Until the late 1800s, there was no spooky belief assigned to Friday the 13th. So how did this date become associated with bad luck and highlighted on the calendars of the superstitious?
Exactly how the date became mired in the mind as an unlucky one is murky. Certainly the idea was firmly implanted in the cultural consciousness by 1980, when the slasher flick "Friday the 13th" was released.
Credit for popularizing the Friday the 13th myth often goes to Capt. William Fowler, a noted soldier who rubbed elbows with former presidents and other high-profile people of the late 1800s. Fowler noticed that the number 13 was woven throughout his life (he went to Public School No. 13 in New York City, for example, and fought in 13 Civil War battles), so he decided to combat the "popular superstition against thirteen," according to his obituary.
Fowler started a society called the Thirteen Club, which held its first meeting on Sept. 13, 1881. Guests walked under crossed ladders to a 13-seat table festooned with spilled salt. It was a notable party and repudiation of superstition, but Fowler can't take credit for Friday the 13th, specifically: Sept. 13, 1881, was a Tuesday (in Hispanic culture the unlucky day is when the 13th of the month falls on a Tuesday).
Another account, detailed in a blog by the New York Historical Society, puts that inaugural meeting on a Friday the 13th — Jan. 13, 1882, at 8:13 p.m., in room 13 of Fowler's Knickerbocker Cottage.
That idea that 13 was an unlucky number may go back to ancient mythology. According to author Donald Dossey, author of a Norse myth told of a dinner party for 12 gods at which a 13th guest showed up uninvited. The gatecrasher — the trickster god Loki — shot the god of joy and happiness, Balder. The Christian tale of the Last Supper likewise holds Judas, Jesus' betrayer, as the "unlucky" 13th guest.
Friday has also been considered an unlucky day in Western tradition. E. Cobham Brewer's 1898 "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" claims Friday as the day that Jesus was crucified and perhaps the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, according to Christian beliefs.
In 1882, poet John Godfrey Saxe published a poem called "The Good Dog of Brette," about a poodle that roams the city with a basket, bringing donations home to his blind master. On a Friday, "a day when misfortune is aptest [sic] to fall," a cruel butcher chops off the dog's tail.
In 1907, author Thomas William Lawson put together the notion of unlucky Friday and unlucky 13 with the novel "Friday the 13th," a tale of an unscrupulous broker taking advantage of superstition to game the stock market on that date, described as "Wall Street hoodoo-day." Lawson may not have invented the idea of the unlucky date, but he likely spread the notion.
source - livescience
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