Five Lives Snuffed Out on Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th has long been associated with bad luck. This association was ingrained in our culture long before the Jason Vorhees and the infamous Friday the 13th movie franchise. The fact is that it’s hard to determine the true spark for connecting Friday the 13th with bad luck. There are a handful of theories with no definitive proof. Still, oThere are a handful of theories with no definitive proof. Still, one of the more interesting theories leaves one wondering about how bad the day can get for someone.

One of the more popular theories on how Friday the 13th came to be considered unlucky dates back to the death of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. A biography of Rossini was published in 1869 by Henry Sutherland Edwards. In it, he relates the story of Rossini’s death, noting, “He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.”

Was Rossini popular enough to have inspired such a deep connection between the date and bad luck? That’s up for debate. But it does leave one wondering about other notable deaths that happened on Friday the 13th.

Sam Patch

Long before Evel Knievel, there was Sam Patch. Patch was born in 1799 and grew up as a child laborer in a cotton mill. Considering how dangerous the work was for a small child, it’s no wonder Sam quickly developed a streak for thrill-seeking behavior. He started jumping off the mill dam and worked his way up to ever-higher spots. Within a few years, he was attracting crowds willing to pay in order to watch him jump from bridges, factory walls and ship masts. After a historic jump at Niagara Falls, Sam Patch became a household name and his tagline “some things can be done as well as others” became a popular slang expression. Then, on Friday, November 13, 1829, Patch set out to do a repeat of a stunt that had raised a disappointing amount of money the first time around. The plan was to jump into the Genesee river from 125 feet. That afternoon, Patch stood ready but hesitated. The crowd was shouting, anxious to see the show but accounts after the fact say no one could agree if Sam jumped or possibly simply fell. Whatever his catalyst, he fell into the water at an awkward angle – not his signature feet-first style of entry. His body didn’t resurface. For some time, people claimed he had simply swum to safety into one of the cavers below and was enjoying the excitement and news he was creating. But then his frozen body was discovered the following spring.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg, an Austrian composer and expressionist painter, died on Friday 13 in July 1951 shortly before midnight. Reports say he had been sick in bed, ill and anxious all day. In a letter to his sister, Arnold’s wife Gertrud wrote: “About a quarter to twelve I looked at the clock and said to myself: another quarter of an hour and then the worst is over. Then the doctor called me. Arnold’s throat rattled twice, his heart gave a powerful beat and that was the end.”

Sir Henry Segrave

Segrave was a record-breaking driver so it was only fitting his final moments were also his final ride. He died on June 13, 1930 after breaking the water speed record. He was finishing a follow-up run in Miss England II on Lake Windermere when, according to most reports, he hit a log and capsized. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital where he briefly regained consciousness long enough for him to be told he broke the record before passing away due to lung hemorrhages.

Tupac Shakur

The iconic musician and budding actor died in the hospital on September 13, 1996 after being targeted in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. There are many – sometimes conflicting – theories about the motive as well as the assailants, but the case remains unsolved.

Richard D Zanuck

Zanuck is a well known film producer. He achieved wide acclaim for his work on the Jaws and Coccoon films in the 1970s and 80s. Later, his talents entertained a whole new generation after collaborations with Tim Burton on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd and Alice in Wonderland. On Friday the 13th in June of 2012, however, the film producer’s life ended from a heart attack while he was in his family home.

While these deaths are all tragic, the fact is that sometimes a curse can do something seemingly good. One name on this list is a death that didn’t elicit the same sympathy as the others.

Christopher Wilder

In the annals of serial murder, Christopher Wilder is a greusome celebrity. Wilder is notorious for abducting and raping at least 12 women, killing at least eight of them. On Friday the 13th in April of 1984, karma stepped in. Wilder had attempted to kidnap another young woman in Massachusetts. A description of himself and his vehicle was broadcast to police. Shortly after, two police officers spotted Wilder at a gas station and a “scuffle” ensued. Wilder was shot dead and his reign of terror was over.