Superstitious? Here Comes Whole Year Ending in 13

An elevator in a residential apartment building in Shanghai. Floor numbers 4, 13 and 14 are missing, and there is a button for the "negative first floor".

An elevator in a residential apartment building in Shanghai. Floor numbers 4, 13 and 14 are missing, and there is a button for the “negative first floor”.


(NEWSER) – Now that the Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen, has anyone noticed another harbinger of bad news—an entire year ending in the number “13”? The Wall Street Journal finds little evidence of Americans fretting, and takes a lighthearted stroll through the history of the superstition. Some say that the fear of 13—known as triskaidekaphobia—dates back to Jesus having only 12 disciples or the Norse god Loki ruining a dinner by showing up as the 13th participant. Whatever the cause, the number keeps cropping up:

  • In 1880, a civil war veteran tempted fate by starting a club that had 13 members who met on the 13th of every month. Other 13 clubs appeared, and nothing went wrong—except that one blew up in Woodbury, NJ, in 1898, injuring three people.
  • The Brits burned Buffalo, NY, in 1613. Napoleon invaded Europe in 1813. And the 16th amendment gave us federal income tax in 1913. But don’t bad things happen every year?
  • Most athletes refuse to wear 13, but stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Kurt Warner, and Dan Marino bucked the trend. Sadly, Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca was wearing it in 1951 when he served up that famous fastball to Bobby Thomson—”the shot heard ’round the world.”
  • Despite our seemingly rational age, many hotels still have no floor 13 and some airlines have no row 13.
  • Tom Fernsler, who may be America’s leading expert on the number, doesn’t see much to worry about. Asked whether 2013 will be a bad year, he said, “Nah.”
  • But it could help Elaine Ryan, a psychologist in Dublin, Ireland, who helps people deal with anxiety: “I have seen a few people who are genuinely concerned that bad things may happen to them as a direct result of the year being 2013,” she said.
  • Jack Creswell, head of Optimist International, sides with the non-believers: “The number makes no difference,” he said. “It’s what your target is for yourself as an individual and how that fits into the bigger picture.”

Click for the full article.

  • Number 666 or 616 (Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia), see Number of the Beast.
  • Tetraphobia, fear of the number 4. In China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea and Vietnam etc. as well as in many other East-Asian and some Southeast-Asian countries, it is not uncommon for buildings (including offices, apartments, hotels) to lack floors with numbers that include the digit 4, and Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia’s 1xxx-9xxx series of mobile phones does not include any model numbers beginning with a 4. This originates in Chinese, where the pronunciation of the word for “four” (四, sì in Mandarin) is very similar to that of the word for “death” (死, sǐ in Mandarin), and remains such in the other countries’ Sino-Xenic vocabulary.
  • 17 is an unlucky number in Italy, probably because in Roman digits 17 is written XVII, that could be rearranged to “VIXI”, which in Latin means “I have lived” but can be a euphemism for “I am dead.” Cesana Pariol, the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track used for the 2006 Winter Olympics, had turn 17 originally named “Senza Nome” (“without name” in Italian, but the turn was renamed in 2007 in honor of luger Paul Hildgartner).
  • Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, which is considered to be a day of bad luck in a number of western cultures. In Romania, Greece and some areas of Spain and Latin America, Tuesday the 13th is similarly considered unlucky.
  • Curse of 39, a belief in some parts of Afghanistan that the number 39 (thrice thirteen) is cursed or a badge of shame.