Shock­to­ber­fest: A Hal­loween month Fri­day the 13th is de­light­fully hor­rific

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kevin Simp­son Kevin Simp­son: 303-954-1739, ksimp­son@den­ver­ or @ksimp­sondp

Some­times it sneaks up, like men­ac­ing, goaliemasked Ja­son, un­til we re­al­ize — too late! — that the hor­ror is upon us: It’s Fri­day the 13th.

Whether it con­jures vi­sions of the fa­mous movie fran­chise, his­toric con­nec­tions to the Knights Tem­plar or just plain su­per­sti­tion, the day of­fers a chance to sus­pend dis­be­lief and ap­proach life with a sense of fore­bod­ing, im­pend­ing bad luck or per­haps even a mag­i­cal aura of pos­si­bil­ity, says Stephen Gra­ham Jones, cre­ative writ­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Colorado and au­thor of hor­ror nov­els.

“We live in a world where it feels like we shine light into all cor­ners, we can see ev­ery­thing,” says Jones. “That makes it smaller. But if we ex­tract magic out of the world, we feel part of a big­ger story. Lit­tle su­per­sti­tions like Fri­day the 13th al­low the world to be big­ger.”

Part of the su­per­sti­tious ap­peal of the day might be its ir­reg­u­lar ap­pear­ance that en­ables it to creep up on un­sus­pect­ing folks look­ing for­ward to the week­end. On av­er­age, the 13th falls on a Fri­day ev­ery 212.35 days — slightly more of­ten than any other day of the week. In 2017, it fell in Jan­uary and now Oc­to­ber.

From 2010 through 2020, it ap­pears on the cal­en­dar 20 times. By 2050, it will have greeted us 50 more times, al­ways at least once a year, but never more than three times. Jones fig­ures that the fact that this month, when a trans­posed 13 be­comes 31 — Hal­loween — the day car­ries even more mean­ing.

Ori­gins and per­pet­u­a­tion of the su­per­sti­tion de­rive from sev­eral sources, rang­ing from Bib­li­cal times (some be­lieve Eve chomped on the ap­ple on this day) to the Mid­dle Ages, when the ar­rest of many Knights Tem­plar oc­curred in 1307, to pub­li­ca­tion 600 years later of the Thomas W. Law­son novel “Fri­day, the Thir­teenth,” to the men­tion in nov­el­ist Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” that this day marked the ex­e­cu­tion of the Tem­plar Grand Master, who laid a grand curse on his way out.

“Of course, you can’t look away from the film fran­chise, ei­ther” adds Jones. “That has been in the back of our minds since the 1980s. It’s as­so­ci­ated with ter­ri­ble things hap­pen­ing to campers and coun­selors, def­i­nitely — ter­ri­ble, un­fair things. That un­fair­ness aligns with our sense that it’s un­lucky. It all gets packed into the same snow­ball, get­ting big­ger and big­ger.”

The orig­i­nal “Fri­day the 13th” movie cen­ters on the char­ac­ter Ja­son Voorhees and mass mur­ders at a sum­mer camp. It went on to be­come a highly suc­cess­ful string of pro­duc­tions. But even in the slasher-movie con­text, the sense of fear and fore­bod­ing comes linked to a sense of fun that draws many to hor­ror films in the first place.

Jones points out that the most in­tense, jolt­ing mo­ments that elicit screams from the au­di­ence of­ten are fol­lowed by a sense of re­lief and laugh­ter. And maybe, in a larger sense, that’s how many ap­proach Fri­day the 13th.

“At the end of the day, your con­tin­ual or pent-up stress or anx­i­ety about this be­ing Fri­day the 13th leaves you to fi­nally re­lax,” he says. “I feel like we all sigh in re­lief when noth­ing bad hap­pens.”

One of Jones’ own nov­els, “The Last Fi­nal Girl,” was in­spired by the slasher films. And for those who might have their own ideas for ad­vanc­ing the su­per­sti­tion sur­round­ing Fri­day the 13th, the au­thor will teach an ad­vanced hor­ror fic­tion course

later this year that in­cludes a week-long res­i­dency at the Stan­ley Ho­tel, which has its own heart­pound­ing bag­gage.

But Jones also notes that the day can sug­gest more than blood-drenched hor­ror or the fear that bad luck is wait­ing for us from the mo­ment we re­luc­tantly slip out of bed in the morn­ing.

“Su­per­sti­tion cracks the door open on good and bad stuff,” he says. “Fri­day the 13th might be por­ten­tous in some way, but once you al­low that magic into the world, it’s also about al­low­ing good things as well.”

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