Friday the Thirteenth Superstitions

Evelyn Sharp, a Nebraskan pilot, is pictured here with her Curtiss Robin OX-5.

 

“At first glance, Friday the thirteenth, seemed much like any other day,” said the Kearney Daily Hub on Friday, January 13, 1922, “and had it not been for the furtive expressions of ancient superstition here and there, little would have been thought of this as a fateful day.” A reporter who interviewed a number of Kearney residents on their beliefs regarding the day, found that “the superstition still carries power, even though only imaginative.” Few people would admit openly that they believed Friday the thirteenth to be unlucky, but a review of the columns of early Nebraska newspapers reveals that some were reluctant to schedule a journey or other important event or activity on that day.

The Omaha Daily Bee reported on Saturday, August 14, 1915, that on the previous day, not one marriage license had been issued at the Douglas County Courthouse: “One prospective bride . . . . declared she could not think of getting married on Friday, the 13th.” Those born on Friday the thirteenth did not usually view themselves as unlucky.

Roy Worley of Kearney told the Hub on September 13, 1929, “I have never had any bad luck on Friday the thirteenth [his birthday] and I have no reason to think that it is different from any other day,” adding that “the superstition that has grown up about the day is what Henry Ford said history is.” Some professed to believe that Friday the thirteenth could actually be a lucky day. A Rulo area farmer in 1907 advertised a public sale for Friday, December 13, maintaining that the thirteenth would be “his lucky day and he expects a big crowd, and everything will go at the top price. We [the Falls City Tribune, November 29, 1907] await results, and if all turns out as he says we will forever bury this old superstition. Either 13 or Friday have been considered unlucky, but as a combination it is more than our pessimistic nature can swallow. Attend this sale and watch the outcome.”

The number thirteen has long been considered unlucky, even when not paired with a Friday. Hotels sometimes skipped the number when designating rooms, and hostesses routinely avoided seating thirteen guests at dinner parties. The thirteen members of the graduating class of North Platte High School in 1895 brought the class mascot to the ceremony with them “to break the possible ill-luck that might arise. In this, the class showed itself to be more superstitious than Gov. Holcomb who has just accepted an honorary membership in a Thirteen club organization in New York City.” [North Platte Semi-weekly Tribune, June 4, 1895]

Aviatrix Nellie Willhite took advantage of the many instances of the number thirteen in her life, to advertise herself as the “Thirteen Girl” during her participation in the All Nebraska Air Tour in 1930 during which her monoplane carried a large “13” as an emblem. She told the Hub on June 28, 1930, that she considered thirteen to be her lucky number. Her first solo flight had been made on Friday the thirteenth. She enrolled in an aviation school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as the thirteenth student, and she was the thirteenth student to graduate after thirteen hours of instruction.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Nebraska’s Five Capitols

Nebraska’s Five Capitols

Siouan Archeology

Siouan Archeology

Marker Monday: Mitchell & Ketchum Homesteads

Marker Monday: Mitchell & Ketchum Homesteads

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.