Significant Number Factoid Friday – Thirteen, Unlucky For Some

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


They’ve been ‘beautiful’,  they’ve been ‘big’  and they’ve been ‘unusual’

Today we have ‘significant’ number thirteen, unlucky for some.



13 Thirteen

The number 13 seems to give a lot of people trouble. Indeed the fear of the number 13 is so pervasive that it even has a phobia named after it  –  triskaidekaphobia. 


In the Bible.

  • At the Last Supper in Christian theology, there were 13 dinner guests, so that number is unlucky because Christ was betrayed.
  • Thirteen famines are recorded in the Scriptures.
  • The destruction of Jericho is stamped with the number thirteen, because the city was compassed once each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, making 13 times in all (6+7).
  • All the names of Satan are divisible by thirteen.
  • In Mark 7 Jesus mentions thirteen things that defile a person (evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness).



  • The ancient Hebrews thought 13 was unlucky because the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter M, which is the first letter in the word “mavet,” meaning death.
  • In Norse mythology, 12 benevolent gods were gathering in a hall and the evil god Loki attacked the group. Loki was the 13th guest, and the god Balder was killed in the melee.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt was quite fearful of the number 13, and he took great pains to avoid hosting a meal for a group of that size. It is said that if he had a cancellation and it looked as if there might be 13 people to lunch, he would invite his secretary to join them so there wouldn’t be 13.
  • Industrialist Henry Ford wouldn’t do business on Friday, the 13th.
  • Multimillionaire Paul Getty once stated “I wouldn’t care to be one of thirteen at a table.”
  • Some speculate that a fear of the number 13 is the reason we recognize only 12 constellations in the Zodiac, omitting a thirteenth… Ophiuchus ( the Serpent Holder) that, by its location, could be included.
  • Years ago, London bakers were subject to harsh penalties if they were caught selling bread in what was called short weight. The bakers would add an extra loaf to each dozen to be sure the sale met the minimum weight requirement. They avoided the word thirteen and the process of adding an extra loaf became known as the “baker’s dozen.”
  • Some airlines do not have a 13th row.
  • Most tall buildings do not have a 13th floor.
  • Many hotel guests refuse to stay in Room 13, so rooms are frequently numbered 12, 12A, and 14.
  • The 13th card of the Tarot is the card of Death.
  • The composer, Arnold Schoenberg, was a noted triskaidekaphobe. He died as he had predicted at the age of 76 (7+6=13), on a Friday 13th at 13 minutes to midnight.
  • In April 1970, NASA launched Apollo 13 at 1313 hours Central Time from pad 39. The flight was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. “Jack” Swigert as Command Module pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module pilot. (Swigert was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.) They were scheduled for rest periods beginning 13 minutes past the hour and on April 13 at 21:07:53 CST (55:54:53 Ground Elapsed Time) an oxygen tank exploded and the mission had to be aborted. The rest is history – and a movie, Apollo 13, based on ‘Lost Moon’, Jim Lovell’s and Jeffrey Kluger’s book about the event.
Apollo 13 insignia
Insignia of the ill-fated Apollo XIII Mission


Friday the 13th Myths:

  • If you cut your hair on Friday the 13th, someone in your family will die.
  • A child born on Friday the 13th will be unlucky for life.
  • If a funeral procession passes you on Friday the 13th, you will be the next to die.


In the United States

  • the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
  • thirteen colonies rebelled against British Rule and King George III in what led to the American Revolutionary War and the eventual birth of the United States of America. The colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
  • there are thirteen stripes on the USA flag to commemorate these original colonies.
USA flag - Stars and Stripes
USA flag – Stars and Stripes





Significant Number Factoid Friday – Seven

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


They’ve been ‘beautiful’, they’ve been ‘big’ and they’ve been ‘unusual’. Today we have the number seven, another of what are known as ‘significant’ numbers, so-called because of their use and the beliefs surrounding them.



7 Seven

The number seven is the most mystical of all numbers. It is considered by a great many people to be ‘lucky’.

It is a number that is mentioned many times in the Bible where it indicates perfection and has its roots in ancient Jewish history.

