It’s Friday the 13th, and for many people, that’s a day full of dread and bad luck. For others, it conjures gruesome images of a hockey mask wearing, machete wielding fiend terrorizing visitors at Camp Crystal Lake.
But have you ever wondered how the superstition surrounding this specific day and date combination originated? The belief can be traced back to at least the 12 century and perhaps even to Biblical times.
Some believe the superstition begins with Jesus at the Last Supper. The famous Thursday meal had the fateful number of 13 people in attendance. It was immediately following that meal that Judas betrayed Jesus. The following day, Friday, Jesus was crucified. However, Christ’s death isn’t the only Christian connection to the cursed date.
Many credit the superstition to an event that unfolded beginning Friday, October 13, 1307. On that date, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest, torture, and execution of hundreds of Knights Templar, a monastic military order devoted to the protection of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.
Founded around 1118, the Knights Templar became one of the wealthiest and most influential groups of the Middle Ages due to lavish donations from the crowned heads of Europe looking to curry favor with the group. By the beginning of the 14th century, the Templars had established a vast network of castles, churches, and banks throughout Europe. It was their staggering wealth that led to their downfall.
A month earlier, the avaricious monarch Philip IV had secret documents sent by couriers across the kingdom, with instructions that they not be opened until the night of October 12. The papers included lurid details and whispers of black magic and scandalous sexual rituals by the Templars.
In the days and weeks that followed that fateful Friday, more than 600 Templars were arrested. Nearly all were brutally tortured. Their lands and money were confiscated and officially dispersed to another religious order, although the greedy king did get his hands on some of the cash he coveted.
Finally, after seven years of terror in the spring of 1314, Grand Master Molay and several other Templars were burned at the stake in Paris, bringing an end to the horrific events and launching an even longer-lasting theory about the evil possibilities of Friday the 13th.