What's in a date? Friday 13th is a date that inspires dread when it's seen looming ahead on calendars in the Western world, but there are surprisingly very few pieces of actual or tangible historical evidence as to why Friday 13th is considered so unlucky.
From my research, one of the earliest known references to this infamous date can be found in Henry Sutherland Edwards' biography of the Italian composer Giachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13, which read:
"He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died."
In the West, superstition remains prominent in the conscious and subconscious minds of our people. The most likely reason for Friday 13th to be deemed "deadly" is that, in many Western cultures, Friday is deemed to be the unluckiest day of the week and the number 13 has always traditionally been earmarked as an unlucky number. Try forgetting any reference to the arresting of hundreds of Knights Templar (the military order of the Catholic Church) on Friday 13 October 1307 by King Philip IV's forces in France, in The Da Vinci Code, which puts the day's notoriety down to the arrest which has been widely disregarded by experts as a modern day invention.
If Rossini was the first well known person to die on Friday 13th, please find another 12 (yes cleverly totalling 13) to have sadly passed away on this day:-
#2 Original American Daredevil Stuntman, Sam Patch:
Died on Friday 13 November 1829 after a second attempt to leap from a height of 40 metres over the High Falls of the Genessee River in Rochester, New York. History suggests that witnesses were never convinced as to whether or not he fell or jumped however, the result was the same, he hit the water awkwardly and never came back up.
#3 American Record Breaker, Sir Henry Segrave:
Died on Friday 13 June 1930 shortly after breaking the water speed record. He was completing a follow-up run in Miss England II on Lake Windermere. They say that he must have hit a floating log and capsized although no log was ever found. Seagrave was taken to hospital where he briefly regained consciousness, was told he had broken the record, and then died of multiple lung haemorrhages. His mechanic also died in the crash (sadly, I couldn't find his name and therefore he sits outside of my "Unlucky 13")
#4 Austrian composer and expressionist painter,Arnold Schoenberg:
Died on Friday 13 July 1951 shortly before midnight (for the purpose of this exercise, I am assuming this is true). Contained within a letter to Schoenberg's sister, his wife Gertrud wrote: "About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold's throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end."
#5 Famous Actress, Martita Hunt:
Died on Friday 13 June 1969. Martita, known for playing the haunting Miss Havisham in the 1946 film version of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations died of bronchial asthma. Like her character she was never married however, in remarkable likeness to the others on this list, she is dead.
#6 Irish-American mobster,Mickey Spillane:
Died on Friday 13 May 1977. Hailing from Hell's Kitchen, New York, Spillanewas killed by a mystery assailant outside his Queens apartment. In an unlucky twist of fate, Spillane was never supposed to be at his apartment that night but he had forgotten his keys and returned home when the incident occurred.
#7 American Serial killer, Christopher Wilder:
Died on Friday 13 April 1984. Stabber Wilder was notorious for abducting and raping at least 12 women, and killing at least eight of them, was shot dead in Massachusetts. After a young woman escaped an attempted abduction, his vehicle description was broadcast out to police. When recognised by two officers at a petrol station, he grabbed his gun and a scuffle ensued. Two shots were fired, both of which passed through his chest, killing him.
#8 Extrovert jazz musicianChet Baker:
Died on Friday 13 May 1988. Best known for his hard-living and run-ins with the law, Bakerwas discovered out on the street directly below his hotel apartment in Amsterdam. Originally presumed to be accidental, autopsy reports later discover copious amounts of Cocaine and other drugs in his system. After months of deliberation, a verdict of accidental death was reached.
#9 Australian Composer, Stuart Challender:
Died on Friday 13 December 1991, was most famous for his work with Opera Australia and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and died of an AIDS-related illness.
#10 USA Rapper, Tupac Shakur:
Died on Friday 13 September 1996. Almost 6 days after being shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Reports suggest that, earlier that evening, Shakur had attacked a member of a rival Southside gang and his death is purported to have been retaliation.
#11 NASCAR Driver, Tony Roper:
Died on Friday 13 October 2000. He had been racing in the Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway at the time. Upon attempting an overtake on rivalSteve Grissom, another vehicle veered up the track, seemingly out of nowhere, forcing him into Grissom's front bumper, and causing him to crash directly into a concrete wall.
#12 American TV Journalist,Tim Russer:
Died on Friday 13 June 2008. The long-serving journalist died after collapsing at the WRC-TV office, which houses the Washington DC bureau of NBC News. After what was later told to be a huge heart failure, a co-worker began CPR on him, paramedics transported him to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
AND FINALLY (and unluckily for him)
#13 Film Producer, Richard D Zanuck:
Died on Friday 13 July 2012. Aged 77, Zanuck was pronounced dead at his Beverly Hills Mansion having suffered a fatal heart attack. Zanuck was known for his work on the Jaws and Cocoon films, and more recent collaborations with Tim Burton on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland.