Sound Off

Open Thread: Afraid of Friday the 13th?


On today's show, we heard from folklorist and psychologist Donald Dossey. Dossey says an estimated 17 million to 21 million Americans have some form of fear of Friday the 13th.

Now, me, personally, I'm about to go get on my bike and ride to Brooklyn. And I have to admit, I'll be thinking about Friday the 13th. Dossey says he tells his patients to relax about it — advice that works to a point. "You've got to be careful trying to use logic, because logic does not work by the very nature of a phobia," he says. "A phobia is an illogical fear."



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The 13th falls occurs more often on a Friday than any other weekday!? Spooky.

Sent by Jaco Geldenhuys | 11:05 AM | 6-13-2008

I have no fear of Friday the 13th and didn't even know it was the 13th until I listened to the BPP intro at 9:30 this morning. However, something weird did happen early this morning: my microwave spontaneously caught fire while I was popping popcorn. The food didn't catch fire, just the top of the inside of the microwave.

Needless to say, I've asked the apartment manager for a new microwave.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 11:10 AM | 6-13-2008

Here in Hamilton, NY, ever friday the 13th is Colgate Day. Colgate University has many, many instances of the number 13 showing up in its past. It was founded by "13 men with 13 dollars and 13 prayers." Colgate presdient and trustees rang opening bell at NY Stock Exchange this morning.

Sent by David Hollis, Hamilton, NY | 11:38 AM | 6-13-2008

There is an inaccuracy in this otherwise excellent article.

I was born and raised in Italy, and the number 13 is considered a lucky number there.

Totocalcio is an extremely popular form of lottery in which you bet on the outcome of 13 soccer games. "Fare tredici" (to hit thirteen) equals hitting the jackpot.

In jewelry stores you might find some small charm pendants that incorporate four leaf clovers, a horseshoe, and the number 13.

Italians are sometimes wary of the number 17. But I have no explanation to offer for that.

Sent by Xenia LaFave | 11:49 AM | 6-13-2008

My brother is 4 years older and always, even to this day, much larger than me. Physical torture rapidly became boring so he became a specialist in psychological torture. We'd be eating breakfast and he'd say something like, "It is horrible bad luck to eat toast on a Tuesday. It's true. Tuesday derived from the name of the Norse God of toast who died in a horrible bathtub accident." I'd look down at my omelet and sourdough toast and be filled with angst.

This actually did me a great favor. As I grew older all my buttons were thoroughly worn out from overuse. Friday 13th, spilled salt, and black cats don't cause me even the tiniest twitch. (Thanks, Jim). I even lived with a black cat for 20 years or so and she was only bad luck for the carpet.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 12:58 PM | 6-13-2008

When I was younger, one my friends told me that her mother didn't have bad luck on Friday the 13, but Saturday the 14th. She then gave me the list of examples of horrible things that happened to her mother and I can only remember one: she hit a cow with her car. Ouch.

After hearing all of it, I never thought twice about either day. I actually did forget and was focused on my brother's birthday tomorrow.

Sent by Natasha | 2:05 PM | 6-13-2008

It isn't mentioned in the article, but the photo of the black cat highlights another sad and obsolete belief: the fear of black cats. This is one illogical fear that, unlike Friday the 13th, results in actual suffering and death for innocent creatures. Many believe this belief, which originated in the Medieval period, has died out, but in fact it is alive and well today.

I have worked for over a year as the manager of the cat room at a no-kill shelter and can say from first-hand experience that, due to this superstition, solid-black cats are by a wide margin the most frequently abandoned, abused, and tortured of all cats, and that they are adopted less frequently and are much more likely to be euthanized or live many years in a shelter with little hope of adoption.

Every Halloween, cat shelters around the nation either steeply ramp up their adoption criteria for solid- or nearly-solid black cats, or simply do not adopt them out at all, for some weeks leading up to the event - as it is common for them to be "adopted" for the purpose of being tortured or abused. One lady who came into my cat room astonished me by actually crossing herself ritually and murmuring a prayer after she nearly touched a black cat, and I've heard others repeating the vile and baseless wives' tale that cats, particularly black cats, steal the breath of babies. (This belief, held by many otherwise rational and intelligent people, leads to cats being abandoned when a new baby is on the way.)

While I'm sure NPR was intending no harm and merely saw the image of a black cat as being iconic of superstitions in general, I look at the photo and see an animal whose life will never be safe because on an illogical fear.

Sent by Kasreyn | 2:37 PM | 6-13-2008

Tidbit for you folks: the clinical term for an extreme phobia of the number 13 is "triskadecaphobia".

Sent by Kasreyn | 2:44 PM | 6-13-2008

Well, my wife's cocoa spilled all over the inside of the microwave this morning. Must be because it's Friday the 13th, or I put in too much milk. You decide.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 3:12 PM | 6-13-2008

I set my alarm clock wrong today.... for pm instead of am - and was late for work. Though I'm not sure how much that is Friday the 13th related and not just me being an idiot.

Sent by Dan | 3:27 PM | 6-13-2008

I've had a wonderfully successful day here today in Hungary, with a wacky surprise: about 10 times as many people visited my podcast website as normal. It just seemed like a Friday the 13th fluke.


Uncle Drew - Hungary's podcast

Sent by Uncle Drew | 3:35 PM | 6-13-2008

Kasreyn -
I agree that the baseless hatred of black cats is sad. I have 2 black cats at my parents' house and they've never been allowed outside on Halloween because my mom said that they might get stolen. I thought it was weird that people would be that crazy but as I aged I found out that it's true.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 4:02 PM | 6-13-2008

There does not seem to be any hard evidence about Friday 13th being an unlucky day. I think people always look for something to prove the belief though. It is always about perspective Personally, I noticed Friday the 13th has always proved to be a lucky day for me.

Sent by Adriana | 10:22 AM | 6-14-2008

I read somewhere that Friday the 13th is actually a day of GOOD luck for you if you were born on the 13th of the month. Has anyone else heard of this part of the superstition?

Sent by David C. Albin | 7:34 PM | 6-16-2008

I have no fear of Friday 13th and I didn't even know until my sister told me at 6:00 p.m I think is not a bad luck day and all the things are phycological or coincidence.

Sent by Beatriz Ortega | 4:18 PM | 6-17-2008