Are you a paraskevidekatriaphobic? If so, you’re probably keeping out of harm’s way today, most likely not risking getting out of bed.
Because today is Friday the 13th – considered by those of a superstitious nature to be the unluckiest day of the year.
And the unpronounceable phobia applies to people with a morbid, irrational fear of the date.
Despite being a well-known superstition, it can be dated back to only just over a century ago.
Folklore expert Dr David Clarke, from Sheffield Hallam University, has traced the earliest mention of the fear to 1907, when a novel by Thomas Lawson called Friday the Thirteenth was published.
In the 14th century, Chaucer alluded to Friday being an unlucky day in his Canterbury Tales, and by the 19th century it was well-established as being a bad day to start a journey or a job.
Superstitions surrounding the number 13 come from the Christian belief that there were 13 people around the table at the Last Supper.
The last to take his seat, Judas Iscariot, was the first to leave to betray Jesus and later took his own life.
A series of horror films called Friday the 13th also popularised the term – and in South Yorkshire, some even believe the Stocksbridge bypass is unlucky because it opened on Friday 13, 1988.
Brenda Diskin, a spiritualist medium and member of the Sheffield Paranormal Investigations Group, said she knows ‘a lot of people’ who are superstitious about Friday the 13th – despite not sharing their fear herself.
“I think it stems from the way they’re brought up, and I think a lot of people avoid putting themselves in situations where anything untoward might happen or where they might experience bad luck,” said Brenda, aged 63, from Parson Cross.
“I’m a great believer that if you put out negative thoughts, that’s what you get back. We make our own good luck.”
Brenda said she thought more people have started believing in the paranormal and conspiracy theories.
“I do believe people are starting to move towards that belief system more readily,” she said. “Perhaps it’s because there’s the need to believe in something.”
Patricia Crowther – a practising witch and High Priestess of the Great Goddess, from City Road in Sheffield – said it was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ that Friday the 13th is considered unlucky.
“Thirteen was a sacred number and the Christians turned it into a negative number,” said Patricia, 84.
The ancient lunar calendar had 13 months, and a witch’s coven has 13 members, she said.
“It’s got nothing to do with being unlucky – it’s a particularly good day,” Patricia added.
A study published in 1993 seemed to confirm Friday the 13th is unlucky for some – revealing the number of hospital admissions due to car accidents was as much as 52 per cent higher than on normal Fridays.
But Jo Bullock, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said there’s no firm evidence to support the superstition.
“There have been a variety of different studies over the years, but I don’t think it’s ever been proved there’s an increase in accidents on Friday the 13th.
“In some studies there seems to have been a decrease. That’s probably because people are mindful of the fact it is Friday the 13th and are more careful on the day,” she said.