Is 13 Really so Unlucky?

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So far as lucky numbers go, 13 gets a lot of bad press. When playing gambling games such as

roulette and keno, casino-goers usually avoid the number, even if it seems to be coming up a lot.

If concerned about the effects of good and bad luck, plenty of people steer clear of the dreaded

number. Many tall buildings skip over the 13th floor as if the number doesn’t even exist. Most

people want nothing to do with the number 13, yet others seem to think all the naysayers are

missing something. Taylor Swift, herself, considers 13 to be her lucky number that may just have

helped in her success. Is there something to the infamous number 13? The evidence has

something to say about that.

In religious text, 13 can sometimes be an uninvited guest. The most famous case is the Last

Supper of the Bible. In the story, Jesus sits down with his disciples for an important last meal

before his capture and crucifixion, but there is one missing: Judas. Because he’s a little busy

selling Jesus out to the Romans, he is the 13th person to sit down at the table. This alone is

enough to make the number 13 a less likeable character.

A similar scene happens in a Norse story in which 12 gods are sitting down enjoying a banquet.

Everyone had decided not to invite Loki because, like Judas, he is not exactly the likeable type.

Loki arrives anyway, angry and ready to cut some throats. In other words, Loki’s friends don’t

invite him to a party because he’s untrustworthy, so to prove them wrong, he shows up armed

and starts killing people. So far, not so great, number 13.

For the next couple millennia of human storytelling, 13 didn’t come up very much. The number

has shown up in books and films throughout the ages as an unlucky element, but not because any

new evidence came up. The latest big case of unlucky 13 syndrome was the Apollo 13 mission to

the moon. Even though every moon mission before and after Apollo 13 was completed without a

serious hitch, this mission is where it all went wrong. On the way, the oxygen tank exploded, and

each one of the astronauts had a brush with death. The number 13 did not do any favors for that


There are plenty of bad things to say about the number 13. Maybe gamblers are right for shying

away from it. There certainly aren’t any big stories about the number actually benefitting

someone. Maybe all the controversy is what drove individuals to love the number 13, even while

the crowds shudder and shy away. It may not be everyone’s lucky number, but at least it gets

love from somebody.

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