The Number 13 - Unlucky For Some

Through studies, it has been estimated that 1 in 10 people are affected by a fear of the number 13. Here we will look at some of the history behind the fear of the number 13

Through studies, it has been estimated that 1 in 10 people are affected by a fear of the number 13. Although it may appear to be a somewhat irrational fear, many who do ‘suffer’ from it feel it to be a real thing. Here we will look at some of the history behind the fear of the number 13.

One of the reasons why the number 13 has been deemed to be an unlucky number may stem from the Last Supper, where the 13th diner was Judas Iscariot. Even nowadays, there are plenty of people who feel that it is unlucky to dine at a table that has 13 diners. The world-famous Savoy Hotel even goes as far as to seat a larger wooden cat at any table of 13 diners, just to bring the number up to 14.

Another reason why the number 13 could be unlucky originated with the ancient Egyptians, to whom the 13th step was the last step on the ladder by which the soul reached eternity. Why that would be deemed a bad thing though is not quite clear.

The technical term for a fear of the number 13 is triskaidekaphobia and many famous people have suffered from it. Napoleon Bonaparte, Herbert Hoover, Mark Twain and composer Robert Wagner were all said to suffer from triskaidekaphobia, all to differing degrees. Wagner, for example, had several key events in his life connected with the number 13 – he was born in 1813 and died on the 13th February 1883.

Former American president Franklin Roosevelt was said to have suffered from a particularly severe fear of the number 13. He always tried to make sure that any lunch of dinner parties he was going to attend never had 13 people there. If a late addition or a cancellation threatened to leave the number at 13, Roosevelt would invite his secretary along to ‘make up the number’. He also avoided going on any state visits on the 13th of the month; he would either leave on the previous day, just before midnight, or a little after midnight the following day.

In the UK, most streets have avoided having a house numbered 13 and some larger buildings even avoid having a 13th floor. Well, they do obviously have a 13th floor but they don’t call it as such. Instead the floor numbers jump from 12 to 14. If you ever find yourself, for example, in the lift at Canary Wharf tower block in London you will not be able to press a button for floor 13 – it isn’t there!

On the subject of 13 being an unlucky number, perhaps there is something in it after all. Doomed space-rocket, Apollo 13, not only had the number 13 in its name, it was launched on the 11th April 1970 (sum of 1,1,4,7 and 0 = 13) from pad number 39 (13*3) at 13:13 local time. The explosion that doomed it happened on the 13th of April. Coincidence perhaps!

Many people are aware that Friday 13th is meant to be an unlucky day. Interestingly, the 13th of a month is more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day. This strange result was first proved by mathematician S R Baxter in 1969. Strangely enough, he was aged 13 at the time he worked it out.

 

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Ron Siojo
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Posted on May 31, 2010
Noodleman
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Joe Dorish
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Posted on May 29, 2010