“Thirteen at a table is unlucky only when the hostess has only twelve chops.”
— Groucho Marx
Today is Friday, June 13th, 2008.
OK, so you might not be that frightened, but for those Okies who suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia (yes, it’s a real word and it means fear of Friday the 13th) today is a day to stay in bed with your head under the covers.
And it’s been that way for a long, long time.
According to tradition, Friday the 13th is considered a day of bad luck in several countries, including England, France, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and even the Philippines.
The reasons vary. Several Internet-based resources say the day and date became infamous following the arrest of Jaques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar. On Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, de Molay and 60 of his senior knights were arrested, and subsequently tortured by bad guys working for King Philip IV of France.
Following the knights’ “confessions,” Philip the IV had them executed and, again according to legend, from that day on, Friday the 13th was considered by followers of the Templars as an evil and unlucky day — which made sense as long as Philip was the one calling the shots.
Other legends say Friday the 13th got its black mark after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many Christians believe Christ was crucified on Friday, the 13th, and some theologians even hold that Adam and Eve munched a few forbidden apples years earlier on that same date .
Still others claims the Biblical Great Flood began on Friday the 13th.
Whatever the reason, millions of people fear the date.
In fact, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., more than 67 million Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th.
“Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines,” the institute said. “They stop doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.”
The institute estimates that between $800 million and $900 million in revenue is lost each year because of the fear surrounding the date.
But not everyone is scared.
For Cleveland County Fairboard Marketing Director Sharon Harrell, Friday the 13th is her day to hit the casino.
“I love Friday the 13th,” she said. “That’s the day I go to Riverwind or some other casino. Everything good happens to me on Friday the 13th.”
And while Harrell admits to being “a little superstitious,” it’s more about barrel racing than dates.
“I’m a barrel racer,” she said. “And I have to have my watch in my left pocket and my hoofpick in the right pocket or I feel like something’s wrong. But as far as Friday the 13th goes, that’s always been a good luck day for me. Something good always happens.”
For Moore resident Deidre Ebrey, Friday the 13th has more to do with movies and less to do with luck.
Ebrey, Moore’s economic development director, said she associates the day with the movie by the same name. “When you’ve grown up around the date and the movie, you don’t think about superstition,” she said. “It’s more frightening than superstitious.”
Still, bad luck — whether it’s being killed by a maniacal ax-weilding zombie or just losing your credit card — is bad luck and, throughout history, a lot of bad things have happened on Friday the 13th.
· The 1889 Johnstown Flood.
· The 1929 stock market crash in the United States.
· The Black Friday bush fires in Victoria, Australia occurred on Friday, Jan. 13, 1939.
· The Uruguayan Rugby team crashed in the Andes mountain range on Friday, Oct. 13, 1972.
· Hurricane Charley made landfall near Port Charlotte, Florida on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004.
· The “Friday the 13th Storm” struck Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, Oct. 13, 2006.
Then, there’s the connection with death.
In Britain, Friday was the conventional day for hangings and legend say the hangman’s gallows had 13 steps and the noose was wrapped 13 times.
In Norse mythology, the hero Balder was supposedly whacked at a banquet by the Norse god Loki on Friday. Balder had thrown a weekend party and invited 11 friends and — you guessed it — when Loki showed up the group grew to 13 and well, the rest was bad news.
Yet even while millions of residents fear the date, for one Norman man, Friday the 13th is just another day. For Father Edward Menasco, a priest at St. Jospeh’s Catholic Church, Friday the 13th is simply a day before Saturday, the 14th.
“No, I’m not superstitious,” Menasco said. “But I do think the myths surrounding the date came from the Knights Templar thing.”
And though Menasco believes people aren’t as superstitious as they used to be — as we get older, he says, “we become less superstitious — he does have some comfort for those who fear Friday the 13th.
“Just trust that God is protecting us,” he said.
And remember that Saturday, the 14th, will be here before you know it.
M. Scott Carter 366-3545 firstname.lastname@example.org