thirteen men of the requisite nerve

The number thirteen fills some people with superstitious fear while others believe it is lucky. And then there are those who are determined to overlook other dates that crop up in their lives and concentrate on just this one

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“Captain William Fowler died yesterday of apoplexy. He had apparently been in splendid health when he retired on Monday evening but when called in the morning he was found to be unconscious and died shortly thereafter.

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His death recalls the old Thirteen Club and its strange rites and ceremonies. The number thirteen was interwoven with Captain Fowler’s life and his good fortune made him regard it as a mascot rather than as a numeral of ill omen.

He graduated from Public School No. 13 when he was thirteen years old and became a printer’s apprentice but soon left that employment to become a builder in partnership with architect John Trimble. The firm erected thirteen buildings including several theatres and Barnum’s Museum.

Barnum’s Museum found here

When Captain Fowler was twice thirteen years of age he was chosen to command the Twelfth Regiment of the NYSM and was at the head of this company until 13 April 1861. During his time as a soldier he was in thirteen battles. He resigned his commission on 13 August 1863 and on the thirteenth of the following month he took possession of a house he christened Knickerbocker Cottage. For nearly 20 years he kept the cottage and then on 13 April 1883 it was sold.

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Captain Fowler belonged to thirteen secret and social organisations and was a thirty second degree Mason. He was also thirteenth on the membership roll of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. In 1880, Captain Fowler threw down the gauntlet to fate and set about organising the Thirteen Club.

Shriners found here

Thirteen men of the requisite nerve agreed to meet on 13 September 1881  for the first banquet of the club. It was held at Mills Hotel No. 1 because there were thirteen letters in the name. Twelve of the men arrived early. The hall was arranged to defy superstition with items on the table in a series of thirteen. Spilled salt was everywhere and to enter they had to pass under crossed ladders.

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Long the twelve waited for the missing member. When the hour grew late and it seemed the banquet would be a failure, a happy idea struck the captain. One of the coloured waiters, the whites of whose eyes were already showing, was drafted. Trembling like a leaf, he was dragged to the table and told he should become a member. Despite his howls he was put through the first rites of initiation and was just being shoved through the ladders when the missing guest arrived. 

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The meal cost thirteen cents and consisted of thirteen courses, the final of which was stewed prunes. 

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Published in: on February 6, 2012 at 7:12 am  Comments (49)  
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49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Makes you wonder if they would have had a secret 13th day of the week or even a secret 13th month of the year to further emphasise their love for thirteen… 🙂

  2. 13 isnt bad after all.
    i dont like number 9 or combination of digits that add up to 9.
    i just seem to have a bad time on days that add up to 9.

    • I think in numerology I’m a 9

  3. I’m a bit of a thirteen-mascot kinda guy. And a black-cat mascot kinda guy. I don’t mind 666 either. But the Asian superstition about 4s creeps me out. Dunno why, because I’m a confirmed atheist, and in theory, not superstitious. We’re a strange bunch we human beings, no?

    • Did someone mention black cats????

      • I like lucky thirteen too

  4. Heh, I should do something like this except in Asia and use the number 4 instead.

    • New Year resolution for 2013?

  5. Some new build streets in the UK miss out a house number 13.

    In other news form the NYT on that day, there’s the quaint headline “Policeman’s gloves a drawback”, although I prefer your alert to a “cesspit of Lesbian depravity”.

    • oh they always blame it on the gloves

  6. Aversion to 13 is a Christian superstition so it doesn’t bother me. But I knew a Jewish woman who wouldn’t even get out of bed on a Friday 13th!
    But the stewed prunes? ooh, I’d avoid those.

    • My understanding of the Christian aversion to the number 13 is that it is symbolic of Judas being the 13th man at the last supper. I believe there’s a more esoteric interpretation of it too, that there were the 12 apostles and that makes Jesus the 13th man and 13 thereby becomes positive.
      In at least some numerological systems (I never knew 4 was considered unlucky in (some parts of?) Asia.) 4 has a positive connotation too as 1 +3 equals 4 which is a number representative of wholeness – 4 seasons, 4 western astological elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Also Mandalas are made of multiples of 4. 4 suits in tarot too.
      That’s all I can remember right now. 🙂 I’m totally fascinated with symbols and mythology.

  7. I can accept everything that the thirteen club do except for stewed prunes. Chuck salt everywhere break mirrors but for god’s sake I cannot abide stewed prunes!

    • We serve stewed prunes every day at the gimcrack. I’ve even been known to eat them myself

  8. I’m captivated by the ladder of flesh…and where it leads 🙂

    • Penny to a pound, it isn’t to stewed prunes.

      Pity, as I’d rather fancy some myself.

  9. 12th.

    • 13th!

      • Not it!

      • Kill the guy who came in after 13.

  10. Number of comments prior to mine = 13! For real!

    • Damn! i fell for it and had to do some counting

  11. According to Smithsonian Magazine “fear of the #13 costs American a billion dollars per year in absenteeism, train and plane cancellations, and reduced commerce on the 13th of the month.”

    Fear of Friday the 13th dates back to Nordic Mythology. Many of their thirteenth Gods met with violent deaths, such as Loki, the trickster.

