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Fear of Friday the 13th

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” If you normally celebrate Friday as the end of the work week, but find yourself dreading this Friday, beware; you just might be coming down with a case of paraskevidekatriphobia.

Paraskevidekatriphobia ” the tongue-twisting name for the phobia associated with Friday the 13th ” affects nearly 17 million people ( about 8 percent of the population) nationwide, and can be a seriously debilitating phobia, said Gerri Allender, a licensed professional counselor in Eagle-Vail.

The date of Friday the 13th is well known as the day to be sure to avoid black cats, walking under ladders, spilling the salt or breaking any mirrors and is often viewed as a joke or just another superstition. But for people who live with the phobia, it’s no laughing matter and can actually cause serious anxiety.



“I have worked with some people who have let superstitions become a form of anxiety,” Allender said. “Superstitions can take over a person’s life if they are getting caught up in the behavior of trying to control a situation.

“Ask yourself if there is a logical tie between what you are doing and the outcome you are hoping for, and if the answer is no than you probably need some help to address why you are doing it.”

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A counselor for 17 years, Allender said she has had numerous cases of people having trouble coping with phobias and superstitions, but none who were specifically afraid of the date Friday the 13th.

The origins of Friday the 13th are largely a mystery. Why is Friday the 13th different than any other Friday or 13th day of the month?

The fear of Friday the 13th seems to trace its origins back to the early 1900s, but long before that, both Fridays and the number 13 have been historically unlucky, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute.



In the Bible, for example, Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Even before that, Eve supposedly gave Adam the forbidden fruit on a Friday and Cain killed his brother on a Friday as well.

“Yes, these are all things that are in the Bible,” said Pastor Tommy Schneider of Calvary Chapel in Edwards. “Man has always loved to take biblical things and make them superstitious.”

According to Norse legend, the number 13 has a negative history as well. The mythical god Loki was the uninvited 13th guest at a divine feast that was held in Valhalla. Loki, the god of mischief, misbehaved and killed Balder, the god of beauty, innocence and joy. Covens of witches are also rumored to gather in groups of 13.

The fear of 13 runs deep. Buildings rarely have a thirteenth floor and some airlines even avoid numbering one of their rows with the most dreaded of all prime numbers, said Bud Griffith, a second-home owner who has studied the legend behind the number 13 as a hobby for the past 20 years.

“There are a lot of people who think 13 is unlucky, and for good reason,” Griffith said. “It has got to the point where businesses make decisions off of avoiding the number. Whether it’s really unlucky or not, there’s such a negative connotation associated with it that we run our lives around it.”


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