The Thirteen Club: A Place For Challenging Superstitions

The Thirteen Club dined 13 to a table, walked under ladders, and opened umbrellas inside — all to debunk the number 13 superstition. Other meetings included mirror-smashing, salt-spilling, and mock trials of members who had purportedly acted superstitiously. The founder of the group was one Captain William Fowler, who seems to have lived his life under the auspices of the number 13. He graduated from P.S. 13 at age 13. During a short stint as an architect, he built 13 public buildings. Later, he retired from combat on August 13, 1863, having survived 13 battles. Shortly thereafter, he purchased a cottage on September 13, 1863, eventually selling it on Friday, April 13, 1883. He started The Thirteen Club after a lady he knew dismissed her 9-year-old daughter if the number at a table reached 13. To fight this annoying prejudice, he tried to get 13 men together to have a meal. It took one year. The Thirteen Club met on Friday, January 13, 1882 at 8:13 in the evening in Room 13. The diners passed under a ladder and enjoyed their 13-course meal. A year later, they reenacted the dinner, and the rest is history. There were actually four former presidents who attended regularly: Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt.