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Elevator panel in a building in the United States, where floors proceed from 12 to 14

Triskaidekaphobia (/ˌtrɪskˌdɛkəˈfbiə/ TRIS-kye-DEK-ə-FOH-bee-ə, /ˌtrɪskə-/ TRIS-kə-; from Ancient Greek τρεισκαίδεκα (treiskaídeka) 'thirteen', and Ancient Greek φόβος (phóbos) 'fear')[1] is fear or avoidance of the number 13. It is also a reason for the fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia (from Greek Παρασκευή (Paraskevi) 'Friday', Greek δεκατρείς (dekatreís) 'thirteen', and Ancient Greek φόβος (phóbos) 'fear') or friggatriskaidekaphobia (from Old Norse Frigg 'Frigg', Ancient Greek τρεισκαίδεκα (treiskaídeka) 'thirteen', and Ancient Greek φόβος (phóbos) 'fear').

The term was used as early as in 1910 by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology.[2]


The supposed unlucky nature of the number 13 has several theories of origin. Although several authors claim it is an older belief, no such evidence has been documented so far. In fact, the earliest attestation of 13 being unlucky is first found after the Middle Ages in Europe.

Playing cards[edit]

The Death card, number 13, from an 18th century Tarot deck

Tarot card games have been attested since at least around 1450 with the Visconti-Sforza Tarot. One of the trump cards in tarot represents Death, and is numbered 13 in several variants.

In 1781, Antoine Court de Gébelin writes of this card's presence in the Tarot of Marseilles that the number thirteen was "toujours regarde comme malheureux" ("always looked upon as unlucky").[3] In 1784, Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf cites Gébelin, and reaffirms that the tarot card number 13 is death and misfortune ("Der Tod, Unglück").[4]

13 at a table[edit]

Since at least 1774, a superstition of "thirteen at a table" has been documented: if 13 people sit at a table, then one of them must die within a year.[5] The origin of the superstition is unclear and various theories of its source have been presented over the years.

In 1774, Johann August Ephraim Götze speculated:[5]

Da ich aus der Erfahrung weis, daß der Aberglaube nichts liebers, als Religionssachen, zu seinen Beweisen macht; so glaube ich bey nahe nicht zu irren, wenn ich den Ursprung des Gegenwärtigen mit der Zahl XIII, von der Stelle des Evangelii herleite, wo der Heiland, bey der Ostermahlzeit, mit zwölf Jüngern zu Tische saß.
Since I know from experience that superstition loves nothing better than religious matters as its proofs, I believe I'm almost certainly unmistaken when I derive the origin of the matter of the number XIII from the passage of the Gospel where the Savior sat at table with twelve disciples at the Easter meal.

From the 1890s, a number of English-language sources reiterated the idea that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table.[6] The Bible says nothing about the order in which the Apostles sat, but there were thirteen people at the table.

In 1968, Douglas Hill in Magic and Superstitions recounts a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. This story was also echoed in Holiday folklore, phobias, and fun by folklore historian Donald Dossey, citing Hill.[7][8] However, in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, the story about Loki and Balder does not emphasize that there are 12 gods, nor does it talk about a dinner party or the number 13.

Events related to "unlucky" 13[edit]

