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With New Year's on the way, we're about to turn the calendar over to 2013. In just a few days, the 113th Congress begins. There's just something about that number, unlucky 13.

Take, for example, the movies.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: "Friday the 13th."


WERTHEIMER: Have you ever noticed that some buildings don't have a 13th floor? The number does seem to have an aura of bad luck.

JACK SWIGERT: OK, Houston. We'd had a problem here.

WERTHEIMER: Remember that infamous transmission from, of course, Apollo 13?

JACK LOUSMA: This is Houston. Say again, please.

SWIGERT: Houston, we've had a problem.

WERTHEIMER: Nathaniel Lachenmeyer wrote a book called "13: The Story of the World's Most Notorious Superstition." And he told WEEKEND EDITION that the fear of 13 began in the late 1600s.

NATHANIEL LACHENMAEYER: And at the time, everyone knew, really, the origin of the superstition. And it was the 12-plus-one of Christ and the disciples at the Last Supper.

WERTHEIMER: As we get ready to plunge into 2013, why not take some advice from those who lived through 1913. As one newspaper put it at the time...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The year 1913 has nearly run its course. And so far as we can see, as added by its behavior, no strength to the superstition that 13 is an unlucky number.


ROOSEVELT SYKES: (Singing) I was born on the 13th, Mm-hmm. And I'm mother's 13th son...

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.


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