Friday the 13th: How It Became a Superstitious Date

On Friday the 13th, the superstitious try to stay clear of black cats, spilling salt, and stopped clocks. Some people even have "paraskevidekatriaphobia," a fear of the thirteenth day of the month falling on a Friday.

While the 1980 movie Friday the 13th certainly hyped up the ominous day in pop culture, the origins of it as a harbinger of misfortune dates as far back as Jesus Christ's time.

The Last Supper

In Christian mythology, thirteen guests attended the Last Supper, the day before Jesus's crucifixion on a Friday. History.com says this is the root of a Christian superstition that having 13 guests at a table is a bad omen.

Some even believe that if you have 13 people at a table, whoever gets up from the table first will die, which although a tempting way to get people to stay for the entirety of a dinner party, is a little eerie. Christians also believe that Eve gave Adam the notorious apple on a Friday.

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Visitors look at 'Crucifixion' by 15th century master Filippino Lippi during the 'Filippino Lippi and Sandro Boticelli nella Firenze del' 400' at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome on October 4, 2011. Jesus's crucifixion is among the posited roots of why people believe Friday the 13th is unlucky. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

King Philip IV of France

Fast forward a few centuries and King Philip IV of France was a little perturbed with a group of warriors known as the Knights Templar. By the 14th century, the order had amassed too much money and power for the king's liking.

In debt to the Templars, Philip took advantage of stories about their alleged use of black magic and scandalous sexual rituals and had a core group of the order arrested on Friday, October 13, 1307, according to History.com.

This began the demise of the Knights Templar order, which was disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312.

Thomas William Lawson's 'Friday the 13th'

Thomas William Lawson's 1907 novel Friday the 13th may have been the first time the date was referenced as being unlucky in writing, according to Dr Ciaran O'Keeffe, writing for The Mirror. The book tells the tale of a stockbroker who conspires to bring down Wall Street on the date.

In 1907, a coal and oil schooner commissioned by Lawson and bearing his name, was chartered to carry oil from the U.S. East Coast to London, U.K. The ship ran into trouble during the journey and on Friday, December 13, it sank, taking with it 17 crew and over two million gallons of oil, according to Hemmings.

The Thirteen Club

Going in the opposite direction of the superstitious, a group of people met on Friday the 13th with the specific goal of confronting fears surrounding the ominous date.

Captain William Fowler, who had connections with the number 13 throughout his life, created The Thirteen Club on Friday, January 13, 1882. Fowler and 12 members of the club hosted a symbolic dinner, which they reached by walking under a ladder and a banner that read, "Morituri te Salutamus"—"Those of us who are about to die salute you"—according to the New-York Historical Society.

There were 13 candles, 13 courses for dinner, and spilled salt to show the world how little the group feared the day. The club existed until the 1920s and members included former U.S. Presidents Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Have a Lucky Day!

Although there are a variety of possible origin stories, there isn't any scientific evidence that backs claims the day is inherently unlucky. Time noted that it's possible a self-fulfilling prophecy is to blame for bouts of bad luck that occur on Friday the 13th.

Friday the 13th: How It Became a Superstitious Date | U.S.