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The fear of Friday the 13th and other common superstitions

The fear of Friday the 13th and other common superstitions

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 8:01 pm
By: By Donna Ryder

The fear of Friday the 13th and other common superstitions | Just A Thought, Donna Ryder

Does seeing a black cat make the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Does a black cat crossing your path make your terrified?
If so, then today probably has not been your day. It’s one of three Friday the 13ths in 2012. They just so happen to be 13 weeks apart. The first came in January and we’ll have another in July.
According to an article written by David Emery for Guide, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. “Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t eat in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on the date,” he wrote, adding many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue and many buildings don’t have a 13th floor.
He also notes if you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck. Examples he gave include Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo.
The actual fear of Friday the 13th is called Paraskevidekatriaphobia. I have a fear of trying to pronounce that word.
Of course, all these fears are irrational, but when they happen most people seem to at least note them in their minds. I know I do. I can’t help but think of the aforementioned black cat. I know they are no more unlucky than a white, calico or tom cat — especially if they run out in front of me while I’m driving down the street — but when I see them I always seem to be extra cautious until they’re out of sight.
Many superstitions are learned in our childhood. One that comes to mind includes finding a four-leaf clover brings good luck. In a way, that’s true for me. If I had not been introduced to 4-H, which has the four-leaf clover as its logo, I probably would not be doing the job I am today. 4-H introduced me to photography, which led to a college scholarship for being a national winner (it just so happens there were 13 national winners that year from Tennessee). I majored in photography with a minor in journalism at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. If I had not had that minor, I would not have been hired by The Ashland City Times in Middle Tennessee and, therefore, would not have been in a position to accept this job at The Messenger.
Other common superstitions I learned during my childhood include:
• Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.
• A rabbit’s foot brings good luck. Of course, not for the rabbit.
• If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck — especially if someone has a paint bucket above you.
• Throw spilled salt over your left shoulder.
• Opening an umbrella inside a building is bad luck.
• Breaking a mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck — especially the first seven minutes when you’re trying to pick up the broken mirror without getting cut.
• Blow out all the candles on your birthday cake with your first breath and your wish will come true. Of course, you have to make the wish before trying to blow out the candles and you can’t tell anyone the wish or it won’t come true.
• An itchy palm means money will come your way.
• Burning ears means someone is talking about you.
Some I didn’t know before writing this column:
• A cricket in the house brings good luck.
• A bird that comes in your window brings bad luck.
• Goldfish in the pond bring good luck.
• Goldfish in the house bring bad luck.
• An acorn at the window can keep lightning out of the house.
• If the bottom of your feet itch, you will make a trip.
• When a dog howls, death is near.
• It is bad luck to chase someone with a broom.
• It is unlucky to rock an empty rocking chair.
• To give someone a purse or wallet without money in it will bring that person bad luck.
Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at

Published in The Messenger 4.13.12


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