Friday the 13th, frightful or fable? This one features first full moon in almost 20 years


As far as I know, there isn’t a word for fear of alliteration, and obviously, I don’t suffer from it. But if you have paraskavedekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia – the fear of unlucky days – this is a bad day for you, even with the appearance of a unique celestial event.

For the first time in almost 20 years, a rare Harvest Moon will appear in the sky on a Friday the 13th. The last time the U.S. saw a full moon on Friday the 13th was Oct 13, 2000, and it won’t happen again until Aug 13, 2049. According to NASA, it’s called the Harvest Moon because it’s the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox.

Many suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia

However, this extraordinary occurrence may be of little solace to a large number of folks.

Experts say that friggatriskaidekaphobia affects 17-21 million people and estimate that businesses, especially airlines, suffer from severe losses on Friday the 13th. Some people are so paralyzed with superstition that they also refuse to buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip.

“It’s been estimated that in the U.S., $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do,” said the late Donald Dossey, who was also the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C.

Friday the Harvest moon

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Look for the Harvest Moon tonight, the first time it’s appeared on a Friday the 13th since the year 2000

Triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13, is even more widespread. So much so that many high-rise buildings, hotels, and hospitals skip the 13th floor, and many airports do not have gates numbered 13. Other ominous associations: A witches coven consists of 13 members; Tarot Card number 13 is the Death Card, depicting the Grim Reaper; there are 13 steps leading to the gallows, 13 knots in a hangman’s noose, and the guillotine blade falls 13 feet.

 In many parts of the world, having 13 people at the dinner table is considered bad luck. Some think that particular association came from the bible, as there is a biblical reference to 13 as an unlucky number. Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. (As per


Very little is known about the origins of the day’s notoriety. Some historians believe that the superstitions surrounding it arose in the late 19th century. The first documented mention of the day can be found in a biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday the 13th. Also, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Speak of the devil

This day spawned many disturbing but fruitful endeavors. The commercially successful Friday the 13th enterprise includes 12 horror movies, a television series, and several books that focus on curses and superstitions. Even though the films and the television series consistently received negative reviews from critics, they have a huge following. The mask worn by the key character in the films, Jason Voorhees, is one of the most known images in popular culture.

Strange coincidences also shadow this cursed day. Legendary horror writer William Peter Blatty, who penned The Exorcist, passed away on Friday the 13th of January 2017. If that wasn’t tragic enough, the news followed the death – on the same day – of the Catholic priest who inspired the iconic horror story.

Friday the Boris reading

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Photo by Lynette Brasfield

Black cats don’t want to scare people, they’re too busy reading (Boris the


There are numerous well-known superstitions identified with Friday the 13th. Fear of black cats is number one. “Don’t let a black cat cross your path,” the saying goes. Not only are they supposedly a sign of bad luck, but in folklore, black cats can be witches in disguise. 

Also beware of:

--Mirrors: If you break a mirror, kiss seven years of luck goodbye. 

--Ladders: Walking under a ladder is bad luck – or a bad choice – nothing good can come of it.

--Salt: If you spill salt, you’re supposed to throw it over your shoulder to avoid getting bad luck. 

--Purses: You should never leave your purse on the floor if you want to avoid bad luck, but where else is there to put it in a restaurant?

--6.66: If a bill totals $6.66, or you receive that much change, you should either buy something else or leave a penny from your change to avoid bad luck. 

--Umbrellas: Opening an umbrella indoors is said to bring bad luck. (Didn’t we all know this one.)

--Cutting your hair: If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, legend says someone in your family will die. 

--Funerals: If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.

--Cemeteries: To avoid bad luck when passing a cemetery, hold your breath until you see a black or brown dog. This could be a tricky one.

How often do they happen?

On average, there is a Friday the 13th once every 212.35 days. We have two Friday the 13ths in 2019 – today and December 13 – because 2019 is a common year (not a leap year) that started on a Tuesday. Whenever a common year of 365 days starts on a Tuesday, it’s inevitable that the months of September and December will start on a Sunday, and that means the 13th will be on a Friday. That sounds unnecessarily complicated.

All years have at least one but can never have more than three. The longest we can go without seeing a Friday the 13th is 14 months.

According to, the superstitions associated with this day are more fable than frightful, and there is very little evidence to show that Friday the 13th is indeed an unlucky day. Many studies have shown that Friday the 13th has little or no effect on events like accidents, hospital visits, and natural disasters.

But try to tell that to someone with paraskavedekatriaphobia or triskaidekaphobia, and unfortunately, it’s only 13 weeks until the next Friday the 13th.