Friday the 13th: History and superstitions

Here are seven superstitions to avoid this Friday the 13th and the histories behind them

Image by Jorge Royan /, obtained through Wikimedia Commons

Friday the 13th, coined the most unlucky day of the year, brings haunts today, Oct. 13, 2017.

Friggatriskaidekaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th, may be causing some panic today in what many consider to be the spookiest month of the year leading up to Halloween. However, the day itself is filled with scary movies and crazy superstitions.

While its exact origin is unknown, there is no real evidence of the superstition until the 19th century. However, the number 13 has always had some unlucky connotations associated with it, according to the International Business Times.

The Thirteen Club, started in 1881, tried to change the negative connotation surrounding the number 13. During their first meeting, the club walked under ladders and spilled salt to prove that doing those things did not cause bad luck. 

The number 13 has always had a bad reputation. Humans have tried to avoid the number in every possible situation, like 13th street or the 13th floor.

Along with the number 13 being deemed unlucky, Friday also falls into the same category. Friday was deemed a day of ill luck in previous centuries. Many believe this stems biblically from the cruxifixction of Jesus on a Friday. Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” also note Friday being an unlucky day.

So as one can see, mixing an unlucky number with an unlucky day of the week seems to create the most scary day… at least if you happen to believe in superstitions.

Here are seven superstitions to avoid on Friday the 13th:

  • Walking under a ladder. It is believed that if you walk under a ladder, no matter where, it will bring you misfortune. 

    Image by Lukáš Mižoch, obtained through Wikimedia Commons
  • Crossing paths with a black cat. Black cats are associated with witches and witchcraft, so it is deemed best to not cross paths with one.   

    Image by Nino Barbieri, obtained through Wikimedia Commons
  • Spilling salt. Some people believe that spilling salt with cause bad luck. To avoid it, you must take the spilled salt and throw it over your shoulder. 

    Image by Jorge Royan /, obtained through Wikimedia Commons
  • Broken or cracked mirrors. Some believe breaking a mirror causes seven years of bad luck. This superstition comes from the belief that mirrors trap your soul in it.

    Image by കാക്കര, obtained through Wikimedia Commons
  • 666. These are considered the numbers of the devil.
  • Not opening umbrellas inside. Opening or having an open umbrella inside a building is believed to cause seven years of bad luck, just like the broken mirrors 

    Image by Roman Oleinik, obtained through Wikimedia Commons
  •  Picking a penny on tails up. If you find a penny on heads, pick it up! It will bring you good luck. If you find a penny on tails… run away, run far away. If  the penny is flipped to heads and you don’t pick it up, you’ll get bad luck. 

    Image by Mykl Roventine, obtained through Wikimedia Commons

University of Tennessee also has its own superstitions that people tend to avoid throughout the year.

The biggest superstition surrounds the university seal by Hodges Library on Pedestrian Walkway. Legend says if you cross the seal, you will not graduate on time. Many students avoid crossing or stepping on the seal at all costs. By doing so, they hope to graduate in four years or less.

Whether the legends hold true or not, today serves as a fun day of mischief leading up to Halloween. Happy haunts!


Featured image by Jorge Royan /, obtained through Wikimedia Commons

Edited by: Vanessa Rodriguez

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