Triskadekaphobia: The Fear of Thirteen

Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13 (thirteen). The term was used as early as in 1910 by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology. It may seem like an unusual phobia to have but modern skyscrapers rarely have a floor numbered thirteen. Many airports lack a gate with the number thirteen. In Florence, Italy, any street address that falls between twelve and fourteen is labeled “twelve and a half.”

Origins of fear of thirteen

Norse Mythology

The number thirteen has always had a rotten reputation. The trouble may date back to an ancient Norse myth of a dinner party gone bad when the twelve invited gods were joined by a nasty thirteenth guest who killed the god of joy.


For Christians, there is a similar tale. Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. Even though the Bible says nothing about the order in which the Apostles sat, but it has been stated that there were thirteen people at the table.

Ancient Rome

According to ancient Romans, witches always gathered in groups of twelve. The thirteenth guest was none other than the devil.

Ancient Greece and paganism

Twelve has always been the more popular number. We have twelve months in a year and twelve signs in the Zodiac. There were twelve Greek gods of Olympus. But thirteen just seems to rub people the wrong way.

Triskadekaphobia in modern times

Do people really buy the hype about poor number thirteen? Economists say yes.

U.S. companies lose a total of about $800 million every Friday the thirteenth because so many people refuse to travel, trade stock, or do other business on this day.

The fear of the number thirteen (triskadekaphobia) is embedded so much within our cultures that it is being reflected even in things that have nothing to do with its origins such as being removed from elevators, floor numbering, streets etc.

Famous people with triskaidekaphobia

Many celebrities and people of power have been recorded to have fear and avoidance of the unlucky 13 such as:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Mark Twain
  • Napoleon
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Ángel Nieto
  • Arnold Schoenberg
  • Stephen King
  • Sholom Aleichem
  • Nick Yarris

Unfortunate events related to unlucky 13

Folklore and mere urban legends are not what have carried the plague of the fear from number 13 across all these centuries. There are quite some unfortunate and fatal events that have a relation with the number 13 that make people even more prone to being paranoid and develop avoidance towards the number thirteen.

  • On April 11, 1970, at 13:13:00 CST, Apollo 13 was launched, and on April 13 at 21:07:53 CST, an oxygen tank explosion occurred. On April 17, it was successfully returned to Earth.
  • On April 17, 2018, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 experienced an uncontained engine failure owing to a failure of the number-13 fan blade on the number-1 engine. Damage caused a passenger to be partially sucked out of a window, and she died as a result of her injuries.
  • Friday the 13th mini-crash was a stock market crash that occurred on Friday, October 13, 1989.
  • Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. Friday the 13th was not regarded unfortunate at the time, despite the fact that the number 13 was deemed unlucky. The false belief that their imprisonment was linked to Friday the 13th phobias was promoted by the novel The Da Vinci Code, which was published in the early twenty-first century.

How to overcome the fear of 13 triskadekaphobia

There are some steps one can take to overcome fear of 13 such as:

  1. Understand the historical Context. The fear of thirteen did not appear out of nowhere. It is influenced by a number of historical events and cultural customs.
  2. Recognize that people have a variety of superstitions, and that this does not mean you need be terrified of them as well.
  3. Stop looking up thirteen-related myths and superstitions.
  4. Tell yourself that thirteen is just a number.
  5. Calm your anxiety when you see the number.
  6. Associate thirteen with a happy memory.
  7. Talk to a loved one about what you’re going through.
  8. Be patient with yourself.
  9. Know when to seek assistance. If your fear of the number thirteen is interfering with your ability to function normally, you should seek treatment from a phobia specialist. CBT and hypnotherapy are two therapies that can help you reduce or eliminate phobias while also teaching you better coping methods.