The exposed lift shaft of an apartment block under construction. The lift shaft has numbers marking the levels, but the 13th level is marked with a heart instead.
  • On Friday, October 13, 1307, the arrest of the Knights Templar was ordered by Philip IV of France. While the number 13 was considered unlucky, Friday the 13th was not considered unlucky at the time. The incorrect idea that their arrest was related to the phobias surrounding Friday the 13th was invented early in the 21st century and popularized by the novel The Da Vinci Code.[9]
  • In 1881 an influential group of New Yorkers, led by US Civil War veteran Captain William Fowler, came together to put an end to this and other superstitions. They formed a dinner cabaret club, which they called the Thirteen Club. At the first meeting, on January 13, 1881, at 8:13 p.m., thirteen people sat down to dine in Room 13 of the venue. The guests walked under a ladder to enter the room and were seated among piles of spilled salt. Many "Thirteen Clubs" sprang up all over North America over the next 45 years. Their activities were regularly reported in leading newspapers, and their numbers included five future US presidents, from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Thirteen Clubs had various imitators, but they all gradually faded due to a lack of interest.[10]
  • The British submarine, HMS K13, sank on 29 January 1917 while on her trials after diving with a hatch and some vents still open. Although she was raised and 48 men were rescued, 32 sailors and civilian technicians died. When repaired, she was renamed K22 but was later involved in multiple collisions with other K-class submarines on 1 February 1918 in which a total of 103 men were killed, an event known as the Battle of May Island.[11] In the subsequent British L-class submarine, the number L13 was not used.[12]
  • Apollo 13 was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13:00 CST and suffered an oxygen tank explosion on April 13 at 21:07:53 CST. It returned safely to Earth on April 17.[13][14]
  • Friday the 13th mini-crash was a stock market crash that occurred on Friday, October 13, 1989.
  • Vehicle registration plates in Ireland are such that the first two digits represent the year of registration of the vehicle (i.e., 11 is a 2011 registered car, 12 is 2012, and so on). In 2012, there were concerns among members of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) that the prospect of having "13" registered vehicles might discourage motorists from buying new cars because of superstition surrounding the number thirteen, and that car sales and the motor industry (which was already doing badly) would suffer as a result. The government, in consultation with SIMI, introduced a system whereby 2013 registered vehicles would have their registration plates' age identifier string modified to read "131" for vehicles registered in the first six months of 2013 and "132" for those registered in the latter six months of the year.[15][16]1

Effect on US Shuttle program mission naming[edit]

Alternate mission patch of STS-41C, with a 13 and a black cat, as it landed on April 13th, which was a Friday the 13th and this was the mission originally scheduled as STS-13.[17]

The disaster that occurred on Apollo 13 may have been a factor that led to a renaming that prevented a mission called STS-13.[18][19] STS-41-G was the name of the thirteenth Space Shuttle flight.[20] However, originally STS-41-C was the mission originally numbered STS-13[21][22] STS-41-C was the eleventh orbital flight of the space shuttle program.[23]

The numbering system of the Space Shuttle was changed to a new one after STS-9.[24] The new naming scheme started with STS-41B, the previous mission was STS-9, and the thirteenth mission (what would have been STS-13) would be STS-41C.[24] The new scheme had first number stand for the U.S. fiscal year, the next number was a launch site (1 or 2), and the next was the number of the mission numbered with a letter for that period.[24]

In the case of the actual 13th flight, the crew was apparently not superstitious and made a humorous mission patch that had a black cat on it.[24] Also, that mission re-entered and landed on Friday the 13th which one crew described as being "pretty cool".[24] Because of the way the designations and launch manifest work, the mission numbered STS-13 might not have actually been the 13th to launch as was common throughout the shuttle program; indeed it turned out to be the eleventh.[25][23] One of the reasons for this was when a launch had to be scrubbed, which delayed its mission.[26]

NASA said in a 2016 news article it was due to a much higher frequency of planned launches (pre-Challenger disaster).[24] As it was, the Shuttle program did have a disaster on its one-hundred and thirteenth mission going by date of launch, which was STS-107.[27] The actual mission STS-113 was successful, and had actually launched earlier due to the nature of the launch manifest.[28]

Omission of 13th rooms, floors and decks[edit]

Many ships, including cruise liners have omitted having a 13th deck due to triskaidekaphobia. Instead, the decks are numbered up to 12 and skip straight to number 14.[29] Hotels, buildings and elevator manufacturers have also avoided using the number 13 for rooms and floors based on triskaidekaphobia.[30]

Notable people with triskaidekaphobia[edit]

Similar phobias[edit]

An elevator in a residential apartment building in Shanghai: the 4th, 13th and 14th floors in height are deliberately not so named, such numbers are skipped.

