GeekBomb: A History Of Friday The 13th, Real And Fictional

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It's been Friday the 13th all day, can you tell? Here in Los Angeles, it's pouring down rain and the forecast is calling for it to continue doing that for several days. I've seen two black cats this morning, narrowly avoided walking under a ladder, and nearly dropped my shaving mirror. That's not a highly concentrated amount of bad luck just waiting to happen, and I've been staying inside and keeping the blinds shut ever since.

There's also the remake of Friday the 13th opening in theaters today,making it a double dose of superstition. If you believe in that sort of thing. So just exactly why is Friday the 13th so unlucky, both for normal folks and pretty teens who wander around closed summer camps? We're taking a look at it in today's GeekBomb, so grab a horseshoe, a rabbit's foot, or a four-leaf clover and plow ahead through today's GeekBomb.

A History

My Pop-Up Book of Phobias (yes, it's a real book) doesn't list fear of Friday the 13th as one of the phobias, but there really is such a thing, and it's called paraskavedekatriaphobia. It's a real mouthful, and like saying Lord Voldemort's name out loud, it's probably just inviting trouble. So don't think about it. Well, until you're done reading this.

So exactly why is Friday the 13th considered to be so unlucky? It's basically a double-whammy of ancient beliefs that both Friday and the number 13 are unlucky. So when you combine the two, it becomes the unluckiest day of the year for some people. We're going to have three in 2009: after today there's another Friday the 13th next month, and one in November. So be prepared. What's amazing is that a study conducted in 2004 found that the U.S. economy loses $800 to $900 million dollars on this day each year, because of people who stay inside and don't conduct business. That's just astounding.

Fear of 13

The fear of the number 13 can be traced back to a Norse myth about a dinner party with 12 guests. When the trickster Loki showed up as an uninvited 13th guest, things went badly and the god Balder ended up dead. Since then there has been a fear of the number 13, and in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so-called "Thirteen Clubs" popped up all over the United States, where 13 guests would gather for dinner with the "humorous" thought that one of the 13 would supposedly die within a year, according to superstition. They would meet on the 13th of every month, and 13 of them would have dinner together to challenge fate.

There's another special word for people afraid of the number 13: triskaidekaphobes. This irrational fear has far-reaching influences. For instance, when's the last time you saw a building with a 13th floor? Or an airport with a gate 13? According to scientist Thomas Fensler, 13 gets a bad rap because it falls after 12. There are 12 months in a year, hours on a clock, signs of the zodiac, and so on. As a result 12 seems like a good, whole number, and the 13 right after it "has to do with just being a little beyond completeness. The number becomes restless or squirmy."

Fear of Friday

Friday has been a "bad luck" day ever since the crucifixion of Christ, which is believed to have happened on a Friday. Of course, the Catholics call it Good Friday, so what does that mean with Good Friday is also Friday the 13th? Do they cancel each other out? It's also believed to be the day that Eve gave the apple to Adam, and the day that Cain killed Abel. In more modern times, it hasn't been helped out that Irish comedian told the story of the H.M.S. Friday on the BBC back in the 1970s, and people started believing it.

It's also the day the Roman army was overthrown, was known as Hangman's Day in Britain, and just generally seems to be a magnet for bad things. There are numerous Black Fridays in history, including the biggest sale day of the year right after Thanksgiving. If you've ever worked retail, you'll understand why this is especially a bad luck day. There's a huge slew of superstitions about doing different things on a Friday, but to me this is a day to celebrate. You've got both the end of the week, the start of the weekend, and the entire phrase "Thank God It's Friday." What's so bad?

Friday + 13 = Friday the 13th

Sandwiching these together occurred sometime in the past, but no one knows exactly when. The first known documented usage of is was in a biography of Gioachino Rossini, a popular Italian composer. His biography was written in 1869, and in it author Henry Sutherland Edwards writes, "He was surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; and if it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died." So you might be able to blame the biographer, not the guy who died, for spawning this day.

The Movies

As of today, there have now been 11 films made in the Friday the 13th franchise, and they seem like they'll definitely hit 13 at some point. Although since this one is a remake, I'm not sure how that'll happen. They'll probably do some sort of clever naming scheme like the idiotically titled Halloween H20. So look for F13 or something in a couple of years.

Ironically, Friday the 13th was inspired by John Carpenter's Halloween, and Sean Cunningham, who had previously worked with Carpenter, came up with the idea. Although he didn't have anything except a logo and a name, he took out an ad in the New York Times that stated: "The Most Terrifying Film Ever Made!" Eventtually he started working with a script called Long Night at Camp Blood by Victor Miller. However, Cunningham really liked the idea of the Friday the 13th title, and even though the previous year had seen a horror movie called Friday the 13th: The Orphan, apparently someone at Paramount paid them off, and a lawsuit was avoided. Thus paving the way for a series of schlocky horror movies featuring a hockey-masked killer.

Here are some highlights from the history of Friday the 13th in the movies:

  • Only four of the movies, including today's, have premiered on Friday the 13th.
  • In the original movie, the killer was actually Jason's mom, not Jason himself. You don't tease a crazy woman's kid and get away with it.
  • Jason didn't adopt his famous hockey mask until Friday the 13th: Part 3.
  • Part 3 was also filmed in 3-D, giving us Friday the 13th: Part 3, in 3-D.
  • In Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan (the 8th film), Jason does indeed head to New York.
  • In Friday the 13th: Jason X (number 10), Jason heads into outer space. I kid you not.
  • Composer Harry Manfredini was inspired by Jaws to create the now-famous spooky "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" motif. It's meant to echo Jason's voice that Mrs. Vorhees hears in hear head saying, "Kill her, mommmy!"
  • There have been three Friday the 13th video games, including a version the the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989.
  • The main character's look in the video game Splatterhouse was inspired by Jason Vorhees.
  • The series has spawned novels, comic books, action figures, model kits, and even official costumes.
  • In 1987, Paramount released Friday the 13th: The Series on television. It actually became a moderate hit and ran for 77 episodes.
  • In Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (number 5), the hockey-masked killer is not Jason. He's a copycat killer using Jason's M.O.
  • Corey Feldman starred in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (number 4, even though seven more movies were made). The ending strongly hints that he'll become the new Jason, but in the sequel he only has a short cameo because he was busy filming The Goonies.
  • Long in development, a Freddy vs. Jason movie finally appeared in 2003. It spawned a sequel in comic book-form, Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash, starring Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead character.
  • Friday the 13th has its own collection of fan films, and also inspired the schlocky horror comedy Saturday the 14th, which somehow had a sequel, Saturday the 14th Strikes Back.
  • To date, the films have earned over half a billion dollars.
  • Added Editors Note: Frosty from Collider ran into Kevin Kelly at a Street Fighter event earlier this week and interviewed him on camera as part of Collider's video coverage. So if you want to see what the guy who writes GeekBomb looks like (he appears around the 2:40 mark), check it out in the video embedded below.