the 13th Superstition & Phobia

By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Before I begin this article I would like to thank ONGBI NONG who wrote:  Sir, I regularly read your column, very knowledgeable write. Man like your education is very needed in our societies. Sir, write more about Manipur solutions, because we are in the worst state. Write more, I will read.

Thank you very much Ongbi Nong. I will write.

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in the West. There are many reasons that go back to the medieval times. Friday the 13th’ occurs when the thirteenth day of a month falls on a Friday.


The most popular reason of this superstitious Friday has been because of Christian scripture and tradition, that Jesus was crucified on a Friday.   


Number 13 is also the number of people at the Last Supper, with the 13th guest being Judas, the traitor. Also, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and later died on a Friday.


There are 13 steps leading to the gallows. There are 13 knots in a hangman’s noose. The French guillotine falls 13 feet. Tarot card number 13 is the death card depicting the Grim reaper. A witch’s coven consists of 13 members.


In Britain, Friday was a conventional day for public hanging. Princess Diana was killed when her car hit pillar 13 at Place De l’Alma in Paris. Nowadays, not many in Britain believe in such superstition. But it is the opposite in Biblical America.


In Hinduism, a feast (shradha) is organised on the 13th day of death so that the soul of the deceased rests in peace. In Sikhism 13 is a lucky number. The name of Sikh God “Waheguru” appears 13 times in the Guru Granth Shahib. The Baisakhi festival is celebrated on April 13.


For Muslims Friday is an auspicious day when Allah created Adam. That’s why Muslims go to mosques on Fridays.


In the UK it was believed that if one spilt salt one must take a pinch of the salt and throw it backwards over the left shoulder.


Many years ago when I went to sit my MRCP Part-1 examination in Newcastle, my father in law drove me there. At one point I was walking under a ladder leaned against a building. He asked me to walk back under the ladder again.


One morning in Agra, just as I set off for one of my final MBBS exams my mirror fell down from my hand and broke. I knew it was bad luck but I still looked at my face in it to comb my hair but not without fear. I did not fail my exam.


As a young boy in Imphal I used to come back home alone cycling at midnight from leekol sanaba (game of cowry) or thabal chongba (dancing in moonlight) crossing the swing bridge from Sagolband to my house at Uripok. During our childhood there was a belief that there were ghosts around there. When nothing happened in so many nights I lost the fear.


Friday the 13th is regarded as an unlucky number, especially in the USA. Many hotel room numbers either will start from 14 or if they start from 1 they will miss 13. It is because many

people are unwilling to stay in a room with number 13. Many bigger hotels in the USA do not


have a 13th floor. It is simply omitted.


Omitting the 13th floor may take a variety of forms. 85% of the buildings with elevators (lifts) do not have a floor named the 13th floor and skip right over to 14.


Now some big hotels in America do have 13th floor. I have just been to Las Vegas, Nevada and stayed at the 5-star hotel – Planet Hollywood. It is one of the three large hotels in Las Vegas to have a 13th floor. The rest have no 13th floor. (In America there are no ground floors. Our ground floor is their first floor).


Planet Hollywood has 2,600 rooms with 52 floors. Planet Hollywood has hip and modern architecture fitted to its Hollywood theme. It features a three-acre casino floor (extended first floor) full of traditional gambling machines like slots, table games.


Planet Hollywood is the first Las Vegas resort to offer table games dealt by young ladies in “chic lingerie”. The Pleasure Pit is a section of the table games with go-go dancers entertaining the gamblers at the side


The famous Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas where Celine Dion who sang for the film Titanic, performed in the 4,000-seater Coliseum (hall) has no 13th floor. It has 46 floors with 3,348 rooms.


One can walk in to the Hotel Foyer and have a free ride for a nice view in the traction Tower elevator, attached to the skin of the building – a bit similar to the one attached to the Le Meridian Hotel at Connaught Place, in New Delhi. The elevator has no number 13.


At the moment, Elton John who sang The ‘English Rose’ at Princess Diana’s funeral is performing at Cesar’s Palace. Ticket prices range from $ 679 (Rs 33.300) to $131 (Rs 6,500) from front to back and were sold out months ago.


In the early sixties Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin sang at the Sands Hotel. It has a 13th floor. Until 1950s no black people were allowed in. The famous black singer Nat King Cole was the first black man allowed to stay at the hotel and gamble in the casino.


Rejuvenated Elvis Priestley performed at the Hilton for 58 consecutive shows until his death in 1977. It has a 13th floor. It is where in 1978, Leon Spinks defeated Muhammad Ali. It is the largest hotel in the world with 2,956 rooms and 305 suites, located at 64 acres.

In America many hospitals and office buildings regularly do not have room number 13.  People can still be found numbering their houses “12 ½” to avoid living in number 13.

A superstition is a belief that is not based on facts or events that can be proven. For example, some Meitei believe in the superstition that if a black cat crosses their path, they will have bad luck. Superstition is an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear.

The reason this is called a superstition is because that no one can prove that every time a black cat crosses your path you must have bad luck. One has to be brave not to indulge in such a belief.

One simple theory of the Friday the 13th superstition is that it is the amalgamation of two very old superstitions: that thirteen is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day. But there are more convincing stories.


‘Friday’ has been considered an unlucky day since the 14th century. Many professions have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects.


‘Friday the 13th’ only emerged as a superstition in the early 20th century, inspired by the New Testament because it is the day of the Crucifixion, and of being unlucky for 13 people to sit

down to a meal together because of the Last Supper.


The actual origin of the 13th phobia is believed to have derived from a Norse myth that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of its diners. The mythology has it that Friday is named for Frigga, the goddess of love and fertility.


When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop. It was believed that every Friday Frigga convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil – a gathering of 13, to plot the fate of the Christians for the coming week.


Another theory of its origin is related to the event leading to the arrest of the legendary Knights of Templers on Friday, October 13 1307, by Philip IV, King of France and Pope Clement V.


However, many experts think that the superstition is a relatively recent correlation, a modern-day invention. Records of superstition are rarely found before the 20th century.


But in America an estimated 17-21 million people are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th. Some people are so frightened that they avoid their normal routines in doing business on this day. Remember, Americans are very religious people. The American President Henry Ford refused to do any business on Friday the 13th.

With regards to the rate of accidents on Friday the 13th there are conflicting studies. There are no records or figure when the 13th fell on a Friday there was a specific increase in the number of accidents.


However, a 1993 study in the British Medical Journal that compared the ratio of traffic accidents between Friday the 6th and Friday the 13th stated that there is a significant increase in traffic-related accidents on Friday the 13th.


There are however, indications that there are more accidents on Fridays than average weekdays (irrespective of the date) probably because of alcohol consumption.


We humans are a superstitious lot. Believing that Friday the 13th is a bad day stems from the same human trait that causes us to believe in ghosts. It is ‘all my eye’.


The writer is based in the UK

Email: imsingh@onetel.com

Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk




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