Friday the 13th on Long Island: From the archives

From winning contests to a brush with death, here’s the good and the bad of Long Islanders’ experiences on Friday the 13th.

Newsday illustration by Neville Harvey

Depending on whom you ask, it’s the luckiest — or unluckiest — day of the year. Or maybe it’s just another date on the calendar.

Friday the 13th is clouded in superstition and even has its own phobia — paraskevidekatriaphobia. For some, the day comes with a warning: Beware of the unfortunate, be cautious, stay inside.

Looking back in Newsday’s archives, it seems some may wish they’d heeded such advice while others found good fortune. From winning contests to a brush with death, here’s the good and the bad of Long Islanders’ experiences on Friday the 13th.

The luckiest place on earth

For a Port Jefferson Station family, Disney World isn’t only the happiest place, but the luckiest one.

On Friday, Oct. 13, 1995, Michelle Davi, her husband John and their children John and Jenna were the 500 millionth guests at the park. And for that, Disney gave them lifetime passes to its theme parks and threw a parade in their honor.

Davi recalled this week that the family was eight days into a 10-day Disney vacation and were getting ready to enter MGM Studios when she noticed a group of men in suits inside the entrance. Then, as she pushed the family stoller through the gates, she was showered with confetti.

They continue to visit Disney parks regularly, bringing friends and family with them.

“Up until that time, I’d never really thought about Friday the 13th, but now I feel like it’s a really lucky day,” Davi, now 54, said. “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to us.”

‘Bad luck’ birthdays

As far as children’s birthday party themes go, “bad luck” isn’t a common one. But for Richard and Danny Dixon, there wasn’t any other option.

The brothers celebrated one shared birthday party each year with decorations that included black cats, ladders and broken mirrors. Richard was born on Friday, July 13, 1943, and Danny was born on Friday, April 13, 1944. Newsday spoke with the Dixon family before their July 1951 party.

The brothers, two of five children, lived at the former Mitchel Field Air Base. When asked, their mother Dolores Dixon told Newsday she did not plan on having eight more children to make 13.

Fourteen’s a charm

The Brodericks, of Brentwood, however, did have 13 children — and yet, it wasn’t enough. After having 13 sons, the couple finally had a daughter on Friday, Feb. 13, 1970.

“After the seventh or eighth we gave up and thought we’d never have a girl,” Mrs. Broderick told Newsday at the time. “My husband was so excited he called up everybody he could think of. He’d been so sure it would be another boy he’d already named it Richard Anthony.”

A series of unfortunate events

A rogue Chihuahua on a bus set off a bomb scare at Suffolk County’s Central Islip court complex on May 13, 2011.

Melvin Ruffin, 19, of Bellport, was due in court to address a disorderly conduct citation and took the bus to get there. But during the ride, the dog, which belonged to another bus passenger, relieved itself on his backpack.

Ruffin told authorities that he didn’t want to bring the urine-soaked bag into the court building, so he hid it in the bushes outside the district and federal courts.

But a retired police officer noticed what he thought was a “suspicious bag” and called authorities. A bomb squad robot determined the wet backpack contained only a change of clothes and Ruffin’s court papers. Ruffin was not charged.

A Holbrook family gets twice as lucky

In 1991, Luisa Patterson of Holbrook gave birth to a set of twins on Friday, Sept. 13. Five years later, on Friday, Sept. 13, 1996, it happened again.

Newsday caught up with the Patterson family at Huntington Hospital after the birth of their second set of twins, a 7-pound, 4-ounce girl, Gina Marie, and a 6-pound, 5-ounce boy, Jonathan Tyler, delivered via caesarean section.

Patterson and her husband Carlos already had another daughter in addition to their first set of twins. The second set came as a surprise, as the couple had not planned on having more children, Carlos Patterson told Newsday.

But they may have gotten lucky, he added.

“We can save money on birthdays,” he said. “We can just have one party.”

A daring rescue and a crisis averted

NYPD detectives jumped into action when scaffolding fell, leaving three workers dangling over an Upper East Side street on Friday, April 13, 2012.

NYPD Emergency Service Unit Dets. James Coll, of Seaford, and his partner Shawn Soler, of Coram, attached a rope to the building’s roof and rappelled down to the workers. Meanwhile, firefighters went into an apartment and pushed out the windows.

The detectives were able to grab the workers and move them inside safely. One worker was treated for minor injuries.

“We train for this often,” Coll told Newsday at the time. “I think the rescue went very well.”

All the right numbers

Several Long Island lottery tickets have proved lucky for their purchasers, despite the bad luck associated with Friday the 13th.

In 2009, Isabel Zelaya, of Wyandanch, won $26 million in a March 13 Mega Millions drawing. Zelaya said he was so excited, he quit his job and planned to travel, buy a new house, open a restaurant and share his winnings with his sister and two children.

Barbara Romanik, of Hicksville, and her sister, Christina DiLello, of Wilton, Conn., also won in the same drawing, taking home $1 million to split from a lucky Green and Gold scratch-off game.

Almost three years later, Daniel Bruckner and his wife Christine, of San Jose, California, purchased a Mega Millions ticket from a Middle Island King Kullen while visiting family on Long Island. The ticket turned out to be a lucky one in the Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 drawing — lucky enough to win them $208 million.

“It’s very surreal,” Bruckner told Newsday at the time.

Wedding rings become a needle in a haystack

Vicky Salzone, of West Babylon, was cleaning up Christmas decorations when she accidentally threw out her wedding rings with a stack of decorations on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

Finding tiny items at a garbage dump is like searching for a “needle in a haystack,” town officials told Newsday. But Salzone’s husband Joe, was determined and headed to the Town of Babylon’s Recycling Center, where Ed Wiggins, sanitation site crew leader, had halted processing.

“Within 20 minutes, I found the bag from my house,” Salzone said. “I knew the type of garbage bag I used, and they knew where mine would be because of my address.”

Despite the date, Vicky Salzone got her rings back.