Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The number most closely associated with bad luck. It represents the outsider, the dark side of life – there are 13 lunar months in a year, thus associating the number with the night, darkness and the power of the Moon. Its influence has become grafted onto Christianity because there were 13 at the Last Supper, one of whom betrayed Christ, though 13 at dinner has always been deemed unlucky – it also appears in Norse Mythology when Loki came uninvited to a banquet in Valhalla, leading to the death of Baldur. Lord Dunsany invokes this aspect in his Ghost Story "Thirteen at Table" (1916 Tales of Wonder). The superstition associated with the number is very strong. In some skyscrapers there is no numbered 13th floor, thus the shock of its discovery in "The Thirteenth Floor" (1949 WT) by Frank Gruber (1904-1969). It becomes a step towards a personal Hell in "The Thirteenth Step" (in The Fiend in You anth 1962 ed Charles Beaumont) by Fritz Leiber. A clock striking 13 is not only the ominous opening of 1984 (1949) by George Orwell but invokes a Portal to another world in "Thirteen O'Clock" (1941 Stirring Science Stories) by C M Kornbluth (1923-1958) and Tom's Midnight Garden (1958) by Philippa Pearce. Friday is sometimes considered an unlucky day (on a Friday Christ was crucified) so the combination of Friday and 13 is especially potent and may constitute the basis for Western culture's single most powerful superstition. It is used to establish a basis for Horror fiction, most notably in the movie series that began with Friday the Thirteenth (1980), while its use as a starting point for humour is portrayed in Freaky Friday (1976), where the sudden Identity Exchange happens both on Friday 13th and to a 13-year-old. [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.