Lucky 13[edit]

Dan Marino's 13 jersey in the Hall of Fame
Taylor Swift performing with the number 13 written on her hand
Taylor Swift fans write the number 13 on their hands to emmulate her

In some regions, 13 is or has been considered a lucky number. For example, prior to the First World War, 13 was considered to be a lucky number in France, even being featured on postcards and charms.[39] In more modern times, 13 is lucky in Italy except in some contexts, such as sitting at the dinner table.[40] In Cantonese-speaking areas, including Hong Kong and Macau, the number 13 is considered lucky because it sounds similar to the Cantonese words meaning "sure to live" (as opposed to the unlucky number 14 which in Cantonese sounds like the words meaning "sure to die"). Colgate University was started by 13 men with $13 and 13 prayers, so 13 is considered a lucky number. Friday the 13th is the luckiest day at Colgate.[41]

A number of sportspeople are known for wearing the number 13 jersey and performing successfully. On November 23, 2003, the Miami Dolphins retired the number 13 for Dan Marino, who played quarterback for the Dolphins from 1983 to 1999. Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams quarterback (NFL MVP, 1999 & 2001, and Super Bowl XXXIV MVP) also wore number 13. Wilt Chamberlain, 13-time NBA All-Star, has had his No. 13 Jersey retired by the NBA's Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers; Los Angeles Lakers, Harlem Globetrotters, and Kansas University Jayhawks, all of which he played for. In 1966, the Portugal national football team achieved their best-ever result at the World Cup final tournaments by finishing third, thanks to a Mozambican-born striker, Eusebio, who has scored nine goals at World Cup – four of them in a 5-3 quarterfinal win over North Korea – and won the Golden Boot award as the tournament's top scorer while wearing the number 13. In the 1954 and 1974 World Cup finals, Germany's Max Morlock and Gerd Müller, respectively, played and scored in the final, wearing the number 13.[42] More recent footballers playing successfully despite wearing number 13, include Michael Ballack, Alessandro Nesta, and Rafinha.[43] Among other sportspeople who have chosen 13 as their number, are Venezuelans Dave Concepción, Omar Vizquel, Oswaldo Guillén and Pastor Maldonado due to the number being considered lucky in Venezuelan culture. Swedish-born hockey player Mats Sundin, who played 14 of his 18 NHL seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs, setting team records for goals and points, had his number 13 retired by the team on 15 October 2016.

Outside of the sporting industry, 13 is used as a lucky number by other individuals, including Taylor Swift who has made prominent use of the number 13 throughout her career.[44]

See also[edit]


^1 The main reason for this was stated to be to increase the number of car sales in the second half of the year. Even though 70% of new cars are bought during the first four months of the year, some consumers believe that the calendar year of registration does not accurately reflect the real age of a new car, since cars bought in January will most likely have been manufactured the previous year, while those bought later in the year will be actually made in the same year.
^2 Tuesday is generally unlucky in Greece for the fall of Byzantium Tues 29th May 1453.[45] In Spanish-speaking countries, there is a proverb: En martes no te cases, ni te embarques 'On Tuesday, do not get married or set sail'.[46]


