Some superstitions are rooted in the natural world, fact, history or other data that in essence may have, at one time, made them important survival tactics for homo sapiens- before the advent of modern housing, for instance, fearing lightning and thunder meant you were far less likely to become a caveman-kebab during adverse weather conditions.
But one resilient superstition that almost definitely serves no benefit is fear of Friday the 13th. While logical humans can work out that there’s no possible way a number combined with a day of the week has any bearing on how likely you are to be murdered by a lakeside, fear of the common date/day combination persists in modern society- to the tune of an estimated $800 to $900 million per occurrence.
The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina measures such behaviors, and found the very real economic consequences due to the fact so many people still fear leaving their homes and going to work on the day- some even suffer panic attacks when forced to do so. Pathological fear of Friday the 13th is clinically known as friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia, and some believe the superstition is rooted in belief that Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, or ancient Roman fears of witchcraft and devil worship.
Joe Nickell, a Skeptical Inquirer writer, says that those in the skeptic community often make a day of Friday the 13th, tempting fate by engaging in behaviors often prohibited by superstition. Nickell says:
“We would have tables set up where you can spill salt or break mirrors. I’ve broken plenty of mirrors…. We would open up umbrellas [indoors], and we have a large ladder that we set up so you have to walk under it. And as you can see, I’m still here.”