South Carolina

Good luck to you on bad luck’s holiday, Friday the 13th

The 25-story Capitol Center building at 1201 Main St. in downtown Columbia does not list a 13th floor.
The 25-story Capitol Center building at 1201 Main St. in downtown Columbia does not list a 13th floor. awilks@thestate.com

Columbia Fireflies pitcher Seth Davis still wears his ninth-grade navy blue Mizuno undershirt to every game, and then always leaps over the first base line on his way to the dugout.

“I like to think I pitch better in it,” Davis said Thursday, on the eve of 2016’s only Friday the 13th. “But I honestly don’t know if I do or not.”

In little league, “we would always say touching the line is bad,” said the 23-year-old, who rates himself about a 6 out of 10 on the superstition scale. “I think that’s where it started.”

But Davis said he isn’t sweating Friday the 13th.

The rare – and to some, ominous, date – might no longer daunt most Columbians. But to steal a line from “The Office,” if Columbia isn’t superstitious, it is “a little ‘stitious.”

Most of downtown Columbia’s tallest buildings, including the 25-story Capitol Center at 1201 Main St., don’t list a 13th floor. Their elevator buttons skip to 14 from 12.

The city has become a destination for ghost walk tours that feature such tales as the “Third Eye Man” who is said to haunt the tunnels below the University of South Carolina.

“There’s a lot of hidden history here. That comes along with a lot of superstition,” said Mike Wines, CEO of Old Capital Tours.

Across the river, Lexington County’s German and Swiss-German settlers in the early 19th century believed in witches, hexes and a kind of folk magic called “using,” according to Lexington County Museum director J.R. Fennell.

Remnants of those beliefs still remain in Lexington County, especially in the Dutch Fork area where some homeowners hung horseshoes to ward off evil spirits, Fennell said.

Superstitions hang around in part because people find them comforting and don’t want to part with tradition, said Barry Markovsky, a USC sociology professor who studies superstition.

People who believe superstitions aren’t real still might knock on wood or toss a pinch of salt over their shoulders just in case, he said.

“They obviously are not getting comfort from the intellectual part of it,” Markovsky said. “They’re getting comfort from the ritualistic part of it. Something deep down is getting soothed by the ritual.”

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

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