In the Old Testament for example,

  • The Creation established the pattern of a seven day week.
  • The seventh day was a day of rest.
  • Land was to lie fallow every seventh year to allow it to recover its nutrients.
  • Noah led the clean animals into the ark in sets of seven pairs for each species.
  • Solomon took seven years to build the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The Torah mentions that the Sabbatical, or holy year, occurred every seven years.
  • The Israelites were told to march around the walls of Jericho seven times, and their enemies would be defeated.
  • The symbolic Jewish candlestick has seven branches.

This view of the number seven continued in the New Testament.

  • A disciple asked Jesus, “How many times should we forgive our brethren?” Jesus replied, “70 times 7”.
  • Revelations 1:16 states, “He had in his right hand seven stars.”
  • Also in Revelations, the number of seals is seven.


And beyond the Bible, we find the number seven in other religions and societies.

  • The ancient Greeks considered the number seven to be lucky. They believed it to be the perfect number.
  • In ancient Egypt there were seven paths to heaven.
  • In ancient Babylon there were seven branches on their tree of life.
  • The Arabs carried on this belief and built seven holy temples.
  • The Goths made sure they worshiped the seven deities.
  • The Japanese also had seven gods. (In 1995, to celebrate the Japanese Emperor’s seven year reign 17 runners ran 7,777 meters round the imperial palace at 7 minutes past seven on the 7th day of the 7th month.)
  • The Chinese saw seven as the number governing female life.
  • Even the Scottish Masons made sure the number seven had relevance in their rites, and their aprons were made with seven tassels on them.


In the US too there are examples of the occurrence of the number seven.

  • The Founding Fathers declared independence from Britain during the seventh month.
  • There are seven articles to the US constitution.
  • And the city of Washington D.C. was built on the 77th longitude.


The number still occurs because of it being thought lucky such as the drink 7-Up and the Boeing airplanes which are always 7?7.


Then there are the Seven Wonders of the world.

The original seven wonders were:

  • Great Pyramid of Giza
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  • Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • Colossus of Rhodes
  • Lighthouse of Alexandria

(The earliest lists had the Ishtar Gate as the seventh wonder of the world instead of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.)

Map of the original Seven Wonders of the World
Map of the original Seven Wonders of the World

In 2001 an initiative was started by the Swiss corporation New7Wonders Foundation to choose the New7Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing monuments.

Twenty-one finalists were announced January 1, 2006. Egyptians were not happy that the only surviving original wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza, would have to compete with the likes of the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, and other landmarks, calling the project absurd. In response, Giza was named an honorary Candidate.

The results, announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon, Portugal, were: 

  • Great Wall of China
  • Petra (Jordan)
  • Christ the Redeemer (Brazil)
  • Machu Picchu (Peru)
  • Chichen Itza (Mexico)
  • Colosseum (Italy)
  • Taj Mahal (India)


There have also been several atempts to compile a list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The main candidates include:

  • Grand Canyon
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
  • Mount Everest
  • Aurora
  • Parícutin volcano
  • Victoria Falls


And, of course, in the field of entertainment the number seven has featured in several memorable movies, examples of which include:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Se7en
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • The Seven Samurai
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Seven Pounds


The Great Escape

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

I won’t tell you exactly how I know about this story, let’s just say it was recounted in great detail by a very good friend of mine who, whilst he wasn’t part of this particular adventure, was also the unwilling recipient of Saddam Hussein’s hospitality for a while back before the first Gulf War in 1990. My thanks to him.

Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 the United States, Britain, and their allies decided they would have to help out the Kuwaitis (it’s like they had oil or something, eh?) and they started to make very public plans to liberate that country. This would obviously involve attacks on Iraqi troops and on Iraq itself.

Saddam Hussein thought a good way to dissuade any bombing campaign against his country was to use American, British and European citizens who had been working in Iraq, as a ‘human shield’ against the bombs. Highly illegal and breaching the Geneva Convention and all that, but it was Saddam Hussein and what did he care about rules.

The workers were duly rounded up by Saddam’s men and either put under house arrest or confined in small compounds. They weren’t mistreated and had a limited amount of freedom, but still in the back of their minds they feared they were about to be used for real as that human shield and they knew that when the war started in earnest the bombing would be a necessary part of it.

Most of the ‘hostages’ sat tight in the hope that diplomatic negotiations would succeed and they would be released, which in fact is what did happen.

But a few intrepid souls, who worked for a construction company, decided that they would mount an escape and head for the border. Maybe they had been watching a DVD of The Great Escape or something the night before, I don’t know.

