One manifestation of the persistence of superstition in Britain is the still widespread belief among adults that certain numbers can be associated with good or bad luck.
In particular, the number 13 is considered to be unlucky by about one adult in seven today, according to opinion polls. And it was the most widely-held superstition as far back as 1946 when Gallup first investigated the subject.
Proof that such beliefs can directly influence people’s behaviour, and even have an economic impact, is increasingly to be found in the property market. The website FindaProperty.com has recently added to this body of evidence by arranging to crunch the past ten years’ worth of Land Registry data.
This analysis revealed that properties with number 13 addresses sold for £6,511 (or 4%) less than those numbered between 1 and 12 and 14 to 30.
Moreover, there were 34% fewer properties sold with a number 13 address in the last decade, compared with those with the other numbers. Either they never came on to the market or superstitious buyers were deterred from purchasing them.
These figures, however, could be slightly distorted since 28% of streets do not actually have a number 13. Some local authorities have banned them altogether, while in other places developers have decided against numbering a house as 13 for fear that it may be slow to sell.
And it is not just address numbers people are superstitious about when it comes to property-buying. Some 32% fewer homes are apparently sold on the 13th day of each month against the monthly average.
Moving house on the 13th day is clearly taboo for many, not least when it falls on a Friday, despite the fact that Friday ordinarily tends to be the most popular day of the week for moving.
In a 2005 survey from Lloyds TSB 35% of Britons said that they would not risk moving house on Friday the 13th. And one removal company reported in 2008 that its bookings were 14% down on a Friday the 13th that year compared with the same day in 2007.
The same Lloyds TSB study also found that: 50% of people would not buy a house overlooking a cemetery; 39% did not like the thought of someone having died in their home; and 35% would not buy a house where something serious (such as a fire) had occurred, believing that bad luck could linger.
Those selling their homes were just as beholden to superstition in this 2005 poll, with 45% saying that they would keep quiet about a broken mirror for fear of scaring off buyers with the seven-year jinx; 37% would not open an umbrella indoors; and 34% would not put new shoes on a table.
When it came to warding off ghouls, ghosts and bad vibes, 29% of these sellers said that they would have their house blessed; 20% trusted in the ancient art of feng shui; and 16% thought they might elect for exorcism of the property.