Dear Kid,

Once upon a time no one could count higher than 10 (that was the generally agreed upon number of toes most people had) and so no one had to worry about the number 13.

Friday the 13th Explained. DearKidLoveMom.comAnd since not even such a high authority as Snopes can agree on the Exact Origin of the Friday XIII superstition, it falls to me to explain it to you. (And by “explain it to you” I mean make it up.)

As I mentioned, there was a time when no one could count higher than 10.

Joe Neanderthal couldn’t even count that high because a) he didn’t care and b) he knew that Mrs. Joe Neanderthal was going to correct him anyway so why bother?

This was, in fact, one of the smarter decisions Joe Neanderthal ever made, because of course Mrs. J N always corrected him.

It turns out that Mrs. Joe Neanderthal was the first to count beyond 10. She was able to count all the way to 14, not because she figured out how to use her fingers and her toes, not because she figured out how to use her toes and Joe’s toes, and not even because she figured out how to turn on the calculator. Mrs. Joe Neanderthal figured out how to count to 14 because that’s how many children she had.

And so when it came time to find new furs for the little Neanderthals to wear on the first day of school (little known fact: the first day of school back then was also often the last day of school), Mrs. Joe knew just exactly how much fur she needed.

So Mrs. Joe did the sensible thing. She bopped Joe over the head and told him to go out and bring back 14 furry beasts, preferably dead (but she wasn’t all that picky).

Being a reasonably bright Neanderthal, Joe did as he was asked and trotted off to find some beasts willing to part with their fur (or at least unable to keep up their end of the ownership argument).

After a few days, Joe came home lugging 14 mostly-dead mammals. (Extra points if you get the mostly-dead reference.)

Mrs. Joe got to work.

First she made sure all the critters were dead-dead (it turned out she was pickier than she thought).

Then she counted them. Then she counted them again. She counted them from the other direction. Then she went back and recounted her children.

But no matter how many times Mrs. J counted the furs, there were still only 13. And no matter how many times she recounted her children, there were still 14.

Mrs. Joe Neanderthal did the only sensible thing and turned her attention to poor Joe.

You may be thinking that Joe usually found himself on the short end of the stick. Not this time, my friend. He found himself on the long end of the stick—the end which had a big rock tied to it. And at the other end of the steek (didn’t think I could work that in, did you?) was a Very Annoyed Mrs. Joe Neanderthal.

Because small children may one day read this account, I will not go into detail about what happened next.

However, you can be sure that from then on, Joe Neanderthal considered 13 a very unlucky number indeed.

And that is where the superstition about the number 13 began. Tune in another time when I explain the Friday bit.

Speaking of which, happy Friday 13th.

Love, Mom

If you didn’t get the mostly-dead reference, I sentence you to watch The Princess Bride again.

And if you didn’t get the steek reference, then Jeff Dunham and I don’t quite know what to say.