Friday the 13th, is it unlucky for you?

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“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

Paraskevidekatriaphobics — those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th — will be pricking up their ears about now, buoyed by evidence that the source of their unholy terror may not be so irrational after all. It’s unwise to take solace in the results of a single scientific study, however, especially one so peculiar. Surely these statistics have more to teach us about human psychology than the ill-fatedness of any particular date on the calendar.

Friday the 13th called “the most widespread superstition”

The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times, and their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist (and coiner of the term paraskevidekatriaphobia) Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date.

So, how many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century actually suffer from this condition? According to Dossey, the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he’s right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition.

Exactly how old is difficult to say, because determining the origins of superstitions is an inexact science, at best. In fact, it’s mostly guesswork.

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