Today is Friday the 13th. Some people believe that unlucky things happen during this day while others find this belief absurd. But whether you believe in the unluckiness Friday the 13th or not, I hope that you are having a great day.
The following story is related to the number 13 and Friday the 13th as you must have guessed from the title:
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), an Austrian composer, was a superstitious man. Born on September 13, 1874, he came to fear the number 13. He suffered from triskaidekaphobia, a phobia of the number 13. His fear for the number 13 greatly affected his daily life. He avoided things that have the number 13 in them. It was said that he refused to check-in in a hotel since the only available room at the time was Room 13.
Schoenberg’s fear even influenced the way he worked. He numbered his measures 12, 12a, 14 to steer clear of the number 13. He said that the number 13 would cause a creative block for him. His opera titled Moses und Aron was missing an “a” in “Aaron”. Including the missing letter would make the title to have 13 letters since Moses und Aron has 12 letters. It should also be noted that none of the titles of Schoenberg’s other works contains 13 letters.
As the creator of the twelve-tone composition, also known as Dodecaphony, he revolutionized music. However, some people jokingly speculated that if the octave was subdivided into 13 equal pitches, it may not have been him who had invented Dodecaphony.
The extent of Schoenberg’s fear of number 13 was so extreme that he was convinced that he would die at an age that was a multiple of 13. He also believed that he would die on the 13th day of a month. In 1939, as his 65th birthday approached, he was very scared since 65 is a multiple of 13 (13 × 5 = 65). Hence, he asked his fellow composer who’s also an astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, about his horoscope for the year 1939. Rudhyar replied that “the year was dangerous, but not fatal.” Schoenberg was relieved when he heard about it. In a letter he wrote to Georg Wolfsohn, dated March 4, 1939, he stated:
Indeed, I am not so well at the moment. I am in my 65th year and you know that 5 times 13 is 65 and 13 is my bad number. But when this five-times-thirteen year has passed, then I have 13 more years.
Schoenberg’s prediction was incorrect since he did not die in 1952. In fact, he died on July 13, 1951, a year earlier. However, the date of his death also had a few relationships with the number 13.
On his 76th birthday, on September 13, 1950, musician and astrologer Oskar Adler wrote to Schoenberg that he had a bad year ahead since 76 (his age) can be represented in numerology as 7 + 6 = 13. When he found out about it, he was taken aback since up until then, he had only considered checking whether his age was a multiple of 13. Adding the digits of his age had never occurred to him. He became more depressed when he looked at the 1951 calendar to see that July 13 fell on Friday (Note: there is at least one Friday the 13th every year. So it doesn’t matter which year it is).
On that fateful date, the composer was in his bed the whole day feeling sick, depressed and scared. His wife Gertrud was worried so she called a doctor. Some minutes before midnight, the doctor informed Gertrud that her husband had passed away. The following day, in a telegram to her sister-in-law Ottilie, she informed her that Schoenberg died at 11:45 PM.
In a letter dated August 4, 1951, addressed to Ottilie, 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.
Several versions of this story claimed that Schoenberg died at 11:47 PM, 13 minutes before midnight and if you add the digits of 11:47 PM, the sum is 13 (1 + 1 + 4 + 7 = 13). I think that somebody did it to further sensationalize the story. But it is clear that there is no evidence that supports this claim. The only verifiable information about his time of death comes from the letter and telegram sent by his wife.
Anyway, it’s rather easy to contrive a numerological coincidence. So, even if he died at 11:45, I still found a way to connect it to the number 13. Here’s how:
He died in 1951 at 11:45 PM
1 + 9 + 5 – 1 – 1 + 1 + 4 – 5 = 13
His year of death can also be connected to the number 13:
1951: 19 – 5 – 1 = 13
As for the month and the day of his death:
July is the seventh month of the year and Friday is the sixth day of the week. So, adding them together: 7 + 6 = 13. Concatenating the two digits forms 76 — his age of death.
Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes, 1985
Ethan Haimo, “Schoenberg, Numerology, and Moses und Aron”, The Opera Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 4, Autumn 2007.
Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt, Schoenberg: His Life, World and Work, 1977
Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth), Opus 13 by Arnold Schoenberg