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Flights of Fancy on Friday The 13th

Friday the 13th

If you’re going to be flying today, you may be in for a surprise and if you’re lucky, your surprise may include a bit of extra arm rest space and even an empty seat next to you to stretch out on: the reason for this? Well it’s Friday the 13th of course and airlines have reported a drop in bookings, as some superstitious passengers are preferring not to tempt the gods of fate and are staying safely at home instead. According to the Daily Mail, one travel comparison website noted a 27% drop in bookings.

As silly as this may sound to those of us who like to think of ourselves as rational people, the fear of Friday the 13th is a very well documented and serious psychological disorder known as paraskavedekatriaphobia (is there a name for the fear of long words?) and has been around a lot longer than "Jason" from the frightening, slasher films about this fateful day.

The superstitions around the day originated in the year 1307, according to some researchers, when on a Friday the 13th, King Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar. To cut a long story short, after some persuasion (a bit of nail pulling and the rack), the leader of the Templars pleaded guilty to a whole range of terrible charges and was sentenced to death by burning. The Templar leader Jacques de Molay is said to have cursed the day and to have told both King Philip and the Pope that he would be seeing them soon for judgement - both died before the year's end.

There is of course no real proof that Friday the 13th is any more unlucky than any other day; although many still find the number to be quite spooky. Many airlines for instance, skip the 13th aisle in their planes, going straight from 12 to 14. If you’re one of the few who prefers not to take the chance, the year 2012 still has two more of these dreaded days coming up: one in April and one in July. The rest of us? Well, we'll just enjoy the extra leg room.

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Matt Wilke

Matt Wilke

Being fortunate enough to attend a boarding school in South Africa, Matthew not only learnt to appreciate nature, but also gained a deep respect for humour and military history. Once finishing his studies, he joined a military band which affords him the opportunity to travel to many countries and to see them from a different perspective from that of just a tourist.