Very Superstitious: Numbers on the Wall

posted by Chris Valentine

In 2019, many of us participate in superstitious behaviour without even recognising the fact we’re doing it. Tapping the closest bit of wood, or jovially, your head, after saying something you hope doesn’t happen can be considered superstitious. Of course, there are different levels of severity in regard to superstition.

A long-distance runner preparing for each race by listening to the same song is fairly normal, and often coaches and trainers will encourage this sort of behaviour as studies suggest that this can actually work to calm nerves. 

On the other hand, taking a specific route to work every day, stepping over the cracks in the pavement, is considered to be significantly more superstitious. 

One area of life in which people possess considerable superstitions around is numbers. Of course, we all know the number 13, ‘unlucky for some’, but equally as lucky for others. However, across the globe, there are a larger number of concerns in relation to simplistic digits.

In this article, we take a look at different number superstitions around the world. 


Triskaidekaphobia is not the fear of ‘triskets’, as Ross from Friends might have you believe — it is in fact, a genuine fear of the number 13. 

In the United States of America, people are so sceptical about the number, the country’s economy loses approximately $1bn dollars every time a Friday the 13th comes around. The question is, where does the issue with 13 come from? 

In Norse mythology, the story goes along the lines of: The various gods were having a feast to honour the death of Baldur, in a wake sort of fashion. Loki appeared, becoming the 13th guest, and he was unwelcome considering he was the one to cause Baldur’s death. Being asked to leave, Loki became infuriated and venting his rage, killed one of the gods’ servants. In a similar fashion, at the final supper, Judas Iscariot was the 13th visitor to arrive — would history suggest that there is no room for 13 people?

Other theorists point to the fact so many generalities in life cease at 12 — the months of the year, the zodiac signs etc. 

However, other sceptics would propose that is untrue. Considering the Roman calendar actually had 10 months, but Julius Caesar wanted a month naming after him, hence July. Then came Julius’ predecessor, the emperor Augustus — who laid claim to the month of August. 

Back in 2012, the Irish government were forced to amend their registration system as the automotive industry feared sales would drop considering the following year new cars would come with the not so ‘cherished’ number plates ending ‘13’.


Built upon the term triskaidekaphobia, hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, is a fear of the number 666. The three-figure number, mentioned in the Book of Revelation by John, is considered the number of the beast. 

The number holds far more meaning than first meets the untrained eye, however. Research which dissects the origins of the number points to the Hebrew hatred of the Romans, but most importantly, Nero Caesar — leader of the Roman Empire.

Hebrew numbers were written in letters. Translate the numbers into letters and they spell Neron Kesar — Nero Caesar in Hebrew. 


One of the most cherished numbers of the football pitch, number nine represents the position of the man up top — the goal scorer. Luis Suarez and Robert Lewandowski are flying the flag high as the greatest number 9s in current world football. However even these two aficionados of the beautiful game look unlikely to emulate the success of Dixie Dean. 

FourFourTwo magazine, who referred to the once Everton Striker as the ‘Original Number 9’, noted how Dean, “belongs to the company of the supremely great like Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Rembrandt”. 

To be fair, 425 goals in 489 club appearances, including a phenomenal 60 goals in one season is certainly worthy of such praise. 

Some strikers on the other hand didn’t only flop in a number nine shirt, they almost put a nail in the metaphorical coffin of their career. 

Peter Odemwingie was an African wonderkid with amazing ball control. Unfortunately, the Nigerian was not to demonstrate any of this incredible ability when he arrived in Stoke. 

Meanwhile, Chelsea have suffered for years in the number nine department. Franco Di Santo, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, and of course Khalid Boulahrouz have all been less than impressing in such a coveted shirt. 

If you head off to Japan on your holidays, we’d suggest not sporting your latest football top with a blazon number ‘9’ on the back though, as its meaning is closely linked to that of torture or suffering. 


Did you know that the vast majority of high-rise flats in America don’t actually contain a 13th floor? 

Well, they do contain a 13th floor, but it has been named otherwise to avoid enhancing superstition. China, on the other hand, is no different. 

In China, the number four is pronounced in a similar fashion to the word death, meaning that many Chinese builders have actually decided to omit the fourth floor, renaming it 3b, or the likes. 

Think of this little bit of Stevie Wonder related theory the next time you’re driving a ball down the fairway…

We celebrate milestone birthdays thanks to the number of years we have lived. We make a wish at 11:11am and pm, and we assign positivity to certain digits — seventh heaven, cloud nine etc. 

Somewhat surprisingly a survey conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire discovered that 77 per cent of people suggested they were in some way superstitious. The top six superstitions were as follows:

Touching wood – per cent doing it – 74 

Crossing fingers – per cent doing it – 65 

Avoiding walking under ladders – per cent doing it – 50

Avoiding smashing mirrors – per cent doing it – 39

Carrying a charm – per cent doing it – 28

The number 13 – per cent doing it – 26

That said, have a little think about your superstitions, and whether you genuinely follow them.

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