Not everyone is TGIFing today. For paraskavedekatriaphobics, or those with an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, it’s the unluckiest time of year. Superstition surrounding the number 13 may be due to its following the number 12 (12 apostles, 12 months of a year, 12 gods of Olympus). Hotels, office buildings and hospitals routinely skip the number on floors and rooms. In France, you can hire a “quatorzième,” a professional 14th guest, to ameliorate your cursed dinner party.
But superstitious folks can take some relief in knowing today is 2016’s only Friday the 13th-- unlike 2015, which had three. In honor of this inauspicious holiday, we’ve compiled five political and cultural icons whose superstitions may surprise you.
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt had nothing to fear but Friday the 13th
This four-term president, whose famous 1933 inaugural address asserted the “firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and who led the country through the Great Depression and WWII, had such a fear of both Fridays and the number 13 that he reportedly avoided travel on Fridays and the 13th day of any month. He also rearranged any dinners with 13 guests, often asking his secretary to join as the 14th guest.
2. Stephen King wrote a column about his own triskaidekaphobia
Horror novelist and screenwriter Stephen King self-identified as a “triskie,” shorthand for one who fears the number 13, in a column in 1984 for the New York Times. “I always take the last two steps on my back stairs as one,” he wrote, ”making 13 into 12 (there were, after all, 13 steps on the English gallows – up until 1900 or so – and executions were traditionally carried out on Fridays).” He added that he never stopped reading a book on page 94, or any page number that added up to 13.
3. Nancy Reagan loved astrology, Reagan memoirists claim
In his 1990 memoir, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff Donald Regan wrote that first lady Nancy Reagan depended heavily on astrologer Joan Quigley to determine the president’s scheduling. Quigley’s advice influenced Reagan’s travel, timing for press conferences and speeches, Regan wrote. Further, Quigley wrote in her memoir, “What Does Joan Say? My Seven Years as White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan,” that she “picked the time of Ronald Reagan’s debate with Carter and the two debates with Walter Mondale.” The Reagans denied this and said the astrology thing was a hobby, according to the Washington Post.
4. John McCain renamed a building's 13th floor
In 2008, the long-time Arizona senator and GOP presidential nominee had the 13th floor that housed his Virginia campaign headquarters renamed “M.” (Though some note "M" is the 13th letter of the alphabet.) In fact, McCain has copped to a considerable list of superstitious habits, including wearing lucky shoes, feathers and pennies.
5. President Barack Obama once made the mistake of not playing basketball
President Obama might not place credence in the superstition behind Fridays or the number 13, but he still has a few good-luck rituals of his own. An avid basketball player and fan, the president didn’t miss shooting hoops any primary or election day after losing to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire in 2008. "We made the mistake of not playing basketball [that day]. We won't make that mistake again," former press secretary Robert Gibbs said, according to the Washington Post.