Friday the 13th: Lucky or Unlucky

When the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, do you join the 21 million Americans who suffer paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Friday the 13th, illus. by William Duke, image

This year, February 13 falls on a Friday. Most travelers will hop on planes and check into hotels without hesitating. But those who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, a fear of Friday the 13th, will proceed with caution or may even opt to stay home.

"Some 21 million Americans suffer from the condition," says Donald Dossey, a behavioral scientist specializing in the treatment of phobias and credited with coining the term paraskevidekatriaphobia. "I have treated patients who won't even get out of bed on Friday the 13th."

Should you avoid traveling on this date? In 1993, the British Medical Journal conducted a study of automobile travel on Friday the 13th. They found that fewer people chose to drive on the "unlucky" day, but the number of hospital admissions due to car accidents rose. They concluded that "Friday the 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended."

Travelers don't seem to be following this advice, according to the U.S. travel industry. Continental Airlines spokeswoman Julie King says that Friday the 13th is likely to be as busy as any other Friday—but she goes on to say that none of Continental's planes have a Row 13. Similarly, Delta Air Lines spokesman Anthony L. Black says that Friday the 13th is like all other hectic Fridays. But Delta ticket agent Cassandra Dozier says that at least twice a month passengers request to not be seated in Row 13, which the carrier does number on its planes.

Fairmont Hotels spokesman Mike Taylor says that the company doesn't experience a noticeable drop in occupancy on Friday the 13th. But he adds that six of the chain's eight American high-rise hotels don't have a 13th floor. However, at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, B.C., Room 1313 is frequently requested by guests who believe that the number is actually good luck.

Photo Illustration by William Duke

This article was first published in January 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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