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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

Haunted History: The History of Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has a long standing history of being cursed. But do you know the history behind the superstition?

Let’s start with numerology. The number 13 has been a haunted number for a very, very long time. Similar to superstitions like walking under ladders, breaking a mirror or seeing a black cat, folks have lived in fear of this dubious number for thousands of years. There are many different historic paths that lead us to the superstition of this day. So the background here won’t be totally linear.

According to Norse Mythology, the number 13th developed a bad reputation when the god Loki crashed a dinner party with 12 other gods, making him the 13th. At this party, Loki was responsible for coordinating the shooting of the Norse god Balder. Balder was the son of Odin and Frigg. He was thought of as just and honorable. A shining beautiful beacon of good and beauty. Which made his death devastating to everyone. After he was shot by Hoor, the world went dark according to mythology.

There is a somewhat similar dinner party theory in Christianity. According to claims, there were 13 guests at the last supper, Jesus and his 12 apostles. This dinner took place on a Thursday, followed the next day by the crucifixion on Good Friday.

But there are many other instances of 13 being unlucky throughout various cultures across the globe. For example, a year with 13 full moons (instead of the usual 12) caused problems for the monks who were creating early calendars. There are connections to ancient calendars, like the Mayan Calendar’s 13th Bakun which was associated with the 2012 apocalypse phenomenon.

However, it’s also broadly believed that there is a definitive reason that Friday the 13th has become a cursed day. Though it’s not entirely accurate. It dates back to a Friday the 13th in October of 1307. On this date, there was a raid on the Knights Templar that mostly killed them all. However, this has been disproved over and over again by historians. Essentially, there may have been a raid on this day but the superstition was not rich enough at this time.

Finally, there is a fairly complicated theory connected to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. The Code of Hammurabi is a legal text that was written in the mid-1700s BC. It’s one of the oldest and best preserved texts that still exists from ancient Babylon. It was composed on a combination of stone and steel, and currently sits at The Louvre. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi does not include the number 13 in the list of laws.

There has also been a history of certain Fridays being unlucky or cursed. According to Vox, this can be traced back to Chaucer, who introduced or memorialized the concept in the Canterbury Tales. Meaning, because of Chaucer’s style of writing it’s hard to understand if this was playful writing or indicative of the attitude towards Fridays at the time.

There is a great article by Vox, which goes into all possibilities. According to Vox, the real reason Friday the 13th picked up in superstitious popularity is because of a book that came out in 1907 called Friday the 13th. The gist of the story is that a stockbroker uses the date to deliberately crash the stock market. And of course, when the famous horror movie came out in 1980 it sealed the haunted fate of the date.

If you aren’t familiar with the Friday the 13th horror franchise, you should be. It’s considered one of the ultimate slasher series of all time. Right up there with Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Friday the 13th centers around Jason Vorhees, who was believed to have tragically drowned as a child at Summer camp. The original film was directed by Sean S. Cunningham and written by Victor Miller and spawned more than 12 sequels.

How crazy is it that traditions from hundreds and thousands of years ago not only still exist in current society, but also inform modern pop culture?

So does this take away some of the mystery and fear of this unlucky date? I hope so, but I hope you still feel a little pang of fear when you look at the calendar and see that it’s a Friday the 13th.

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