Friday, August 13, 2010

Fear, Superstition and the Number 13


Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
- Bertrand Russell
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1950)

How superstitious are you? I ask this question because today is Friday, August 13th. It is a day associated with the lore of black cats and broken mirrors, a day that superstitious people absolutely dread. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened and knowledgeable. Yet many of us carry good luck charms and many buildings do not have a thirteenth floor. According to London’s Daily Mirror, more than 60 million people worldwide claim to be affected by a fear of Friday the 13th and some will refuse to drive or go to their jobs on that day.

Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky? One theory finds its roots in the Christian Bible. There were 13 people at the Last Supper and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is considered to be the thirteenth guest. Jesus was then crucified on a Friday. Another theory is that the phobia originated when King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.

The sports world is rife with superstition. Here are a few examples. As a pitcher gets closer to pitching a no-hitter or a perfect game, some fans and broadcasters are reluctant to mention the possibility for fear of jinxing the pitcher. Former baseball manager Sparky Anderson would never step on the white lines when he walked onto the field. Relatively few professional athletes have worn the number 13, although that has changed somewhat in recent years.

Here is a short list of some well known pro athletes who did not shun the number 13.

* Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain wore number 13.

* The great NFL quarterback Dan Marino sported number 13 on his Miami Dolphins uniform.

* Former Toronto Maple Leaf captain Mats Sundin wasn’t afraid to wear 13 on his hockey sweater.

* New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez has number 13 on his pinstriped jersey.

Only one bad incident has occurred in my life on Friday the 13th. On Friday, August 13, 2004, I stood across from my husband as he was robbed of his wallet and passport on a subway escalator in Barcelona, Spain.


Fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia.

There are a couple of notable birth anniversaries today:

Acclaimed film director Alfred Hitchcock was born in London, England on this day in 1899. I am a big fan of Hitchcock’s films. Leave it to the “Master of Suspense” to be born on the 13th.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro was born on this day in 1926. Castro turns 84 years old today.


The Blue Jays won the last game of their series against the troublesome Boston Red Sox. They defeated the Red Sox by a score of 6-5 and Jose Bautista socked his league-leading 36th homer. The Jays rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to overcome a 5-2 Red Sox lead. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save ever against the Blue Jays.

- Joanne

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