Friday, November 13, 2015

The Thirteen Club

Unease with the number 13 was common by the 19th century, an age that prided itself on the modern antisuperstitious outlook. There is even a specific term for fear of the number 13: triskaidekaphobia. As common as clubs were back then, a club was organized to test certain superstitions. This was the Thirteen Club, so-called because it had 13 members and deliberately challenged triskaidekaphobia and other superstitions.  It would meet only on the 13th day of the month. Its first meeting was on Friday, January 13, 1882 at 8:13 in a room numbered 13 of the Knickerbocker Club.

The club was founded by Captain William Fowler, who had fought in 13 battles during the Civil War. He belonged to thirteen clubs, got married on the 13th, and tried to do anything important on the 13th. He was fixated on the number 13! He even graduated from P.S. 13 when he was 13 years old!

During the club meetings, the members would dine on a 13-course dinner and flouted superstitions at will. They would walk under ladders, open umbrellas indoors at the meeting, break mirrors, and do other things to tempt superstitious fate!

They dined under a banner reading "Morituri te Salutamus" (We who will die salute you.")

On one occasion, the Thirteen Club members dined at a table, with candles by each setting. They waited until the first one burned out -- according to a superstition, the one whose candle went out was supposed to die. A year later, the roll was taken; and all members were present and had a pretty healthy year!

Well, the club was active for only a few years; yet it included no less than five former Presidents among its members: Benjamin Harrison, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt!

In the spirit of these aggressive rationalists, flout a superstition today!


Linda Kay said...

I don't know where you come up with your stories! Now I'm reminded that it is Friday the 13th, and I hadn't thought about it. Am no superstitious, however. I do know some hotels do not include the 13th floor as a resting place.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Happy Friday the 13th!

Mike said...

I slept until 1pm today. 13 hours down, 11 to go.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I wonder what the after-dinner speeches were like.

John Hill said...

Thanks for the interesting info!

allenwoodhaven said...

Very interesting. I hadn't heard of this club. Perhaps someone will get it started again. I wouldn't be able to handle 13 courses for dinner though!

Cloudia said...

Another informative and amusing post, Angel! Particularly appreciated as the street address of my new dream home is 13.

ALOHA, Friend