Friday the 13th

Circling Friday the 13th on a calendar
By W.J.Pilsak

Are you afraid of the day Friday the 13th? Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at stories that have made people think this day is extremely unlucky.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight, I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Friday the 13th. Are you frightened when I say these words? If the words “Friday the 13th” frighten you, you are like millions of other people. They share the same fear. They believe that Friday the 13th is an extremely unlucky and even dangerous day! But is Friday the 13th an unlucky day? Is something bad more likely to happen to a person on Friday the 13th? Today’s Spotlight is on Friday the 13th.

Voice 2

Many years ago, humans needed a way to organize time. They made a system of days, weeks, months and years. In Western cultures there are 12 months in a year. And there are about 30 days in each month. Each week has seven days. About two times every year, the 13th day of the month will be a Friday. Some people say that each Friday the 13th is very unlucky. They fear this day.

Voice 1 

Fear of Friday the 13th is mostly a Western tradition. It is even a part of popular culture. For example, there are some horror films called Friday the 13th. They are very violent and frightening. Many people watch them because they enjoy being frightened. In some of these movies, the violence begins on the day Friday the 13th.

Voice 2 

Where does this fear come from? Experts believe that the fear of Friday the 13th comes from two separate fears that come together. They are the fear of the number 13, and the fear of the day Friday. Many people believe each separate thing is already unlucky. But when you combine them, they are even more unlucky!

Voice 1 

There are many stories about where the fear of Friday the 13th came from. Donald Dossey is a folklore historian. He studies ancient stories from many different cultures. Dossey tells National Geographic Magazine about the beginning of the fear of the number 13. He says the first writing about the fear of the number 13 comes from an ancient Norse story. Adam Navis tells this story:

Voice 3 

“The great hero Balder was having a special party. There were 12 people at the party. Then, Loki came to the party. He had not been invited. When he came, there were 13 people. Loki liked to play tricks. He told another person to shoot an arrow at Balder. Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day.”

Voice 2 

In some traditions people refuse to serve a meal to exactly 13 people. They believe it is very bad luck. In France, there used to be people called “fourteeners.” People having a dinner party did not want to have 13 guests. So they would invite one more person to be at the table - a fourteener.

Voice 1 

Some people also believe the number 13 is bad because of a story from the Christian Bible. 13 was the number of people at Jesus’ last meal before he died. His follower, Judas, was the 13th person to arrive at the meal. Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus.

Voice 2 

These things made people mistrust the number 13. Many high-rise apartment buildings and hotels do not even have a 13th floor. Most of these buildings go from floor 12 to floor 14. Or they use a different letter or number for the 13th floor. Many airports also do not have a 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels often have no room number 13.

Voice 1 

But this fear of the number 13 is only one half of the fear of Friday the 13th. The other half of fearing Friday the 13th is a fear of the day Friday. The fear of Friday also comes from stories in history. Jesus was killed on a Friday. In the Christian Bible, and in other religious books, there is a story of a great flood that destroyed the earth. Some people say the flood rains started on Friday. Long ago, some people refused to start new projects on a Friday because of these stories.

Voice 2 

Sailors were especially worried about Fridays. They would often refuse to set sail on a Friday. Rena Dam tells an old story about sailors and Friday the 13th.

Voice 4 

“The British Navy wanted to stop sailors’ fear of Friday. They wanted to show them there was nothing to be worried about. So, they planned a new trip. They chose the sailors on a Friday. They launched the ship on a Friday. They named the ship the H.M.S. Friday. They even chose a man named James Friday to lead the trip as the Captain. Then, one Friday morning, the ship set sail for its first trip. It was never seen or heard from again.”

Voice 1 

No one knows if this story is true or not. But it may have made people even more afraid to do important things on a Friday.

Voice 2 

Even today, fear of Friday the 13th is common in Western cultures. Some research shows that more people go to the hospital on Friday the 13th. Some people refuse to even go to work. Some people try not to plan an important event like a wedding for Friday the 13th.

Voice 1 

Donald Dossey estimates that businesses lose about $800 million each Friday the 13th. People will not fly on an airplane on Friday the 13th. They do not do all the business they would normally do.  Many of these people may not even know the stories about the history of Friday the 13th. They have a superstitious fear of the day. That is, they fear it for no good reason.