    Ancient Romans regarded the number 13 as a symbol of death, destruction and misfortune.

    There were 13 original colonies.

    A witches coven consists of 13 members.

    Tarot Card number 13 is the Death Card, depicting the Grim Reaper (although it is read as transition or change and not literal death).

    Hotels rarely have a room number 13. Usually it is called 12a or 14. Same with floors of buildings and the elevators without a #13 button. Highways sometimes will skip exit 13 altogether also.

    There are 13 steps leading to the gallows.

    13 knots in a hangman’s noose.

    Lizzy Borden uttered a total of 13 words at her trial.

    13 feet which the guillotine blade falls.

    The driver of Princess Diana hit pillar #13 at Place de l’Alma when she was killed in Paris, France.

    13 people, Christ and his 12 disciples, were in attendance at the last supper. This is where the Christian belief ties in, making Friday a believed unlucky day, as the crucifixtion occurred on a Friday.
    Beware naming your children with 13 letters in their name, they may be cursed for example, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson.

    Certain ocean liners will be held in dock until after midnight to appease passenger’s fears on Friday the 13th.

    British study concluded that even though there were less cars on the road on Friday the 13th (as compared with other Fridays) more accidents were reported.

    Trisadekaphobia is the technical name for fear of Friday the 13th.

    E Pluribus Unum has 13 letters.

    The US Seal has 13 stars, bars, feathers in the eagle’s tail, 13 bars in one claw, 13 olive branches in the other.

    On the USA Dollar Bill, there are 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 bars on the shield, and 13 leaves on the olive branch

    A “quatrorzieme” is a professional 14th guest hired by the French who had only 13 guests in attendance for dinner, who felt that was unlucky.

    A baker’s dozen consists of 13 for a reason! So the story goes a witch near Albany, NY demanded 13 items every time she came in to a particular bakery, and one day the old baker could not afford her extra biscuit. She sneered some strange words at the man, and he suffered terrible luck from then on, until he brought her another 13 rolls. After that life was once again easy for the baker and word spread around town. The custom is still sometimes practiced today.

    Apollo 13, 1970, the 13th mission launched from pad #39 (13 x 3), mission was aborted, after an explosion occurred in the fuel cell of their service module. The rocket had left launcing pad at 13:13 CST and the date was April 13th.

    • 13 steps leading to the gallows? Never heard that before

  12. Stewed prunes have been the death of many a brave triskaidekaphile…

  13. I actually tried to find the date of his death – to see if it included the number 13. Couldn’t find it but came across the word “triskaidekaphobia” – used to describe people who fear the number 13. Fascinating – as is the fact so many buildings still do not include a 13th floor. My phobias pale in comparison. 😉

    Stewed prunes?? That dinner couldn’t have ended well – never mind any superstitions…

    • I wonder why so many people dislike stewed prunes……

      • It’s not the prunes themselves – it’s the after effects!

      • Probably cos they make you go to the loo 13 times.

  14. He could have gotten things done much more quickly in his life if he had picked the number 7 to live by.

    • Why is that Marvin?

  15. “Broadway offered her a star studded ladder to climb to the top, but when she put her foot on the first rung she found herself climbing down a ladder of flesh into a cesspool of Lesbian depravity”

    I’m hoping this is the synopsis of Jennifer Aniston’s next film…..also starring Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

    • Keep hoping Nick

    • I’d choose Salma Hayek, Jennifer Tilly, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron and Jennifer Connolly. I’d want to see some good acting as well as physical beauty. 🙂
      I’d also not much like to see them in a cesspool. And rather than ‘lesbian depravity’, lesbian love would please me much much more. 🙂

  16. I’m not remotely superstitious. And to prove it, this comment has 13 words.

  17. Why don’t people die of apoplexy any more? Maybe we all need to eat less stewed prunes. Apoplexy sort of sounds like fun.

    • And by “less stewed prunes” I really mean fewer stewed prunes. Not that I see any reason to stew a prune in the first place. They’re perfectly fine in their unstewed state.

  18. i have an unnatural fear of superstitious people.

  19. While I am not afraid of numbers, I have to say that stewed prunes seems a particularly unlucky way to end a meal…Blech!

    • how about to start a meal? Like before breakfast, with some porridge with cream and brown sugar?

  20. I’ve always loved a baker’s dozen because you get one free. Which isn’t bad at all.

    • Free baked goods? Win/Win

  21. I’m fine with the number 13. I feel more comfortable around prime numbers. They seem to be funnier.

    • Reverend Anaglyph at is very fond of prime numbers also

      • Then he might very well enjoy a novella called ‘The Housekeeper + the Professor’ by Yoko Ogawa.
        The professor is losing his short term memory but his long term memory still holds his mathematical knowledge and there’s much about prime numbers which I knew little about.
        Hmmm, on second thoughts maybe he wouldn’t like it because he probably knows that stuff already. Still, it’s a strange and moving book.

  22. Wonder why he didnt live for 13 years in his house…

  23. I’ve long believed that humans are attracted to focusing on certain numbers and signs that fit into their superstitions but they ignore everything contrary. I’d completely forgotten I had a book about the Thirteen Club. I need to move it up to the top of my reading list.

  24. 13’s lucky for me – my birthday

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