If you believe Friday the 13th is a day marked only by bad luck and running from an evil hockey enthusiast at a defunct summer camp, it’s time to rethink the infamous date’s potential. Leave your triskaidekaphobia at the door and check out the noteworthy events that landed on the “unlucky” day. All the bad stuff is just a coincidence.
1. Dinosaur Eggs Are Discovered // July 1923
While hunting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History at Mongolia’s Flaming Cliffs, an expedition team led by Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first scientifically recognized dinosaur egg fossils. He had gone there to try to find the missing link between apes and mankind, so this was a doozy of a consolation prize.
2. Welcome to Hollywoodland Sign is Erected // July 1923
The same day that Andrews was digging up dino eggs, a giant group of letters was inaugurated in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to signify a housing development owned by H.J. Whitley called Hollywoodland. Today, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks even though it long ago lost its “land.”
3. Tennessee Outlaws Evolution // March 1925
It was an unlucky day for Darwin when the Tennessee Senate voted to prohibit Evolutionary Theory from public universities and schools. The law was deemed constitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court during the famed Scopes Monkey Trial and wasn’t struck down until 1967.
4. The British Interplanetary Society is Formed // October 1933
We may have landed people on the moon in 1969, but people have been dreaming of the stars since long before then. The British Interplanetary Society, the oldest space advocacy group in the world, was founded to boost public awareness of astronautics. Its most famous chairman? None other than Arthur C. Clarke.
5. Hughes H-1 Racer Sets a World Airspeed Record // September 1935
The Hughes H-1 Racer spent an illustrious Friday the 13th in 1935 setting a world airspeed record (567 kph/352 mph). Designed by the legendary Howard Hughes and Richard Palmer, it was the last privately owned aircraft to break the world airspeed record. The aircraft now resides at the National Air and Space Museum.
6. The First Heavy Metal Album Debuts // February 1970
Marked by many music experts as the official birth of heavy metal, Black Sabbath’s eponymous album was released on an appropriately dangerous Friday the 13th in 1970. A remarkably good omen for everyone who wanted to board the crazy train.
7. A Rugby Team’s Plane Crashes in the Andes // October 1972
One of the more horrific things to have happened on this date, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the Andes Mountains while carrying the Old Christians Club rugby team. Over a quarter of the 45 were killed on impact, and it took until December 23 to rescue the surviving 16 who were forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.
8. Malta Becomes an Independent Republic // December 1974
The small country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea declared its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964, but Queen Elizabeth II remained the Head of State. In 1974, Malta Labour Party leadership declared the country a republic and installed a President (Sir Anthony Mamo) as the head of the government.
9. Super Mario Bros. is Released // September 1985
Undoubtedly one of the most famous video games of all time—and a mega-franchise-launcher and anchor for Nintendo—Super Mario Bros. was released on a fireball-throwing Friday the 13th. It makes sense; it’s a day when many superstitious people refuse to go outside.
10. The Stock Market Mini-Crash Happens // October 1989
Maybe it’s just Octobers that are unlucky for the stock market. Sixty years after the Black Tuesday crash that ushered in the Great Depression, the major markets experienced some serious turbulence after an aborted United Airlines merger tanked the junk bond market. Like a black cat crossing your path in a golden parachute, the mini-crash was a harbinger of the 1990s recession.
11. Finland Holds Its First National Accident Day // October 1995
Since 1995, Finland has designated one Friday the 13th every year as a national Accident Day with the aim of raising awareness for workplace and road safety. It’s a clever idea to use the superstitious day as an opportunity to be extra vigilant. Plus, because of its capital’s airport code and a particular daily flight demarcation, Finland used to offer a Flight 666 to HEL every Friday the 13th (though that ended in 2017).
12. NASA Announces Evidence of Water on the Moon // November 2009
After studying data collected and relayed by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), NASA chose a Friday the 13th to share evidence that the moon isn’t as desolate as we thought it to be. The robotic spacecraft studied particles in the debris plume created by its launchable upper stage impacting with the Cabeus crater, opening the door for more research and a new understanding of our only permanent natural satellite.
13. A Lot of Great People were Born
Throughout the years, plenty of people have shrugged off being born under a bad sign to become noteworthy in multiple fields (and even score some Nobel Prizes for their mantel). People born on Friday the 13th include Nate Silver, jazz clarinetist George Lewis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Plummer, novelist Georges Simenon, playwright Samuel Beckett, WWII hero-turned-actor Neville Brand, and poet Wole Soyinka.
A version of this story originally ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2023.