When I was a kid, I used to see the Time/Life books advertised on TV all the time. I was always trying to get my mom to order the spooky ones. Like the series about monsters, or aliens, or Druids, or whatever. And we never did. I've come across them from time to time in Goodwill or a yard sale, and I immediately snatch them up. I've always been fascinated by things that almost scare me, but not quite.

The idea of Friday the 13th by itself doesn't conjure up too many horrible images, but it's one of those things that we all universally recognize when it affects us. For instance, if it was Tuesday the 13th, nobody would look at you funny if the lamp on your desk suddenly burned out. But if it's Friday the 13th....well...you must be a Satanist!

It all begins with with triskaidekaphobia, which is a fear of the number 13. Fear of Friday the 13th specifically, is called paraskevidekatriaphobia. Some believe that folks in the Middle Ages may have first experienced this fear due to the Last Supper, where there were 13 guests at the table, and it was the night before he was put to death on Good Friday. Some also think it came from a few literary sources, or maybe even when King Phillip IV of France arrested hundreds of Knights Templar on Friday, October 13th, 1307.

Though millions of Americans fear the date, other cultures have a deep fear of the number 13, but transfer it to other days. In Spanish speaking countries and in Greece, they absolutely flip their collective lids over Tuesday the 13th. Italians freak right out over Thursday the 13th. They all see these days as just pure bad luck. At least Italians can make the cool Metal sign with their hands to help ward off the evil spirits and curses.

There is some speculation that there really is something to all this fear mongering. Check out these studies from the Friday the 13th Wikipedia page:

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there "is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK." However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home. Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.

I guess it really just comes down to what you personally believe. Do you believe in bad luck? Do you believe in luck at all? It's right up there with horoscopes and that sort of thing. If you strongly believe, it will undoubtedly affect you. If you don't, it'll just be like any old Friday.

That is, right up until something strange happens, then you're definitely going to look at the person next to you and go, "Well, it is Friday the 13th."