Five fatal Friday the 13th occurrences

By Dane Kelly
Headline Goes Here Hulton Archive/Getty Images

We’ve all had our own superstitions growing up.

Sometimes it was about a specific pair of pajamas that you were confident would bring a snow day the following morning, or maybe it’s a Sergei Fedorov jersey that you refuse to wash since you wore it during all Stanley Cup playoff games in the 1997-98 season. Maybe you washed that jersey last season. Maybe you shouldn't have done that.

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, up to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th, making it the most feared day in history. It's estimated that up to $900 million is lost on this day, due to citizens who are too afraid to go out and engage. 

Why do people fear this date? While it is unclear how this date became so known as an unfortunate day, a common assumption is that many cultures find 12 to be a lucky or complete number, and to go beyond 12, to become 13, is pushing things too far. There are 12 months in a year; 12 signs of the zodiac; 12 Tribes of Israel; Jesus had 12 disciples; 12 Imams; 12 gods of Olympus; 12 doughnuts in a dozen; the human body has 12 cranial nerves; 12 pitches in an octave; 12 men have walked on the moon; 12 Angry Men is a great movie -- and still stands up 60 years later. 

Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia was a cruise ship that ran for seven years, up until its deadly shipwreck on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012.

The cruise liner was on its first leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean Sea when it struck a rock formation after it deviated from its planned path. Over 30 people died as a result, 32 passengers and one salvage worker two years after the shipwreck. There has been new safey regulations put in place to prevent accidents since, federally, internationally, and from Costa Concordia’s parent company.

Siachen conflict

The Siachen Glacier is located between India and Pakistan, with both countries claiming ownership of the region. After nearly 40 years of head butting negotiations, the conflict came to a head on Friday, April 13, 1984, starting a war that’s technically still ongoing after 33 years. 

Over 2,000 have been killed in what is the highest battleground on the planet at 20,000 feet above sea level. Estimates believe that 97 percent of the casualties have been due to weather, avalanches, and lack of oxygen, rather than the actual combat

While a cease-fire went into effect in 2003, the two countries have 150 outposts on the glacier, including the highest telephone booth and helipad in the world. The lower air pressure of the high altitude has led to India developing an advanced helicopter suited for the task.

Kitty Genovese

The murder of Kitty Genovese has been a staple of ethics and psychology lectures for over 50 years. 

Born and raised in Brooklyn, she stayed in the city after her parents moved to Connecticut, after her mother witnessed a murder on the streets of New York City.

On Friday, March 13, 1964, Genovese was followed home from the work and stabbed to death outside her apartment complex. Her cries for help were allegedly ignored by those that lived in the complex that overlooked the fatal assault, leading to the bystander effect, a social phenomenon where people are less likely to help in times of need when others are present, being taught in almost every psychology class in the country

The truth behind the real murder is a little different from the sensationalized version that has become known in popular culture. While no one doubts that the murder didn’t take place, the details behind the visibility of the attack and the New York City apathy associated with the witnesses aren’t believed to entirely accurate. The New York Times, whose front-page story on the case in 1964 brought it to media attention, recently called their original piece “flawed,” ”grossly exaggerated” and that the inaccurate accounts “took on a life of its own.” 

It’s thought that the bystander effect can be avoided in times of crisis by singling one person out and explicitly demand that they get help. 

Tupac Shakur

On Sept. 7, 1996, influential hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur was shot four times from a passing vehicle in Las Vegas. The attack was believed to be a response to a brawl Shakur was involved in earlier that night.

One of the bullets punctured Shakur’s right lung, resulting in Shakur being put on life-support at the hospital, and later into a medically induced coma. He ultimate died of respiratory failure after the surgical removal of his damaged lung on Friday, Sept. 13.

November 2015 Paris Attacks

The deadliest attack on French soil since World War II was a series of coordinated terrorist attacks across the city of Paris and its suburb Saint-Denis on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. 

While there were multiple groups claiming responsibility for the attacks, the French president at the time, François Hollande, announced ISIS was to blame, and the organizer of the attack was killed in a raid four days later. Muslim leaders around the world condemned the attacks, and new security regulations were established around the world in hopes to prevent future onslaughts.

Is Friday the 13th actually unlucky? 

Research and statistics have not shown that bad situations are more likely to occur on Friday the 13th, and that the human tendency to favor or interpret information in a way to confirm what they already believe is true, commonly known as confirmation bias, is to blame. While a lot of bad incidents have happened on the superstitious day, it’s easier for us to see it as connected and not consider the amount of bad events that happen on literally every other day of the year. 

Some good things have happened on this date as well. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11375, banning discrimination based on sex in the federal workforce on Friday, Oct. 13, 1967. Nintendo released the highly successful Super Mario Bros. video game for the NES on Friday, Sept. 13, 1985, popularizing one of the most recognizable characters in media. Black Sabbath’s influential self-titled debut album, widely considered to be the first in the metal genre, was released Friday, Feb. 13, 1970. Multiple people have won lottery drawings on this unlucky day.

Is the day truly unlucky? It is hard to say definitively, given the amount of data and history behind the day, nor are we saying that any of the good things cancel out the atrocities that have occurred. 

Stay safe. If you are worried, make an effort to not walk under any ladders, avoid black cats and please keep that Fedorov jersey unwashed this year.