Is Friday the 13th a Reason to Stay in Bed?

ByABC News
May 12, 2005, 9:48 AM

May 13, 2005 — -- Today some people will not step outside, fly on a plane, go to work or even act on a hot stock tip. It's Friday the 13th -- a day filled with mild dread for some and such fear for others that shuttering themselves indoors seems completely reasonable.

"And they usually don't ask for treatment," said Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C. "They are either too ashamed or feel like it's fleeting."

Most people who believe the day is unlucky offer no explanation. Like all other phobias, people fear Friday the 13th for its own sake, according to Dossey, author of "Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments and Superstitious 'Cures' " and "Keying: The Power of Positive Feelings: Overcoming Fears, Phobias and Stress."

He said as many as 21 million people fear the date.

"The origin of it is so deeply ingrained in our culture that there is some kind of feeling of justification for people who are stricken with the fear," Dossey said.

It's estimated that between $800 million and $900 million is lost in business each Friday the 13th because people won't travel, go to work and tend to business in general.

The origins of the fear stem from several different stories combining the idea that 13 is an unlucky number and Friday an unlucky day. One of the origins is believed to come from Christianity. There were 13 people at the Last Supper and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Also, Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. In ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Still, some think 13 owes its bad reputation originally to Loki, the Norse god of evil, who started a riot when he crashed a banquet at Valhalla attended by 12 gods. Once there, Loki (who then became the 13th god at the banquet) arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.