It’s worse than consecotaleophobia, better known as the fear of chopsticks. And it’s scarier than lutraphobia. You know, the fear of otters.
It’s paraskavedekatriaphobia. The fear of Friday the 13th. And it’s a real thing. Or at least one doctor thinks it is. New York psychologist Dena Rabinowitz says people who fear Friday the 13th probably have a whole host of other phobias.
“The likelihood is that there’s a subset of people who grew up in superstitious homes or were more exposed to that kind of thinking,” she told Quartz. “It can be a parent who’s afraid of Friday 13th, it could be as simple as seeing a scary movie about Friday 13th as a child. Phobias don’t necessarily develop in a rational linear manner. Sometimes phobias arise for no reason at all that we can detect and they can be very specific.”
Paraskavedekatriaphobia, which derives from the Greek Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) doesn’t appear to have a long history. The earliest documented mention of the date in relation to it being unlucky was in an 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, a 19th century Italian composer, who died on a fateful Friday in 1868.
“He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away,” wrote biographer Henry Sutherland Edwards. Spooky, right?
It what surely must be the result of bad math, or perhaps numerophobia (the fear of numbers), one man with a stake in the game says 17 to 21-million Americans suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia. Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, claims this has a near billion-dollar impact on the economy.
“It’s been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do,” said Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.
While there is some evidence that fares fall in the U.K. on Friday the 13th, the date seems to have no effect on this side of the pond, where it doesn’t register in the top five for cheapest days to fly during the year.
“It is fascinating to see just how much the concern caused by Friday 13th is affecting consumer travel behavior,” Kayak Managing Director Annie Wilson told the Daily Mail last year. “The savvier option is to put aside superstition and snap up a bargain flight while others are battening down the hatches.”
2015 might be the worst year ever to suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia. Today, Friday November 13th is actually the third Friday the 13th of the year, following ones that happened in February and March. That’s right, we had consecutive Friday the 13ths this year.
Next year will only have one Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th of May 2016. That’s good news for paraskavedekatriaphobia sufferers.
Unless, of course, they suffer from Euphobia, the fear of hearing good news.