By Ransom Riggs
BOO! (Did we scare you?) Well, even if you're not freaked out by Friday the 13th, enough Americans are that the country will lose and estimated $800-$900 million worth of business today, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, NC, thanks to increased unwillingness to travel, conduct major businss transactions or walk underneath ladders. (Just kidding about that last one.)
But is there actually something to fear, or are people made anxious by the idea that there might be something to fear, and thus become more accident-prone, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Having already broken a mirror and stepped in dog doo this morning, Mental_Floss is in no position to speculate. There are, however, a few (possibly) historical events which might help explain why people fear Fridays the 13th, as opposed to Tuesdays, or even -- don't laugh -- Thursdays. According to legend (recently offered up as fact in The DaVinci Code):
On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force 'confessions,' and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake."
Another theory (rooted in Christian tradition) points to a convergence of the bad-luck number 13 (the number of people at Jesus' Last Supper) and famously ill-fated Friday (the day Jesus was crucified and supposedly the day of the Great Flood, the day Cain slew Abel and the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel).
For those of you suffering from a case of the heebie jeebies (especially after reading this), you might try a folk remedy. Our favorites are:
1) Climb to the top of a mountain of tall building and burn all your socks that have holes in them. A close second is
2) Stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle.
Good luck! If any of you try these, please send us a picture.