This past Friday marked yet another time in history when the 13th day of the month fell on a Friday, signaling the superstitious likelihood of bad luck on that day. However, for one country music singer, this turned out to be true. In a story that may or may not have been reported otherwise, 63-year-old country singer Gene Watson and his Farewell Party band were on their way home from Houston to perform on the Grand Ole Opry when their bus caught fire just outside of Nashville. The fire started from a broken axle shaft spewing grease. His publicist reported that black smoke and flames engulfed the back of the bus by the engine as Watson, a former mechanic, attempted to put the flames out. He and the band worked for 30 minutes to keep the fire from spreading before the fire department came to extinguish it. Luckily, no one was hurt while Watson did singe his hair, and the van will be unusable for at least a couple of days. This event made Watson and his band’s Friday the 13th a festive one.

The notorious reputation of Friday the 13th has relatively modern roots though the reasoning behind them dates back to Christian tradition. There is even a phobia for those afraid of the date called triskaidekaphobia. Friday is said to be a bad luck day all by itself. This may stem from specific Christian events which took place on Fridays such as the Crucifixion of Christ, Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the Great Flood, and the confusion at the Tower of Babel. It is also present in literature such as Chaucer’s the Canterbury Tales written in the 14th century. However, the general fear of Friday started in Western literature in the mid-17th century proclaiming it the unluckiest day of the week. Since the early 19th century, people have been known never to start a project or task on a Friday. They avoided harvesting, launching or building a ship, beginning a sea voyage, recovering from illnesses, writing business letters, hearing news, moving, starting a new job, or getting married. Even a child born on a Friday is said to be doomed to have bad luck. The only exception to this rule is Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday for Christians.

The number 13 has similar stories behind its unluckiness. Like Fridays, the number 13 may have started with the Christian tradition of recognizing the Last Supper. There, Judas Iscariot was the thirteenth guest to sit at the table. He later betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. The number 13 associated as a bad omen began in the 18th century which foretold that if 13 people sat down to eat together that one of them would die within a year. The remedy for this started the custom of having everyone sit and rise from the table at the same time.

The blending of Friday and the 13th day of the month was then said to make the day twice as unlucky. This is said to have started in the 20th century, though it was originally thought that it began with the arrest of the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307. Instead, it began to be reported in major newspapers in 1908 beginning with a piece about a U.S. Oklahoma senator who introduced 13 bills on Friday the 13th. The myth has continued from there.

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