Why today is not your lucky day...if you're superstitious



Alan Hamilton and Joanna Bale


If you are reading this in bed, best stay where you are. Today is Friday the 13th, and there is at last a shred of evidence that the date brings bad luck. Statistics from Norwich Union, the insurer, suggest that this is the day for crashing your car.
There is no good reason why Friday the 13th should be unluckier than any other day. But the figures show that on the last six Fridays to fall on the 13th of the month insurance claims for car accidents were 13 per cent above average.
The date and the day of the week are an essential conjunction; claims on the 13ths which fell on different days of the week were below average.
Just to muddy the waters further, the figures show that Friday the 13th is not the most dangerous day on which to drive; that dubious honour falls to the first of every month, and it doesn’t matter on which day of the week it falls.
The safest day to travel is the 26th of any month, regardless of when in the week it falls; Norwich Union says that claims for that day are 8 per cent below the average for any other date in the month.
Nigel Bartram of Norwich Union said yesterday: “Our analysis on dangerous days for driving has given some credence to people’s superstitions regarding Friday the 13th. Though it’s difficult to say for certain why this is, one reason could be that people alter their driving behaviour in response to a perceived ‘unlucky’ day.”
Mr Bartram added: “In reality, changing driving behaviour in reaction to a perceived risk — as opposed to a real risk such as snow or ice — does not necessarily translate to safer driving. Therefore, by altering driving behaviour to change their ‘luck’, motorists may create a decidedly unlucky self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Probably the very worst thing about a fear of Friday the 13th is that there is a name for it, and it is paraskevidekatriaphobia. There is no rational explanation why the combination of day and date is considered unlucky. That Eve handed Adam the apple on Friday the 13th, and that the Great Flood began on the same date some years later, won’t wash; the Old Testament is insufficiently precise on the timetable of those two events. Thanks to the quirks of the Gregorian calendar, Friday the 13th occurs more often than it should; in a 400-year cycle there are 688 of them, compared with 684 for a Saturday the 13th. People are born on Friday the 13th and from the names of the two best-known you may judge for yourself whether or not it is an unlucky day: Fidel Castro and Margaret Thatcher.
Touch wood
— Sir Winston Churchill never travelled on Friday the 13th unless it was essential. Nor did Napoleon, Mark Twain, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt
— One theory is that the myth originated with the Last Supper and its 13 guests (including Judas Iscariot) and Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday
— Friday was execution day in Ancient Rome and later hangman’s day in Britain
— In the Middle Ages Friday was known as the “witches’ sabbath”. There were said to be 13 witches in a coven
— The earliest documentary evidence that Friday was thought unlucky appeared in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale
— Thousands of soldier monks of the powerful Knights Templar were killed by the French king Louis IV on Friday 13, 1307
— The Apollo 13 lunar mission was launched at 13.13 hours and aborted on April 13, 1970
— An asteroid heading for Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029 at 28,000mph could hit us with the force of 65,000 atom bombs

http://timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1637360.ece