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Black cats, like Friday the 13th, are considered to bring back luck by many people.

GREENSBURG – For the first time in 14 years, the approaching Friday, Sept. 13 falls on a calendar date that in the lunar calendar boasts a full moon. Not only is one the alleged unluckiest days of the year approaching quickly, it falls on a day that health professionals, law enforcement officials and truckers know to be dicey because of the lunar tides.

But where does all this mystery come from, and what happens when the two phenomenon occur on the same day?

Friday the 13th

Other than being a harbinger of bad luck, Friday the 13th has spawned an entire movie franchise, a secret 19th century society, and has been mentioned in more than one important medical journal concerning those who fear the number 13: triskaidekaphobics.

Western cultures have historically associated the number 12 with “finished” or complete. There are 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and zodiac signs, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few.

Biblical lore attaches a certain degree of bad luck to a table that seats 13. Jesus sat with his 12 apostles at a single table. Jesus’ death followed shortly after the last supper, on a Friday. According to religious scholars, Eve handed Adam the apple on a Friday, and Cain killed his brother Abel on a Friday.

Hotels often avoid labeling the 13th floor, simply skipping to 14. They even sometimes avoid a 13th room on any floor.

Famed New York businessman and sailor Captain William Fowler became so incensed with local superstition that he started “The Thirteen Club,” which met on every 13th of the month at a bar in New York City called “Knickerbocker College,” according to the Pennsylvanian Post. The members would sit down to a 13 course meal after passing underneath a banner which read “Morituri te Salutamus,” Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you.”

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.

Some are so paralyzed by fear of this date that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights, or even getting out of bed.

The Full Moon

There might be logic and natural evidence that moon phases do affect human behavior.

According to an article published by Washington University, the influence of the moon and behavior has been called “The Lunar Effect” or “The Transylvania Effect.” The belief that the full moon causes mental disorders and strange behavior was widespread throughout Europe in the middle ages. Even the word “lunacy” (meaning “insanity”) comes from the Latin word for moon.

An article in Scientific American reported that “the mystical powers of the full moon may induce erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights at professional hockey games, dog bites and all manner of strange events.”

A survey in the magazine revealed that 45 percent of college students believe moonstruck humans are prone to unusual behaviors, and other surveys suggest that mental health professionals are more likely than laypeople to hold this conviction. In 2007, several police departments in the U.K. even added officers on full-moon nights in an effort to cope with presumed higher crime rates.

The basic, physical truth might simply be based on one factor: gravity and its effects on water.

Seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, of which 96 percent is contained in oceans. Water also exists in the air as vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and in aquifers, and even in living creatures roaming the earth.

And it’s never sitting still. Affected by gravity, falling from high places to low places, seeping into the aquifers below us (a geological layer of rock beneath the surface of the earth is porous and contains a large portion of water), evaporating into the air around us and spewing into the sky in Yellowstone’s “Old Faithful” geyser, the water cycle is affected also by lunar gravity. The actual gravity that keeps the moon in constant spinning orbit above the earth attracts the water on the surface of the planet.

Is it not safe to assume that all water is affected by these forces of gravity? Considering that the human body is 60 percent water, scientists hypothesize moods in humans could possible be affected by that same gravitational pull that creates tides in the oceans. Many a space mission has examined the effects of low or no-gravity on human behavior, growth and health.

But these arguments address only the distance of the earth to the moon on any given day, and it does vary. That has nothing to do with the relationship of the earth to the moon and the sun, and the resulting shadow on our space-sidekick, the moon.

So, the result is this: ER nurses, traffic cops, and taxi drivers will swear that a full moon represents the definite chance of a crazy overnight shift, but is the fact that it’s falling on a traditionally unlucky day make it definitely a day to stay home?

Not if you’re a werewolf!

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111 ext 217011 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com

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