They gathered up supplies of food and as much water as they could carry and in the dead of night they set off. It was relatively easy for them to get out of the hostage compound because the Iraqis knew that no one in their right mind would try to escape, especially on foot. The only thing outside Bagdad was desert, and lots of it.

In what passed for a plan, the would-be escapees had figured that their best bet would be to head for Jordan. Syria was deemed to be too unfriendly and would probably shoot them or send them back to Iraq. The border to the north was far too far away and the terrain was harsh. And the border between Iraq and Iran they reckoned could well be mined because of the war that had just ended less than two years previously between the two states.

So west it was, a long journey, but they set off in good spirits and their confidence level high.

Because of the heat during the day they had decided they would make the best progress if they walked by night and rested by day. A sensible enough strategy. And so that is what they did. Night after night after night they walked and in the daytime found a place to shelter and rested as best they could. They also made very sure that they rationed their meager supplies of food and especially water.

Although none of them really knew what they were talking about, they figured that it would take a week to ten days to make it to the border. But what they had not figured out was that travelling by night is a very different proposition to the daytime.

Still, on and on they went until almost a week had gone by. Their supplies were dwindling fast, but they were still okay for a few more days at least. Then, on the eighth night, they had a remarkable stroke of luck. They came to a high wire fence. They had made it to the Iraq/Jordan border AND they had done it a couple of days quicker than estimated.

They were jubilant.

After congratulating each other all over the place, slapping backs and so forth, they set about digging their way under the fence. They hadn’t any tools with them, but it wasn’t a hard job and after twenty minutes or so they had cleared enough debris to allow them to slide underneath the wire, one at a time, and cross over into Jordanian territory.

When they had crossed the fence there were more celebrations. Then they rested for a little while, but not long. They were safe now, but the adrenalin boost caused by making it safely into Jordan was pulsing through their veins and they all agreed that they should press on and sooner or later they would encounter Jordanian border guards or make it to a village. Either way they could replenish their supplies and get a much needed clean up.

Sure enough, less than an hour or so later, as it was getting light they spotted an army jeep in the distance. They started waving and shouting and eventually the soldiers in the jeep spotted them and made their way over to where they were. A soldier, who they supposed was the officer in charge got out of the jeep and walked over to them.

The leader of the escape gang, who spoke a little Arabic, welcomed the soldier, and as best he could explained that they were hostages and had just escaped across the border after several hard days and nights travelling through the desert.

The soldier grinned and then started to laugh. He said something to his comrades and they too began to laugh. The intrepid escapees joined in, not at all sure what they were laughing at, but assuming the Jordanian soldiers were happy that someone had pulled a fast one over the Iraqis.

Everyone was so happy.

The Jordanian commander told one of his men to send a radio message and a few moments later another jeep and a small canvas topped lorry arrived. The soldiers indicated that the six escapees should get into the back of the lorry, which they duly did and sat down three on each side on the small bench. Two of the soldiers got in along with them.

And off they went. They drove for about ten minutes and then made it to a hard surfaced road. About another ten or fifteen minutes after that the escapees started to notice buildings. They had never seen a Jordanian village, but they assumed this was what they looked like. Then a short time later the lorry stopped.

The two soldiers jumped out first and indicated that the escapees should follow, which they did. But when they were on the ground and had gathered their wits about them they saw that there were a lot of people around, but they were all in uniform. There didn’t seem to be any civilians around at all.

Maybe they had been evacuated because of the imminent hostilities? They couldn’t really figure it out.

But then the penny slowly started to drop into place.

Our intrepid escapees had not made it across the border.

Nor were they in a Jordanian village.

What they had managed to do was march for days through the desert, probably in all directions but a straight line, and ended up still in Iraq.

Not only that but the fence they had encountered and carefully dug their way under was not the border fence between Iraq and Jordan, it was the fence surrounding an Iraqi army camp. And that’s where they now were! These soldiers were Saddam’s troops, not Jordanians.

I really wish I could have seen the look of disbelief, confusion, disappointment and incredulity on their faces.

The Iraqis could have shot them. But they were so busy laughing they would probably have missed. Instead, after the hilarity had passed, they allowed the escapees to get cleaned up, probably more for soldiers’ benefit rather than the would-be escapees, and then put them on another lorry to be driven back to Baghdad.

The great escape was over.

Have you had similar experiences? Send them along. Let the world know what is happening before it is too late.