There’s plenty of reason to be afraid of the number 13

posted Nov. 6, 2017 7:46 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Benjamin Wideman, Regional Editor |

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The name is practically as terrifying as the day itself — paraskavedekatriaphobia. Better known to people like me as the fear of Friday the 13th.

And that’s exactly what I recently survived — a Friday the 13th just last month!

Thinking about the number 13 is hard enough, much less actually saying it or typing it. So, just to play it safe, from now on we’ll refer to that number as the less ominous 12+1.

Before you start laughing, this isn’t one of those ridiculous fears, like consecotaleophobia (fear of chopsticks), anatidaephobia (fear of ducks watching you) or — brace yourself — hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (the fear of long words, like that one).

The fear of Friday the 12+1th is absolutely legit, at least to me and millions of other people.

I’ll do practically anything to avoid the number 12+1, especially on Friday the 12+1th.

If I’m at a gas station, I won’t stop fueling if the dollar or gallon total has a 12+1 in it or if any of the numbers in either of those categories adds up to 12+1. Seriously.

If I’m buying groceries, I won’t finish at the self-checkout if there’s a 12+1 in the dollar total — I’ll just grab another candy bar (or two or three) until that number disappears. Seriously.

And if I’m home watching my favorite rerun of “The Office,” I can promise you the volume isn’t set at 12+1. Seriously.

Think I’m being silly? Well, think again.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt — who once proclaimed “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” — is said to have avoided travel on the 12+1th day of any given month, and he wouldn’t host 12+1 guests at a meal, either. President Herbert Hoover and French leader Napoleon also feared 12+1.

At least I can say I’m in good company, right?

Travelers may notice that some high-rise hotels don’t have an official 12+1th floor, some airplanes don’t have an official 12+1th row of seating and some airports skip from the 12th gate to the 14th gate. And who can blame them?

And how about some of the most evil people to walk the face of the Earth: Charles Manson, Theodore Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Jack the Ripper. Guess how many letters were in each of their names.

One thing is indisputable — 12+1 equals trouble.

Benjamin Wideman covers news and writes features in eastern Wisconsin. He can be reached at

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