Voice 2 

Superstitious fears are common in many cultures around the world. But they can be very unhealthy. They may stop people from living normal lives because they are so afraid. But people do not need to be afraid! Richard Wiseman is a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire. He has some wise words for people who fear Friday the 13th:

Voice 5 

“People need to remember that they can create much of their own good and bad luck. And they should concentrate on being lucky by, for example, looking at the positive events in their lives. They can remember all the good things that have happened. And most of all, they can be prepared to take control of their future.”

Voice 1 

It is true that bad things can happen on Friday the 13th. But bad things can happen every day. And so can good things! Christians believe that the world is ordered by a loving God, not by luck. They know that they do not have to be afraid - not even on Friday the 13th.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Sara De Koster. The producer was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called "Friday the 13th".

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Are you afraid of the day Friday the 13th?


Avatar Spotlight
said on January 12, 2012

Good or bad luck can happen everyday, not only Friday the 13th. You are frightened because that obsessed your mention.
Our destiny dependent our good or bad actives and our kind. “Bad things can happen everyday” not just friday the 13th. That is exactly! God bless everyone!
Nguyen Truc

truongphu178's avatar
said on January 13, 2012

I agree with you - NguyenTruc.
I hope everyone happy.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 13, 2012

Hello All,
I’m very surprised of the “fourteeners” people . I was born in suthern Italy (NEAPLES) and here a long time ago
was impossible to invite to important dinner only 13 peole. In this case there was a “fourteeners” and there were who did for living.

Many Thank to Spotlight people and good luck.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 09, 2012

Tks Spotlight to help me fearless from the day Friday the 13th .On Friday the 13th,the day i will be interviewed to get visa to study abroad. God bless you !

Avatar Spotlight
Phan Hải
said on July 13, 2012

Thanks to Spotlight for this report :)

Avatar Spotlight
Doi hai linh
said on July 13, 2012

I don’t feel scared of on Friday the thirteen. Because may be i don’t believe ancient story. Many people belive that bad things will happen on Friday the thirteen. If On Friday the thirteen a unlucky thing happen, they will think it is right. But i don’t think so. The main reason is yourself. Never blame others of fate”.”

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 27, 2012

i’m a superstitious person. But also in friday the thirteen, i don’t believe too much in bad luck. May be the history of the day is wrong, don’t be so scared! >< May be in ten years later, people’ll think that friday the thirteen is a good day, right?

Avatar Spotlight
said on August 12, 2012

Hello everybody I hope you do not have an unlucky day in your life . God bless all of us.
I am not a superstitious guy so I do not believe in this kind of matter . In lots of areas in my country Iran people think number 13 is an unlucky number too, so if they need to write it for an
address sometimes they will write 12+1 .We have a traditional holidays at the beginning of the spring season that we call it Norouz holidays .On 13th of these holidays all people go out from their houses , apartments to the nature or parks because they believe everybody who stay at home will have an unlucky day . A lot of people think that the whether will not be nice in this day because of its unluckiness and they tell stories about it too. Have a good time .Goodbye

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 14, 2015

With me, friday is a lucky day to start something, but not 13th :)

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on October 13, 2017

I do not blevie that!
GOD bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 14, 2019

I do not believe in superstitions. People use to encounter a responsible for their troubles and it may be a person or a supernatural supposed fact. I believe in science…

Avatar Spotlight
Martin Guzman
said on September 18, 2019

Me and Some people also believe that the number 13 is of bad luck due to a history of the Christian Bible. 13 was the number of people at Jesus’ last meal before they died bone at the last supper. His follower, Judas, was the thirteenth person to arrive at the food. Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus.


Algunas personas y yo también creemos que el número 13 es de mala suerte debido a una historia de la Biblia cristiana. 13 fue el número de personas en la última comida de Jesús antes de que murieran huesos en la última cena. Su seguidor, Judas, fue la decimotercera persona en llegar a la comida. Judas fue quien traicionó a Jesús.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 07, 2019

From .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To spotlight program
Subject to answer to the question below
Location São Paulo city São Paulo Brazil
Thursday 07, November 2019

Dear Liz Waid, Sara de Koster, and Joshua Leo

I thank you for producing and writing more one great article for us brazilian people and others around the World.
Question 1 - Are you afraid of the day Friday the 13th?
Answer 1 - No, I am not. For me it is common day like other days. Bad things can happen at any day of the week.
God bless you
Severino Ramos