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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

It’s a variation of triskaidekaphobia, “fear of the number 13,” but in English-speaking nations around the world, “paraskevidekatriaphobia,” or fear of Friday the 13th, is widespread. In Spain and Greece, however, it is Tuesday, the 13th that is unlucky.

According to www.HowStuffWorks.com, the most common origins of the fear of Friday the 13th have Christian roots. There were 13 at Jesus’ last supper. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was the last to arrive. Also, the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.

However, there are also non-religious roots to today’s superstition. Public hangings in Great Britain were associated with Friday and 13. They conventionally occurred on Fridays and there were supposedly 13 steps to the gallows.

In addition, sailors refused to ship out on a Friday, and there is a legend that, in the 1800s, the British actually built a ship and called it the H.M.S. Friday. The crew was selected on a Friday. It set sail on a Friday and its skipper supposedly was named James Friday. Authorities wanted to disprove the superstition. Unfortunately, folklore has it that the ship disappeared on its maiden voyage.

While some honor the superstition, others flaunt it. Daniel Handler, author of the popular Lemony Snicket children’s book, is releasing the 13th book in his series, titled "The End," today –- Friday the 13!

In a 2000 survey conducted by American Demographics, only 13 percent of all respondents said they were superstitious about Friday the 13th, but 30 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds expressed the fear. (They came of age during the nine installments of the “Friday the 13th” series of horror films -- coincidence?)

Think you aren’t superstitious? Here’s a test. If you could choose, would you get married, start a new job or close on a house on Friday the 13th? Let us know.

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