wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: World

Our Correspondents on Twitter

WorldViews
Anchored by Melissa Bell |  Get Updates: On Twitter Twitter |  On Facebook Facebook |  RSS RSS
Posted at 12:09 PM ET, 05/12/2011

Friday the 13th: Planets align, accidents increase, and superstitions abound


A 14th century image of the Knights Templar, who are believed to be involved in the origin of Friday the 13th. (Public domain)
Just as the world is ending, the unluckiest day is back to haunt us again.

Friday the 13th, a date on the Gregorian calendar known to bring bad luck, will once again fill those suffering from Friggatriskaidekaphobia with dread.

This year, four planets will align over Sydney’s eastern horizon, an eerie event that hasn’t happened since 1910.

The origins of Friday the 13th, like many superstitions, are foggy. One version says Adam and Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge on this date. Some historians say it’s the day Jesus was crucified, the Great Flood began, and the builders of the Tower of Babel were tongue-tied.

Dan Brown’s the DaVinci Code points to a 14th century execution which took place on a Friday the 13th, in which Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay cursed the Pope and French king, spreading misfortune forever after.

Whatever its origins, Friday the 13th has struck fear in the hearts of many supposedly courageous men. Napoleon never went to battle on this date. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt never traveled on Friday the 13th and never gave dinners for 13 guests. The poet Goethe always spent “black Fridays” in bed.

Now for the scaremongering. A German club of motorists recently published statistics that said the number of road accidents on Friday the 13th grows by 60 percent. Rapper Tupac Shakur was pronounced dead on September 13, 1996. Hurricane Charley hit south Florida on August 13, 2004. Five German bombs hit Buckingham Palace on September 13, 1940. A plane crash occurred on October 13,1972. A giant storm hit Buffalo on October 13, 2006. And an asteroid is due to hit Earth on April 13, 2029.

But before readers start worrying about what might happen Friday, a little debunking. Police have pointed out that more traffic accidents happen on all Fridays, not just Fridays that fall on the 13th, due to alcohol consumption. Historians also remind us that a number of troubling events have occurred on every day of every year.

That thought doesn’t satisfy many people — so many people that $800 million to $900 million is estimated to be lost in business on this day because people do not fly or do business as they normally would do.

For those not convinced, BlogPost provides you with a rundown of the methods people use to ward off bad luck.

Touch wood. Cross your fingers. Don’t walk under a ladder or smash a mirror. Avoid black cats. Don’t look at the full moon through a pane of glass. Upon seeing a hearse, touch the collar of your shirt until you see a bird. And when a clock shows matching numbers, such as 12.12, say them aloud.

If all else fails, go watch Friday the 13th, the movie. The original! It’s cheesy, and it will make you laugh. If you’re already terrified by the date, we don’t suggest renting the latest version:

This Friday 13th, tell us what you are most afraid of. Are you afraid of rats? Heights? Small spaces? Or the number 13?

Tell us in the comments below, or using the hashtag #friday13fears.

By  |  12:09 PM ET, 05/12/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company