TGIF? Not on the 13th

GRAND FORKS - Some people are more than superstitious when the calendar reads Friday the 13th, as it does today. They're outright afraid, some to the point where they won't venture out of bed, much less out the door.

GRAND FORKS - Some people are more than superstitious when the calendar reads Friday the 13th, as it does today. They're outright afraid, some to the point where they won't venture out of bed, much less out the door.

The anxiety and panic are part of a phobia that affects 17 to 21 million Americans, researchers say.

"It's been estimated that $800 (million) or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do," Dr. Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center-Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., said in an interview with National Geographic.

The roots

Dossey traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki, who arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.


"Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. It was a bad, unlucky day," Dossey said in the interview.

There are also ties to Christianity associated with Friday the 13th. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

As for Friday, it's well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam on Friday, the Great Flood began on Friday and Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.

Other urban legends about Friday include:

- Never change your bed on Friday; it will bring bad dreams.

- Don't start a trip on Friday or you will have misfortune.

- If you cut your nails on Friday, you cut them for sorrow.

- Ships that set sail on a Friday will have bad luck - as in the tale of H.M.S. Friday. One hundred years ago, the British government sought to end once and for all the superstition among seamen that setting sail on Fridays was unlucky. A special ship was commissioned, named "H.M.S. Friday." They laid her keel on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, selected her crew on a Friday and hired a man named Jim Friday to be her captain. To top it off, H.M.S. Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday, and was never seen or heard from again.


Many triskaidekaphobes, as those who fear the unlucky integer are known, point to Apollo 13's ill-fated mission to the moon.

Who's afraid?

David Flynn, UND economic professor, said he is superstitious, just not when it comes to Friday the 13th.

"Spill the salt, throw it over your shoulder," he said. "Don't walk under a ladder is a good one to remember. I've had things fall on me."

Others respect the date.

"I avoided writing Friday the 13th on some minutes I sent out," said Mary Fredericks, student adviser at UND. "I'm concerned some in my audience might be superstitious."

"I'm not superstitious, but on that day, I am," said Mike Johnson, a UND student from Milwaukee.

"I have a paper due that day," said Chandler McArdle, a UND student who hails from Los Angeles. "If I fail, I'll chalk it up to Friday the 13th."


"I don't believe in bad luck, but I'm cautious," said Gene Brueckner, Grand Forks. "I try to avoid black cats."

Myron Halstenson, Niagara, N.D., said he's had a black cat cross his path.

"Not a blessed thing happened," he said. "Friday the 13th could be a lucky day, you never know."

What's in a name?

Legend has it that if you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck; Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and Theodore Bundy all have 13 letters in their names-- as does James R. Johnson.

But this reporter was born on Thursday, April 13. My brother, Tom, was actually born on Friday the 13. Neither one of us have had a life filled with bad luck.

"When I grew up, if you had 13 letters in your name, you got into the movie theater free," said Arlene Brokken, Grand Forks.

Sports and superstitions


Athletes are notorious for superstitions.

UND women's hockey player Margot Miller puts on her left skate before her right skate.

"I've done it since I was a kid," she said. "When we go out for warmup, I have to be at the back of the line and I always chew Juicy Fruit gum."

Kayla Bagaason, UND women's basketball forward, said she goes through the same routine every game day, but her field goal percentage in the shoot-around the day before determines if she wears the same or different headband for the game.

Even media relations directors "knock wood," such as last week when the UND men's hockey team played Michigan Tech.

"I missed the bus from the hotel to the morning skate, and UND won, so I missed it intentionally on Saturday," said Jayson Hajdu. "I take a small measure of credit for the sweep."

"At the end of the anthem, I'll hit my heart twice, kiss my hand and blow it to the sky for my grandma," said UND men's basketball guard Dustin Monsebroten, who always wears two pairs of socks on each foot.

Forward Travis Mertens said he likes to keep his jersey clean until the last second and always leaves a little water in the paper cup after warm ups.


UND football fans will remember ending a 12-year losing streak to North Dakota State University in 1993.

"Thirteen is UND's lucky number," said WDAZ sportscaster Pat Sweeney as the clock ticked down. UND went 9-3 up until the rivalry ended in 2003.


Dossey said "practical" cures are as simple as learning to refocus one's thoughts from negative feelings to positive. His mantra: "What you think about, you begin to feel. What you feel generates what you do. And what you do creates how you will become."

In other words, forget about Friday the 13th and focus on pleasant thoughts-- unless you'd like to try a folklore remedy: climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them.

Another is to stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to .

What To Read Next
Get Local