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Doctor Curmudgeon® Whew!

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

We can all take deep breaths now.

We have withstood another Friday the Thirteenth.

Why did this simple calendar date become a forewarning of bad luck?

Horror films are a genre that I avoid. But I am aware of all those movies with Friday the Thirteenth titles.

Why is Friday the thirteenth associated with horror and bad luck?

Did it begin with the story of the Last Supper with twelve apostles and Jesus at the table; a total of thirteen, and his subsequent crucifixion on the following day which was Friday?

Or did this superstition have its origins with the apocryphal story of the execution of some of the Knights Templar? Supposedly, on Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest and execution of many of the Knights Templar (A Catholic military order founded in order to defend the Holy land.).

A tad more recently, Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Germans on September 13, 1940, also a Friday.

But Friday the thirteenth is not always unlucky. It was on Friday, October 13, 1967 that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Equal Employment Executive Order stating that gender discrimination was illegal for all federal contractors and the federal government.

In 1939, on Friday, October 13, Evelyn Pinckert Kilgore became licensed under the Civil Air Authority as the first woman to be a licensed flight instructor.

In order to remove the ill repute of poor old Friday, the thirteenth, Captain William Fowler organized the Thirteen Club. Captain Fowler began his campaign against superstition on Friday January 13, 1882 in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage. Thirteen people dined at the table. Many of the meetings included smashing mirrors and spilling salt. It is intriguing that Fowler was also an architect and he built thirteen public buildings and graduated at the age of thirteen from P.S. 13.

As Siobhan writes in The Practical Mythologist, “a year later, the Thirteen Club secretary gleefully reported that; ‘out of the entire roll of membership…whether they have participated or not at the banquet table NOT A SINGLE MEMBER IS DEAD, or has even had a serious illness.’”

And, lest we forget, being afraid of Friday the thirteenth now has its own recognized psychological diagnosis.

As Dr.Krish Tangella writes in Dovemed, “Triskaidekaphobia is a type of specific phobia that involves an irrational and persistent fear of the number 13.”

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.
Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.
SERMO www.sermo.com

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