Happy Friday the 13th, Bettys! In honor of today’s somewhat dubious “holiday,” here are a whole bunch of facts we bet you didn’t know about Friday the 13th. 13 of ‘em, in fact. Do you believe in the superstitions surrounding the day? Tell us in the comments!
1. Friday the 13th is a relatively new superstition.
Folklorists say there’s no written evidence for the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th before the 19th century. The earliest known reference occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday the 13th. The biography was written in 1869; the passage in question reads as follows: “He was surrounded to the last by admitting friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died.”
2. But fear of the number 13 is pretty old.
According to folklore historian Donald Dossey, fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in the ancient world. One Norse myth tells the tale of 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, only to have Loki (no, not that Loki) walk in as an uninvited thirteenth guest. Loki arranged for the blind god of darkness, Hoder (no, not Hodor), to shoot Balder the Beautiful, god of joy and gladness, with an arrow tipped with mistletoe. Balder died, the Earth went dark, and ever since then,13 has been regarded as an unlucky number. Dossey also cites the Bible—Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper.
3. Fear, thy name is… really hard to pronounce.
There are a few different names for “the fear of Friday the 13th”; it’s often known as both friggatriskaidekaphobia (“Frigga” being the Norse goddess from which we get the word “Friday” and “triskaidekaphobia” being the fear of the number 13) and paraskevidekatriaphobia (“Paraskev” is the Greek word for Friday, while “dekatreis” is the word for the number 13 in the same language).
4. Friday the 13th is actually safer than your average Friday.
A Dutch report published in 2008 found that fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. Said Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics statistician Alex Hoen, “I find it hard to believe that it is because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home, but statistically speaking, driving is a little bit safer on Friday the 13th.” The numbers: An average of 7,800 traffic accidents occur on Friday—but when the Friday in question happens to be the 13th, the figure falls to 7,500.
5. It’s an excellent day to get a tattoo.
Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, TX will tattoo the number 13 on you on Friday the 13th for just $13. Given that even the smallest tattoos don’t tend to be much cheaper than $50, that’s quite a deal for the ink-loving crowd.
6. It happens at least once a year.
Every calendar year will have at least one Friday the 13th, although they’ll never have more than three (which we’re due for in 2015, so watch out). The longest amount of time that can pass between Friday the 13ths is 14 months.
7. Friday the 13th wasn’t originally called Friday the 13th.
The working title of one of the most influential slasher films in history was A Long Night at Camp Blood.
8. While we’re on the subject: Friday the 13th grossed over ten times what it cost to make.
The first film in the series cost only $550,000 to make, but earned $59,754,601 at the box office—making it the eighth highest grossing film of 1980.The franchise is the highest grossing horror franchise in the US, having netted approximately $687.1 million since its first appearance.
9. A number of notable people have died on Friday the 13th.
Among them are Julia Child and Tupak Shakur.
10. It’s not the only “unlucky” day around.
In Italian culture, Friday the 17th is considered to be a day of bad luck, while a number of Spanish-speaking countries fear Tuesday the 13th.
11. The asteroids are coming!
On Friday, April 13, 2029, the asteroid 99942 will make its closest encounter with the Earth. Armageddon? Deep Impact? Brace yourselves!
12. It’s not great for moneymaking—but not for the reason you think.
According to Asheville, NC’s Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, more than $900 million in revenue is lost on Friday the 13th due to individuals’ fear of flying or doing business.
13. It’s surrounded by a whole lot of really bizarre myths.
Weird (and unproven) Friday the 13th myths include the following: Cutting your hair on Friday the 13th will cause someone in your family to die; a child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life; and being passed by a funeral procession on Friday the 13th means you’ll be the next one to die. Cheery!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.