Published January 9, 2017

Does Anyone Still Care About Friday the 13th?

In 2017, there will be two instances of Friday falling on the 13th: One is in October and the other is this week. But unless you’re in the entertainment business, you probably don’t care.

Horror filmmakers have been milking the superstition for years. Friday the 13th, a movie about teens getting killed at summer camp, debuted in 1980. Since then, there have been 11 more movies in the franchise—including one in which the main villain, Jason Voorhees, goes to space, and another called Jason Takes Manhattan (which debuted five years after The Muppets Take Manhattan).

The new year will bring us not only a Friday the 13th video game, but also the 13th movie in the Friday the 13th franchise. The film’s scheduled release date, obviously, is Friday, October 13.

This may seem a bit much—and it is—but the story behind why Friday the 13th became a superstitious day in the first place may be no less commercial than Jason himself.

Many people have linked the day’s origin to Jesus’ last supper, the Knights Templar’s arrest, or some other long-ago event. But according to Snopes, the superstition “appears to be largely a 20th century phenomenon … Not until the early part of the 20th century did regular expressions of Friday the 13th as a day of evil luck start popping up in the press.” Before then, Snopes says, “13” had been an unlucky number, and “Friday” had been an unlucky day, but “Friday the 13th” wasn’t necessarily a concept.

Right now, the hottest take on Friday the 13th is that it wasn’t associated with bad luck until 1907, when a novel titled Friday, the Thirteenth was published (an argument made by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer in his book on the number 13).

That 1907 novel told the story of a stockbroker who caused a panic on Wall Street. But if its author, Thomas Lawson, had had any business sense, he would’ve killed that stockbroker at the end of the story. Then Lawson could’ve brought him back, like Jason, in 12 more books.

Follow Becky Little on Twitter.


National Geographic Channel Logo