Friday 13: Is it really unlucky? A behavioral scientist weighs in on the superstitions surrounding this date

Friday 13 has long been considered, by those who believe in it, a day to cancel your plans and be extra careful: have you ever wondered why?

Friday 13th: Cat Walking Against Wooden Wall - stock photo
(Image credit: Cindy Malnasi / EyeEm/Getty Images)

Few dates on the calendar elicit the level of fear and anxiety that Friday 13 does. It's spawned film franchises, books, and been blamed for innumerable unlucky incidents. So why do some people believe so heavily in the superstition surrounding this date and are their fears valid?

Life is full of all kinds of struggles, so wondering how to deal with stress is a daily part of life for most of us. However, stress levels for some individuals go stratospheric around Friday 13. 

Woman&home asked behavioral scientist, author, and teacher Stuart Vyse (opens in new tab) about where this all stems from and why some are more superstitious than others. Stuart, who's an expert on superstition and irrational behavior, says, "Superstitions stem from uncertainty and a lack of control."

He explains, "From ancient times through today there have been aspects of nature we do not understand and important things we can't control: the weather, our health, etc. In those places where a better answer is not available, superstition fills the gap."

Is Friday 13 really unlucky?

Friday the 13th sign against a stormy background with lightning and copy space. Dirty and angled sign adds to the drama.

(Image credit: ronniechua/Getty Images)

For those resolute in their belief that bad things happen on this date, Stuart says, "People who believe Friday 13 is unlucky are likely to attribute bad things that happen to the day. It provides a ready explanation for otherwise random events."

It appears that superstitions considered to be unlucky like Friday 13, spotting lone magpies, having a black cat cross your path, or - heaven forefend - breaking a mirror, are a convenient peg to hang a bad incident on.

As Stuart explains, "In the case of negative superstitions, such as Friday the 13, the original motivation was undoubtedly to provide an explanation for bad things that happen and to give believers something to do to avoid unhappy events."

So after all of that, will you be feeling wary of Friday 13?

History of Friday 13

Although it's unclear where the exact source of all the worry on this particular calendar date is, National Geographic (opens in new tab) reports that it's believed that the anxiety comes from Christianity. In the Bible, Judas, who's said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest who attended the Last Supper. Fridays are also associated with negativity in the Bible, because of Good Friday among other key moments, so it's seen as a day to be cautious.

As well as that, 13 comes after 12, which is seen as a natural completion. The calendar year has 12 months, 12 inches in a foot, 12 pairs of ribs in a body—13 is seen as unnatural as a result.

Aoife is Junior News Editor at woman&home.

She's an Irish journalist and writer with a background in creative writing, comedy, and TV production.

Formerly Aoife was a contributing writer at Bustle and her words can be found in the Metro, Huffpost, Delicious, Imperica, EVOKE and her poetry features in the Queer Life, Queer Love anthology.

Outside of work you might bump into her at a garden center, charity shop, hot yoga studio, lifting heavy weights, or (most likely) supping/eating some sort of delicious drink/meal.