Lachenmeyer (The Stones of Madness) uncovers the odd world of""triskaidekaphobia""--the fear of the number 13--in this sometimes amusing but rambling assemblage of myth and history. Lachenmeyer begins with the phobia's""golden age from 1860 to 1940 when Thirteen Clubs around the world assembled at tables of 13 to defy superstition that one of them would die."" Moving back in time, Lachenmeyer then posits theories for the source of this worldwide superstition. The result is multilayered and woolly: Primitive counting systems based on 10 fingers and two feet and in which anything beyond was infinite? The Norse myth of Baldur, who was killed at a banquet for a dozen gods that was crashed by the evil spirit (and 13th dinner guest) Loki? The annihilation of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307? Lachenmeyer's impressive historical research and quirky survey of present-day triskaidekaphobic practices (e.g., missing 13th floors in skyscrapers and strange stock market behavior on certain dates and at certain price levels) provides a glimpse into irrationality and superstition through history. But the book is ultimately no more than""a hodgepodge of speculation and trivia about the origin and history of unlucky 13,"" a criticism Lachenmayer makes of an A&E documentary on the same subject. Illus. not seen by PW.