  1. ^ "triskaidekaphobia - Origin and meaning of triskaidekaphobia by Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Abnormal Psychology" p. 319, published in 1910, Moffat, Yard and company (New York). LCCN 10-11167.
  3. ^ Court de Gébelin, Antoine (1781). Du jeu des tarots (in French).
  4. ^ Breitkopf, Johann Gottlob Immanuel (1784). Versuch, den Ursprung der Spielkarten, die Einführung des Leinenpapieres, und den Anfang der Holzschneidekunst in Europa zu erforschen. 1, Welcher die Spielkarten und das Leinenpapier enthält (in German). p. 20.
  5. ^ a b Götze, Johann August Ephraim (1774). Neue Mannigfaltigkeiten : eine gemeinnützige Wochenschrift. 1. 1773/74 (1774) ## Woche 041, 05.03.1774.
  6. ^ Cecil Adams (1992-11-06). "Why is the number 13 considered unlucky?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
  7. ^ Friday the 13th Superstitions Rooted in Bible and More, National Geographic
  8. ^ Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?, Mental Floss
  9. ^ Robinson, John J. (1990). Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. M. Evans & Company. ISBN 978-0-87131-602-8.
  10. ^ Nick Leys, If you bought this, you've already had bad luck, review of Nathaniel Lachenmayer's Thirteen: The World's Most Popular Superstition, Weekend Australian, 8–9 January 2005
  11. ^ Jan Meecham (17 April 2017). "The calamity k-class submarines of the First World War". Roger (Jan) Meecham. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  12. ^ Hillbeck, I W. "1916–1945: L Class". Barrow Submariners Association. Retrieved 12 February 2023.
  13. ^ "13 Things That Saved Apollo 13, Part 9: Position of the Tanks". 21 April 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  14. ^ "What Really Happened to Apollo 13". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  15. ^ 2013 number plates to be changed to avoid ‘unlucky 13’ , Irish Independent, 24 August 2012
  16. ^ "2013 Number Plates To Be Changed To Avoid 'Unlucky 13'". Irish Independent.
  17. ^ Evans, Ben (2007). Space Shuttle Challenger: Ten Journeys into the Unknown. Springer. ISBN 978-0387496795. Retrieved 30 May 2012 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Almeida, Andres (5 December 2016). "Behind the Space Shuttle mission numbering system". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  19. ^ Evans, Ben (2012). Tragedy and Triumph in Orbit: The Eighties and Early Nineties. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 211. ISBN 978-1461434306.
  20. ^ "Challenger mission No. 6 (13th shuttle program mission overall)". Orlando Sentinel. 41-G. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  21. ^ "James D. A. van Hoften" (PDF). Oral History Project. NASA Johnson Space Center. 5 December 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  22. ^ "Terry J. Hart" (PDF). Oral History Project. NASA Johnson Space Center. 10 April 2003. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  23. ^ a b "STS-41-C Information". Astonautix. Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Almeida, Andres (5 December 2016). "Behind the Space Shuttle Mission Numbering System". NASA. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  25. ^ Evans, Ben (2012). Tragedy and Triumph in Orbit: The Eighties and Early Nineties. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1461434306.
  26. ^ Evans, Ben (2012). Tragedy and Triumph in Orbit: The Eighties and Early Nineties. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 211. ISBN 978-1461434306 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ "The Columbia Disaster". Space Safety Magazine. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  28. ^ Warnock, Lynda. "NASA STS-113". KSC. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  29. ^ Mallinson, Harriett (December 8, 2018). "Cruise secrets: Why can passengers never find this mysterious location on a cruise ship?: CRUISE ships are often enormous vessels that some passengers may be overwhelmed by when first boarding. However, keen-eyed cruisers may notice that there is one thing missing from many ships". The Express. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  30. ^ "Cruise secrets: Why can passengers never find this mysterious location on a cruise ship?". 8 December 2018. Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  31. ^ "Fear of 13 and Other Superstitions Embedded in Compositions". WQXR-FM. May 13, 2016. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  32. ^ Perry, Warren. "Fears of the Fearless FDR: A President's Superstitions for Friday the 13th". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  33. ^ Haberman, Clyde (May 17, 2010). "A Reading to Recall the Father of Tevye". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  34. ^ Chan, Melissa (13 October 2017). "Why Friday the 13th Is a Real Nightmare for Some People". Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  35. ^ Tobias, Scott (March 29, 2016). "Film Review: 'The Fear of 13'". Variety. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  36. ^ Gadd, Mick (3 August 2017). "Angel Nieto dead: Motorsport family in mourning over 13-time world champion". mirror. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  37. ^ Harris, Nick (15 November 2007). "Bad Omen for Italy as Their Unlucky Number Comes Up". The Independent. London.
  38. ^ Jon Boone (15 June 2011). "The curse of number 39 and the steps Afghans take to avoid it". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  39. ^ Davies, Owen (2018). A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination, and Faith During the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780198794554.
  40. ^ "Aggiungi un posto a tavola, siamo in 13!" [Add a seat at the table, we are 13!]. Di cibo e altre storie [Of food and other stories] (in Italian). 13 January 2012.
  41. ^ "Lucky 13". Colgate University. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  42. ^ Dpa (1 July 2010). "Unlucky 13, unless your name is Mueller". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  43. ^ "Football Facts: Who Wears Number 13?". March 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  44. ^ Orlando, Joyce (13 June 2023). "No triskaidekaphobia for Taylor Swift: What's the pop star's connection to 13". The Tennessean. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  45. ^ Margarita Papantoniou (13 August 2013). "Why Are Tuesday and 13 Bad Luck?". GreekReporter. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  46. ^ "Tuesday the 13th… the Friday the 13th of the Spanish-speaking world (and vice-versa)". WordPress. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2017.

External links[edit]