BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — August 13, 1937 was no ordinary Friday the 13th in Tarrant.
On that particular day, as reported in The Birmingham News, a black cat walked up to the door of the jail and fell over dead. From there, Chief of Police Paul Gaines and a handful of firefighters quickly buried the cat in front of the jail, afraid of what could be next.
“Tarrant City police and firemen will be glad when Friday the Thirteenth is over,” the News reported. “Right now they are wondering what kind of warning they received this morning.”
Meanwhile, back in Birmingham, Kenny Hamilton was in for his own handful of bad luck. That day, the longtime employee of Western Grain Company was hit by a sack of grain, according to newspaper accounts. Before then, he had never been in an accident at the plant in eight years.
Friday the 13th has often been called the “unluckiest day of the year.” In fact, on one Friday the 13th–February 14, 1976, Alabama Appeals Judge Aubrey M. Cates went as far as postponing his reelection campaign due to the day, according to an article in the Alabama Journal.
“‘Since it’s Friday the 13th I’m making no statements,’ he said, adding that he will officially announce his candidacy sometime next week,” the article stated.
Here’s a list of some of the things–both ordinary and bizarre– that have happened in Alabama over the years on Friday the 13th:
November 13, 1925
-A man named Walter P. Lawrence of Waterville, Ohio was found in Cullman after spending a couple of months traveling the country. According to an article in The Birmingham News at the time, Lawrence initially claimed to have had amnesia and didn’t know his name when he arrived in town, first going under the name “G.A. Lower” because that’s what was written on a piece of paper he had found in his pocket.
“The man appeared Friday to be as much at sea as ever concerning his past, and failed to remember his wife and children when a letter to Mr. (Harry) Parker from Mrs. Lawrence was shown to him,” the News article stated. “He said, however, that the handwriting stirred memories. Mrs. Lawrence had written Mr. Parker that her husband was generally known as ‘Larry,’ and he admitted that the name, too, was slightly familiar.”
July 13, 1923
-A train derailed after hitting a broken rail outside Scottsboro, killing 19-year-old passenger H.L. Carr, who was reportedly on his way to Memphis, Tennessee to attend medical school, the Associated Press reported. Carr was allegedly asleep in one of the train cars when the accident happened. In addition, thirty other passengers were injured.
-Electrician Eugene Guthrie died after falling seven stories from the then-unfinished Pizitz building in downtown Birmingham.
“The man was working near the edge of the structure, it is believed, when he either slipped or lost his balance,” the Birmingham News reported. “No information regarding Guthrie could be learned at the officers of the company constructing the building.
April 13, 1923
-A tornado tore through Cullman, injuring three people and blowing the roofs off both barns and businesses, according to The Birmingham News. Anniston was also hit by a tornado while Rickwood Field in Birmingham was flooded.
September 14, 1968
-The North Birmingham Branch of City Federal Savings and Loan Association was robbed, with $3692 stolen, according to an article in The Birmingham Post-Herald. This was the second time in two weeks the branch had been robbed.
June 13, 1924
-Will McNabb and P.J. Thomas were found dead after they had reportedly shot each other at Sloss Quarters in north Birmingham shooting. According to the News, the two had been playing a game called “Skin” and both were found locked in each other’s arms in bed.
January 13, 1967
-The U.S. Public Health Service announced that due to its continued practice of segregation, Alabama’s mental health system would no longer be eligible for federal aid, costing between $750,000 and $800,000 a year, or the equivalence of $7.3 million today.
November 13, 1925
-Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Street were found dead beneath their car in a 15-foot ditch near Sylacauga Road in Anniston, the Anniston Star reported. The newspaper reported that the only way the couple were found was from the car headlights, which were still lit at the time of the crash.
July 13, 2001
-Interim Anniston City Schools Superintendent Stephen Nowlin learned that a federal judge had approved the Anniston Board of Education’s recommendation to close Norwood Elementary School. According to the Anniston Star, he learned the news while at a conference in Gulf Shores.
“You have to close a school, but when you have declining enrollment and fiscal problems, it’s hard not to,” Nowlin said in the interview.
August 13, 1937
-Chester Fuller, 17, was caught walking around Ensley with 360 nickels–or $18– at 5 a.m., according to the News
February 13, 1942
-A donkey named Kate was drafted into the Army during World War II to play the Victory Gardens in Montgomery. According to the Alabama Journal, Kate was the first mule from Montgomery to be brought up for the war effort.
“We don’t know if the date is considered lucky or unlucky by the mule–one Kate, who as yet has made no statement of her opinion on the matter,” the Journal stated.
November 13, 1925
-Train engineer James Lynch died from a heart attack while he was waiting in the train yards in Birmingham.
However, not all Friday the 13ths have been bad in Alabama, such as one on January 13, 1967, when David Wayne Mann’s sister was born in Birmingham, as published on the front page of The Birmingham Post-Herald. Mann himself was born on Friday the 13th–October 13, 1961, to be exact.