Now that the Mayan apocalypse didn't happen, has anyone noticed another harbinger of bad news—an entire year ending in the number "13"? The Wall Street Journal finds little evidence of Americans fretting, and takes a lighthearted stroll through the history of the superstition. Some say that the fear of 13—known as triskaidekaphobia—dates back to Jesus having only 12 disciples or the Norse god Loki ruining a dinner by showing up as the 13th participant. Whatever the cause, the number keeps cropping up:
- In 1880, a civil war veteran tempted fate by starting a club that had 13 members who met on the 13th of every month. Other 13 clubs appeared, and nothing went wrong—except that one blew up in Woodbury, NJ, in 1898, injuring three people.
- The Brits burned Buffalo, NY, in 1613. Napoleon invaded Europe in 1813. And the 16th amendment gave us federal income tax in 1913. But don't bad things happen every year?
- Most athletes refuse to wear 13, but stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Kurt Warner, and Dan Marino bucked the trend. Sadly, Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca was wearing it in 1951 when he served up that famous fastball to Bobby Thomson—"the shot heard 'round the world."
- Despite our seemingly rational age, many hotels still have no floor 13 and some airlines have no row 13.
- Tom Fernsler, who may be America's leading expert on the number, doesn't see much to worry about. Asked whether 2013 will be a bad year, he said, "Nah."
- But it could help Elaine Ryan, a psychologist in Dublin, Ireland, who helps people deal with anxiety: "I have seen a few people who are genuinely concerned that bad things may happen to them as a direct result of the year being 2013," she said.
- Jack Creswell, head of Optimist International, sides with the non-believers: "The number makes no difference," he said. "It's what your target is for yourself as an individual and how that fits into the bigger picture."
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