• Friday, Nov. 13, 1970: the deadliest tropical cyclone in history, the Bhola cyclone, peters out after devastating Bangladesh, killing an estimated 300,000 people.
• Friday, Nov. 13, 1985: more than 20,000 die as the Nevada del Ruiz volcano erupts in Colombia, burying the nearby towns of Chinchilla, and Amerno.
A quick look at those headlines may confirm for you relatively quickly why people fear Friday the 13th.
Of course what they don’t tell you is that with 365 days and billions of human beings to choose from you can pull out a similar handful of tragic headlines for pretty much any Monday the 9th, or Saturday the 25th, too.
The Titanic went down on a Sunday the 14th. Hitler invaded Poland on a Friday the 1st. The Bruins ended Vancouver’s Stanley Cup dreams on a Wednesday the 15th.
Any rational examination of history shows us that the personal assistants for Mr. Bad Luck and Ms. Fortune don’t schedule their appearances based on the calendar.
But you can bet your lucky rabbit’s foot that somewhere this Friday, May 13, you will encounter a reference to it being a day when you should tread carefully.
“Superstition is a belief that there is a relation between an action or event when there is none,” Vancouver Island University professor Robert Pepper-Smith said. “The psychological mechanism is we want control.”
Friday the 13th comes around with great regularity. Every year has at least one and some years (like last year) have three.
Why frigga-triskaidekaphobia — yes there is a word for fear of Friday the 13th — has managed to embed its clutches on our collective consciousness is a matter of debate and conjecture.
Phillips Stevens, Jr., an associate professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo, studies the origins of cults, superstitions and cultural identities. In a 2004 media release from the university, he said that Western culture’s fear of Friday the 13th likely started in the Middle Ages, based on Christian teachings.