Putting to rest the anxieties and superstitions accompanying Friday the 13th
Published: Monday, April 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 01:04
While students may be starting this week off with high hopes for the upcoming weekend, some may be a little anxious to make it Friday. In 2012, we don’t just have one, but three days where Friday falls on the 13th.
A day notoriously associated with bad luck throughout Western civilization, history has proven it isn’t necessarily for the overly superstitious, as a 2004 study by the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimated that 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, certifying it as the most feared day and date in all of history.
That’s certainly a lofty number, but for anyone who’s looking to stay inside and lock their doors this Friday, The Oracle has found a few instances of Friday the 13th appearing in pop culture.
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (1972)
“Superstition,” one of legendary musician Stevie Wonder’s most instantly recognizable singles off his 1972 album “Talking Book,” not only offered a new style of music for Wonder as he began to explore more nuanced sounds his recordings, but also acts as a cautionary tale for the superstitious.
With lyrics that include the couplet, “13-month-old baby, broke the lookin' glass, seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past,” proves he knows a thing or two about bad omens. Yet Wonder eventually concludes by singing, “When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way.”
Perhaps it’s a track that those with even an ounce of superstition could put on repeat come Friday, though for those who take heed to his advice, it’s simply a slice of early-’70s Wonder that stands as some of his most funky and enjoyable work.
“A Bad Year if You Fear Friday the 13th” by Stephen King (1984)
This 1984 New York Times article written by horror maestro Stephen King should do little to quell the nerves of the superstitious. King delves deep into the lore of Friday the 13th and points to historic occurrences that suggest it is indeed an unlucky day by more than mere coincidence, as well as mentioning that 1984 had three Fridays that fell on the 13th in January, April and July.
For those keeping an eye on their calendars, it’s the same dates for 2012, but King takes all this lore and throws in a bit of his own subversive wit as he discusses what makes him a Triskaidekaphobe or “triskie,” which is someone who fears the number 13. It would be easy to cite popular culture like the “Friday the 13th” series of slasher films to qualify his fear, but instead, King offers a thoughtful and personal look at his own superstitions and fears.
For someone who has given his audience so many nightmares of their own, it’s a wonder that King closes the article letting us in on what keeps him awake at night, ending by saying that “not only is it a triple-whammy year, but I have been married 13 years this year, have a daughter 13 years old and have published 13 books.” It’s a rare insight into the superstitions of an already interesting individual that makes for a great read.
The “Hey Arnold!” episode “Friday the 13th” (1999)
At a time when the television station Nickelodeon still offered some of the finest in animated entertainment, the title “Hey Arnold!” and its tale of a boy with a football-shaped head named Arnold, was a popular mainstay on the station’s schedule.
In one of these series’ trademark supernatural episodes, entitled “Friday the 13th,” Arnold and his best friend Gerald attempt to prove to all their friends that the unlucky day is all a bunch of hocus-pocus by doing a variety of unlucky activities. After opening some umbrellas indoors and breaking some mirrors, the resident bully Wolfgang looks to prove Arnold and Gerald wrong by making them believe that they have in fact cursed themselves for ages.
The episode ends with the revelation that resident unlucky nerd Eugene was born on the day, and that Wolfgang himself is incredibly superstitious and not as tough as he makes himself out to be. Arnold and Gerald may not have proven that Friday the 13th is a hoax by the end, but it’s an episode that’s creepy and enjoyable enough that it’ll entertain regardless.
The “Friday the 13th” series (1980-Present)
It’s unfortunate that a discussion about the popular culture surrounding Friday the 13th must always start with the “Friday the 13th” film series, which has chronicled the killing spree of a masked maniac named Jason Voorhees over 12 successful films both on land, in space and against “A Nightmare on Elm Street” villain Freddy Krueger in 2003’s “Freddy Vs. Jason.”
The series is not without its merits for fans of gory horror films, with Jason’s murders becoming progressively more cartoonish and grisly as time goes on, but each forgoes the sort of craft and tension present in the best entries of the “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises. Also, they have very little to do with Friday the 13th.