Friday the 13th: Superstition more fun than scary

Brian D. King | Daily Press

Jennifer Kim, a kindergartner at Heritage Elementary School, avoids "bad luck" by jumping over a crack in the sidewalk.

About twice a year, an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. who suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia put their fears to the test, while others discuss the tradition of Friday the 13th.

The superstition stems from an event that took place on Oct. 13, 1307, when King Philip IV of France had hundreds of the Knights of Templar arrested based on allegations that were likely false. Many were tortured and killed for crimes they did not commit. The superstition may have also derived from Good Friday, when Jesus and his 12 apostles dined before his crucifixion. Judas Iscariot left the other 12 to betray Christ.

In western tradition, 13 has been seen as an unlucky number because it is one more than 12, which represents completion. For the most part, people no longer fear Friday the 13th, but when something unlucky does take place on that day, it is easy for some people - including Cherokee County residents - to question whether chance was at play.

Ferris JoLee Copeland, a Northeastern State University student from Tahlequah, said that on one Friday the 13th, her friends experienced an abnormal fright, and they wondered whether the day had something to do with it.

"My friends normally just scared each other when I was younger, but one time, the lights did flicker for hours on end and a tree right beside the screen door got struck by lightning and split down the middle, so we stopped talking about scary things altogether," said Copeland.

She admits she throws salt over her shoulder for good luck, but for the most part, she doesn't buy into superstitions.

Rebecka Knight of Park Hill recounted a story from a Friday the 13th in 1990, when her parents asked her and her siblings to take down a swing they built in the barn. Rather than comply, they continued to play, and at one point, she lost her balance and fell off the swing, which sent the board crashing from the rafters onto her head directly between her eyes.

"I couldn't hear anything and could barely see. My 16-year-old sister started cleaning me up, and all I could think of how bloody and ruined my favorite pink dress, sweater, and black shoes were," she said.

That Friday the 13th gave her 30 stitches, a concussion, migraines that continue to this day, and a lifelong lesson: to heed the direction of her parents.

The last Friday the 13th of 2020 fell in March, and Hulbert High School junior Breanna Hampton remembers it was the last day of school before it was canceled due to the pandemic.

"It was a cold and rainy day. As students, we didn't know that was going to be our last day of school, and to think it was the start of something we never would have expected before. It may sound like superstition, but it is still fun to think about," she said.

Dewey and Cheryl Hendrix commented on the Tahlequah Daily Press Facebook page that they recently celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were married 49 years ago on Friday the 13th, when she was 16 years old, and he was 18. Conscious of not blaming Friday the 13th for any possible bad karma, Dewey commented: "Said if it didn't work out, we would blame it on our age. Still waiting to see if it's gonna work."

Rev. Tammy Schmidt, of First Presbyterian Church in Tahlequah, explained that the church traditionally avoids superstitious beliefs.

"We try to center not so much on the outcomes of negative things, but to live in the mystery of God's grace and kingdom being made known in our daily lives," she said.

To Schmidt, superstitions don't fall in line with Christian teachings, but she does find the topic fascinating.

"We typically don't give credence to any superstitions in regard to Friday the 13th because to do so would negate Christ's works," she said.

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