Friday the 13th
Holidays and Traditions

What odd occurrences have taken place on Friday the 13th?



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Todd L Ross

While we’re not especially superstitious, Friday the 13th has certainly held bad luck for some people. Here are a few of our favorite coincidences:

  • An author’s ship suffered a strange fate. Author Thomas William Lawson was a businessman and author, and he might have helped popularize the Friday the 13th superstition. In 1907, he wrote Friday, the Thirteenth, a popular novel about a stock broker who brings down the markets on the eponymous date.
    Lawson also invested heavily in a schooner named after him, the Thomas W. Lawson. The ship was wrecked off the Isles of Scilly in the early hours of Saturday, Dec. 14th, 1907. Lawson lived in Boston at the time, so to him, the boat wrecked on Friday the 13th.
  • Stock markets crashed. On Oct. 13, 1989, traders saw one of the worst stock market crashes in years. It was triggered by fears of high inflation and news of a failed United Airlines buyout. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 189 points, indicating a major panic among investors.
    The timing of the panic wasn’t ideal; stock traders are notoriously superstitious, and investors often avoid making major trades on Friday the 13th.
  • The Knights Templar were arrested and executed. The Knights Templar were a religious order formed in the 12th century to protect Christians during the Crusades. In 1307, French king Philip IV had built up a sizable debt to the secret order, who were extremely wealthy by that point in time. Philip had scores of them arrested on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307. Many were tortured and eventually burned at the stake.
    Some believe this is the origin of our modern Friday the 13th superstition, but there are quite a few other explanations for the paranoia surrounding the date.
  • In 1829, a prominent daredevil attempted an ill-fated stunt. Sam Patch attempted to jump from a 25-foot-tall platform above Genesee Falls in Rochester, New York, on Friday, Nov. 13, 1829. In total, the jump was 125 feet. He’d survived similar jumps in the past, but alas, he wasn’t so lucky on this attempt.
    His final words:
    “Napoleon was a great man and a great general. He conquered armies and he conquered nations. But he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. Wellington was a great man and a great soldier. He conquered armies and he conquered Napoleon, but he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. That was left for me to do, and I can do it and will!”
    He couldn’t, and he didn’t. His body was found several months later.
  • In 2010, a 13-year-old in Suffolk, England, was struck by lightning (and it gets weirder). The boy was rushed to a hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.
    "This was a very minor burn to the boy's shoulder, but he was conveyed to hospital and is recovering well,” a county ambulance officer said at the time.
    Here’s the bizarre part of the story: The child suffered his injuries at precisely 1:13 in the afternoon—or 13:13, if you’re using a 24-hour clock. We’re guessing he stayed indoors for the next Friday the 13th.
  • On Friday, April 13, 2029, asteroid 99942 Apophis will pass near Earth. Scientists initially believed it had a chance of crashing into our planet, causing massive destruction (but not a mass extinction, as the asteroid’s not especially large). They’ve since ruled out that possibility. Still, the idea of a near-Earth asteroid passing by on the unluckiest date on the calendar has prompted fears of an apocalypse. Here’s why there’s nothing to worry about.

If these coincidences seem frightening, you could always stay in bed on Friday the 13th.