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triskaidekaphobia

Irrational fear of things or events associated with the number 13. 

The number 13 is considered especially unfavorable though it was considered a lucky number in ancient Egypt and China. There were 13 people at the Last Supper. And several mass murderers have 13 letters in their names: Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy. Of course, millions of people who haven't committed any murders, such as Richard Cheney and Robert Redford, have 13 letters in their names, too. As far as I know, nobody has studied how many dinner parties with 13 present went off uneventfully. Witches, perhaps to clearly oppose themselves to a Christian superstition, sometimes have groups of 13 known as covens.

Some think 13 owes its bad reputation to Loki, the Norse god of evil, who started a riot when he crashed a banquet at Valhalla attended by 12 gods.

Some cities skip 13th Ave., but not Sacramento, which hasPhoto by Robert T. Carroll taken in William Land Park, Sacramento California an intersection where 13th Street crosses 13th Avenue. Some buildings skip from the 12th to the 14th floor, which, of course, means that the 14th floor is actually the 13th floor.

The ancient Egyptians considered the 13th stage of life to be death, i.e., the afterlife, which they thought was a good thing. The Death card in a tarot deck is numbered 13 and represents transformation. Those cultures with lunar calendars and 13 months don't associate 13 with anything sinister. 

According to a 1996 Gallup poll, 9 percent of Americans are superstitious about the number 13.*

See also paraskevidekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia.

reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Dossey, Donald E. Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments and Superstitious 'Cures' (Outcome Unlimited Press, 1992).

Radford, Edwin. Encyclopedia of Superstitions (Marlboro Books, 2000).

Wiseman, Richard. The Luck Factor: Change Your Luck - And Change Your Life (Century 2003).

Wiseman, Richard. "The Luck Factor." Skeptical Inquirer, April/May 2003.

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Last updated January 7, 2014

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