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UW-Stout professor explains superstition behind Friday the 13th

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MENOMONIE (WQOW) - Friday the 13th is a day connected to horror movies, black cats, and walking under ladders. But as it turns out, a whole lot of culture and lore flow into the stigma surrounding the occasion.

UW-Stout history professor Christopher Marshall says that the "unlucky" context of the occasion can be largely traced back to two distinct but similar histories.

The first is from Norse mythology. Loki, the 13th guest at a feast with the gods, tricked his brother Hodor into killing his brother Baldur with an arrow. It's said this event heralded the coming of Ragnarok - a chain of catastrophe which beckons the end of the world.

The second draws upon biblical scripture - as Judas betrayed Jesus as the 13th apostle at the Last Supper. Both of these tales have cast a shadow over the number 13, and Marshall says that we've further reinforced the superstition through mass media.

"It seems to be some persistence over the last roughly two centuries of Friday the 13th having ominous meaning - whether it be, you're going to lose all your money on the stock market, or you're getting chased around by a guy in a hockey mask with a machete," said Marshall.

The professor adds that despite the fact that the superstition may seem silly to some, they're critically important to how people understood the world surrounding them. As our conversation wound down, he left us with one piece of advice:

Throw some salt over your shoulder... Just in case.