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Friday 13th superstitions: Why today is super freaky

Superstitions, secret societies, and silliness behind Friday the 13th.
Friday 13 nooseEnlarge
Part of 131 nooses displayed in Johannesurg's Apartheid Museum. Traditionally, there are 13 knots in a hangman's rope--one reason why people fear the number 13. (Yoav Lemmer/AFP/Getty Images)

1.  Afraid of Friday the 13th? Paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia is your official diagnosis. If you just don’t like the number 13 you have triskaidekaphobia.

2. People fear the number 13 so much that hospitals and hotels routinely skip the 13th floor. Similarly, airports often lack a 13th gate. In Italy, 13 never appears on lottery tickets, and in France you can hire a quatorziens (fourteener) so that your dinner party avoids having 13 guests.

3. Not everyone thinks of 13 as an unlucky number. The ancient Egyptians associated 13 with immortality. They believed the ladder to eternal life and knowledge had 12 steps, with the 13th being the transcendence beyond death to eternal life. The ancient Romans traditionally had 13 guests at a wedding, and, according to USA Today, 13 is a lucky number for Pagans because there are 13 full moons each year.

4. Why is Friday unlucky? Most Christians believe that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Moreover, the Last Supper involved 13 dinner guests, with Judas Iscariot being the last to arrive. Some Christians also believe that Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden on Friday the 13th, while others believe it’s the date Cain killed Abel.

5. In Norse mythology, having 13 at a dinner table is considered bad luck. According to National Geographic, the superstition dates back to a dinner party in Valhalla. The god of mischief and chaos, Loki, crashed the party and became its 13th guest. Before the night was over, he’d manipulated the god Hoder to shoot the god Balder with a poisonous, mistletoe-tipped arrow, killing Balder.

6. Legend has it that if 13 people sit down to dinner with each other, one will die within the year.

7. On Friday the 13th in October of 1307, King Philip IV arrested the French members of the Order of the Knights of Templar--a secret, Christian military society--likely in an attempt not only to destroy the Knights but also to seize their wealth. After being tortured and imprisoned, Jacques de Molay, the last known Grand Master of the Knights, was burned at the stake outside Notre Dame in Paris on March 19, 1314.

8. Thirteen people born on Friday the 13th: Alfred Hitchcock, Margaret Thatcher, the Olsen twins, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Butch Cassidy (also 1 of 13 children), Fidel Castro, Samuel Beckett, Darius Rucker, Kate Walsh, Bernie Williams, and Bob Crane.

9. Traditionally, there are 13 twists in a hangman’s rope, and the gallows have 13 steps leading to them.

10. Tupac Shakur died (or was pronounced dead) on Friday 13, 1996

11. Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, Jack the Ripper -- all have 13 letters in their names.

12. FDR would never travel on the 13th day of any month.

And, one reason why this Friday is particuarly unlucky:

13. This year, there are 3 Friday 13ths: January, April, July. What’s more, they are all 13 weeks apart. The last time that happened was 1984.