It's Friday the 13th. Again. While some Harvard students may spend their day avoiding ladders, mirrors and stray black cats at all cost, the Harvard Secular Society (HSS) will hold an "hour-long superstition bash" in front of the Science Center.
"We're going to have the grand, four-foot mirror breaking under a ladder, in a circle of salt," said Christopher M. Kirchhoff '01, public relations director for HSS. "It's going to be a great time."
Members of the Lampoon, a semi-secret Bow Street organization which used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, said yesterday that they were planning a prank for today.
"We have 13 black cats, and the plan right now is to glue them to trees in the Yard, but I can't tell you where--that would ruin it," said Matthew J.T. Murray '99, the Lampoon president.
"When people pass them, then they'll have bad luck. We hope we get a
lot of people," Murray added.
Inhabitants of the 13th floor of Mather Housewere the only ones to express even remotetrepidation concerning the day.
"I may stay off the 13th floor for the day,"said Aviva A. Geiger '01.
"It's a good thing that the elevator doesn'tstop on the 13th floor otherwise it would getstuck," she said.
All the people confronted viewed thesuperstitions of Friday the 13th with somecynicism.
Nevertheless, there is still some superstitionat Harvard.
According to HSS President Derek C. Araujo '99,people believe in a new set of superstitions.
"A host of new superstitions have cropped up,and this is our way of criticizing them byassociation," Araujo said. "In particular,widespread conspiracy theories, belief in alienabductions and faith in alternative medicineprovide evidence that superstition is still apowerful force in America, and even Harvard."
With today's superstition bash, from 12:30 to1:30 p.m., the HSS wants to promote rationalthought.
"We want people to engage their criticalthinking skill, and have rational thought guidethem in their decision making process," saidKirchhoff, who is also a Crimson editor.
Dudley R. Herschbach, Baird professor ofscience, proposed a different interpretation ofthe Friday the 13th superstition.
"Over all the centuries in which humankind hasdone all sorts of things, I can't help but believethat there are quite a few Friday the 13ths whichhave seen very happy events," Herschbach said.
"Friday the 13th is probably a good time to trysomething that stretches the envelope. In otherwords, try something that requires good luck," hesaid.
The number 13 is still deemed very unlucky inAmerican society. Many apartment buildings skipthe 13th floor in their labeling.
"Are we really a ridiculous enough culture thatwe have to mislabel the floors of our buildings?Are we really that weak?" Kirchhoff asked.
In addition, the 13th day of the month isconsidered a risky travel day.
"It has been estimated that each year theAmerican economy loses a billion dollars fromplane and train reservation cancellations,absenteeism and reduced commerce on the 13th ofeach month," Araujo said.
The superstition is rooted in pagan traditionas well as a number of biblical citations. Mostnotably, Kirchhoff said, the Bible says that Jesuswas crucified on the 13th, the temple of Solomonwas destroyed on the 13th and Eve gave Adam theapple on the 13th.
"What would be fun to do would be to check upon some good things that happened on Friday the13th," Herschbach said, "Its reputation that itis unlucky might not stand up that well.