Several different stories exist about the origin of why Friday the 13th is a superstitious and unlucky day. But what is known is that this day and the number 13 affect millions of people worldwide. Many buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor and airports don’t have a Gate 13. Some people won’t get married on the 13th and others won’t seat 13 people at a dinner table. The fear even has a name — friggatriskaidekaphobia!
Frigg is for the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named, triskaideka is a Greek word meaning thirteen, and phobia is, of course, fear.
Today being Friday the 13th, I’d like to celebrate my favorite author of spine-chilling ghost stories and spooky mysteries — Mary Downing Hahn.
Hahn, a former children’s librarian, has been writing books for almost 40 years and is a perennial favorite with young readers. Her books have stood the test of time for several generations. Hahn’s classic Wait Till Helen Comes has been in print and selling steadily since 1986!
My daughter discovered The Doll in the Garden when she was around 11 and was completely riveted by the story of a girl who finds an old doll in the garden of her new home. The doll’s owner — a ghost — wants the doll back, even though she died 70 years ago. My daughter is now 24 and the book still is on her bookshelf. I imagine the same is true for many of Hahn’s readers.
Some of my other favorites of Hahn’s include The Old Willis Place and Stepping on the Cracks.
When asked in interviews why she wrote ghost stories, Hahn said she believes that having a ghost in a story makes things happen. A ghost, she said, can give a character insight or empathy and offer a deeper understanding of her own nature and the world in which she lives.
A little known fact about Hahn is that she didn’t publish her first novel until age 41. Although she’s won numerous state and national awards, she’s said that writing has always been a journey of discovery and each book started with only a character or situation and a vague idea of what would happen. In fact, she often worried she wouldn’t be able to complete each book or her editor would reject them!
Not only do I love reading Hahn’s books, but her words about the struggles of writing give me inspiration in my own days of doubt. I hope they inspire you too. Beware of black cats and ladders today, and happy Friday the 13th!
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold (both Penguin Random House) and Ethan Marcus Stands Up, coming August 2017 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin Books. Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.