According to a separate skein of superstition, another famous thirteenth guest was perhaps Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. There were 13 individuals present during the Last Supper that preceded Jesus’ crucifixion.
A story embracing the crucifixion of Jesus has also contributed to modern speculation around Friday 13th. A mathematician at the University of Delaware, Thomas Fernsler, has claimed that Christ was crucified on a Friday the thirteenth.
13th century miniature
People searching for confirmation of the unluckiness of Friday 13th may find it in the gruesome events of the Trials of the Knights Templar. The secrecy, power and wealth of the Christian order had made it a target of the King of France in the 14th century.
On Friday 13 October 1307, the king’s agents in France arrested members of the Templar order en masse. They were charged with heresy, their prosecutors making spurious accusations of idol worship and obscenity. Many were sentenced to imprisonment or burned at the stake.
The death of a composer
A novel published in 1907 named Friday, the Thirteenth may have helped to disseminate a superstition that had grown as a result of stories like Giachino Rossini’s. In his 1869 biography of the Italian composer Giachino Rossini, who died on Friday 13th, Henry Sutherland Edwards writes that:
He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.
Alpini ski troops in the Italian Alps during the First World War, when Italy were fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Date: circa 1916
A calamity that befell soldiers on the Italian Front of World War One has also become associated with Friday 13th. On ‘White Friday’, 13 December 1916, thousands of soldiers died in the Dolomites from avalanches. On Mount Marmolada, 270 soldiers died when an avalanche struck an Austro-Hungarian base. Elsewhere, avalanches struck Austro-Hungarian and Italian positions.
Heavy snowfall and a sudden thaw in the Alps had created the dangerous conditions. A request to vacate the Austro-Hungarian barracks on the Gran Poz summit of Mount Marmolada by Captain Rudolf Schmid had in fact noted the danger, but it was denied.
What is wrong with Friday the 13th?
Friday 13th may be regarded as an unlucky day, but there’s no avoiding it. The occasion of the thirteenth day of the month falling on a Friday happens once every year at the very least, but can take place three times in one year. There’s even a word for the fear the day provokes: Friggatriskaidekaphobia.
Most people are not genuinely fearful of Friday 13th. While a 2004 report by National Geographic included a claim that the fear of travelling and conducting business on the day contributed to hundreds of millions of dollars of “lost” business, it’s difficult to substantiate.
A 1993 report in the British Medical Journal had similarly claimed that an increase in accidents may take place on Friday 13th, but later studies disproved any correlation. Instead, Friday 13th is something of a folk tale, a shared story that may well date no earlier than the 19th and 20th centuries.