Have you ever observed that some flights don’t have seats numbered 13 or that hotels and apartments skip the 13th floor? In rare instances, even streets in cities are not numbered 13. This extreme superstition, fear and anxiety regarding the number thirteen (13) is termed as Triskaidekaphobia. Everyone in existence fears something or the other. While deer fears a lion and snake fears an eagle, humans too have “N” number of fears. Some as ordinary and prevalent like the fear of height or drowning, while others as rare and trivial like the fear of number thirteen (13). However, experts have long debated the scientific validity of this phobia as it is neither an object nor a situation and hence doesn’t fall effectively in the ambit of phobia. 

The immense complication with Triskaidekaphobia is that despite knowing that it exists regardless of scientific validity, millions and those suffer this extreme superstition, fear and anxiety regarding the number thirteen (13) is termed as Triskaidekaphobia.ring from it don’t exactly know why the number thirteen is feared. There’s no conclusive evidence as to why this ordinarily seeming regular numerical is associated with negativity and bad fortune now and then. It’s difficult to quantify the number of people suffering from it as it rarely gets treated. Another astonishing fact is that even though there are a few theories from the past that are often used to recollect its origin, the sufferers don’t fear the number because of any of those particular theories. Therefore few experts are not hesitant to classify it as superstition and magical thinking that has grown out of prolonged reconfirmation of negativity for decades now.


The most prominent theory behind the origin of the fear is associated with the Bible. There were 13 diners at the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 Apostles. The theory says that the 13th to sit at the table was Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Hence, the number got its bad image as the superstition of when 13 dine, one will die within a year became prominent. However, there’s no reference to support this theory. Another theory originated from Norse mythology. According to the myths, 12 primary gods were dining in Valhalla when the 13th trickster god of mischief, Loki arrived. This was followed by chaos, carnage and the death of god Balder. 

The third mathematical explanation is that the number 13 is in itself very ordinary and regular as any other number. But the fact that it’s in proximity to twelve (12) which is believed to be a complete number of perfection as there are 12 months, signs of the zodiac, apostles of Jesus, hours on a clock is what makes 13 unattractive. These theories make it even more complex to trace as to why Triskaidekaphobia became so widely prevalent in the past century. Hence few historians and psychologists believe that this phobia is used by people as a scapegoat when life doesn’t move as expected.


It’s now clear that people suffering from Triskaidekaphobia have it either genetically, psychologically or from deep-rooted traditions and beliefs, he/she is subjected to from infancy. Common symptoms of this are that the person tries to avoid the number in any scenario be it places, people or dates, is anxious even at a simple thought of the number and is unable to work and function due to constant fear. The person might suffer from shaking, panic attacks, chest pains, uneasiness, rapid heartbeat etc. at the sight of the number. 

Although there’s no clear path or medication to overcome this phobia, the place where it all started is our mind, thoughts and it is the place where it will end. Performing yoga and other mind-body relaxation techniques can be very fruitful as it reduces fear and anxiety. Boosting self-confidence and self-esteem of such individuals is of utmost importance. However, once diagnosed it is advised to consult a therapist and open up to others as it starts to affect several areas of life unknowingly. 


Paraskevidekatriaphobia (or the fear of Friday the 13th) can be understood as a subset of Triskaidekaphobia. People here fear the number thirteen only when it falls on Friday of a week. Historians are again not sure as to why only this day is associated with negativity, however, it is believed that Friday is the day of the week on which Jesus was crucified and Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit. The most prominent of the belief is that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th. This day takes place at least once every year and may extend to three times a year and yet not all such Friday’s have turned out to be unlucky. Many individuals date back the origin of the belief in the modern world to Thomas Lawson’s book “Friday, the Thirteenth” in which a stockbroker decides to crash the market on that particular day. 

Although the phobia in itself seems trivial, it has an enormous economic impact. Several launch events, business meetings and a huge amount of deals get postponed if they are scheduled on the 13th day of the month. Airline ticket prices tend to dip on Thirteenth Friday as many people avoid doing anything the whole day and prefer staying at home due to extreme superstition. The movie franchise “Friday the 13th” has benefited from the superstition surrounding the day for long now. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, US$ 700 to 800 million is lost on every Friday the 13th because of lack of major conducts of business. 


Some famous people like Stephen King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Napoleon avoid the number thirteen and suffer from Triskaidekaphobia. However, it is evident to conceptualize that anything can happen on any day. You can have your luckiest day of life on Friday the 13th while all other normal days might be unlucky. You can bid on number 13 in a lottery and win. Unnecessary association of random dates and numbers to thirteen only widens the superstitions for the coming generations. In the coming years, it may even control the fate of many individuals. The point here is not to criticize and argue that Triskaidekaphobia is a myth and doesn’t exist, rather it is to put forward an idea to stop association at every possible opportunity to prevent ongoing and future suffering.   

Referred to The Indian Express article

Referred to The Time article

Referred to The National Geographic article

Referred to The CNBC article 

Refer to other articles in the series:

What is symbolophobia- Fear of symbols?

What is Xenophobia- Fear of foreign?

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