There’s only one Friday the13th in 2021: August 13! Friday the 13th is associated with bad luck and superstition. As many as 21 million people in the United States suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia: a fear of this inauspicious date.
We’re no strangers to phobias at Bloodworks (the fear of needles is real and can be overcome), so thought we’d tempt fate by combining what we know best with the spookiest of numbers.
Here are thirteen of the freakiest uses for blood we could find.
Blood contains iron. Swords are made of iron. It was only a matter or time before someone wondered how much blood it would take to cast a broadsword. The evil geniuses on r/theydidthemath calculated that it would take 3600 pints of donated blood to extract enough iron to forge a sword.
While this idea sounds straight out of Little Shop of Horrors at worst and a biohazard at best, plants dig the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in human blood (in small amounts)! In fact, some fertilizers incorporate blood meal, a byproduct of animal agriculture, to add nutrients to the soil. Feed me, Seymour!
Blood represents life, death, danger, religion, fertility, horror. It’s no surprise that artists turn to blood—human, animal, or something that looks like blood—to add an extra element of shock or realism. A few examples: Vincent Castiglia paints detailed, modern gothic self-drawn masterpieces, writing, “In this way the subject’s realism is not merely an optical illusion due to it’s level of detail, but rather is an actual transference of flesh and blood to each work.” 19th century potters might mix blood into their glazes for a darker color on the finished wares. Contemporary British artist Mark Quinn is known for his Self series: his head cast from his own frozen blood.
Blood and chocolate? If you’re craving a sweet treat, blood candy might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but many Soviet children grew up with Gematogen, an iron-rich snack made from condensed milk and cow’s blood. Supposedly, it tastes like a metallic tootsie roll—and is still around today!
The Nordic Food Lab promotes blood as an egg replacer in baked goods; the proteins act as a binding agent, and blood is lower in cholesterol and allergy-risk. While advocates of blood baking say you can’t taste the difference, the squeamish might disagree: it’s all in the color. We’ll stick with banana or ground flax seeds when we want to avoid eggs!
At the peak of industrialization in the 19th century, butchers had a problem: too much blood. They couldn’t flush it down the drain because it would attract rats, but they couldn’t just… keep it. Enter Dr. W. H. Dibble, who pressurized blood and sawdust into hemacite, a durable pre-cursor to plastic.
More recently, Australian researchers pioneered a method for making plastic out of blood, enzymes, and a few other key ingredients. Blood legos, anyone?
If you’ve ever admired an ancient aqueduct, you can thank blood: Roman engineers fortified cement with animal fat, milk, and blood. If this feels barbaric or antiquated, Charles Laleman patented a process to lighten concrete by combining cement and blood as recently as 1980. Talk about brutal!
In the classic Dostoevsky novel Crime and Punishment, the anti-hero protagonist fantasizes about murdering an old woman and sliding around in her “sticky, warm blood.” Russian literature lovers and bored high school English students alike should therefore not be surprised to learn that blood can be turned into a durable glue.
The manicure is a timeless status symbol: surely someone with perfect fingernails must be wealthy enough not to perform manual labor, right? While henna or gold were the standard pigments in ancient Egypt, Queen Nefertiti is rumored to have colored her talons with blood.
Romantic gesture, Millennium throwback, or both? Rapper Machine Gun Kelly wears a drop of his girlfriend’s blood in a vial around his neck. If a bloody bauble feels like a meaningful trinket, you can make your own, completely DIY or with the help of a kit. For a less macabre (and messy) alternative, New Zealand artist preserves blood (and other bodily fluids) in resin gemstones as “DNA keepsake jewelry.”
Would you smear your own blood on your face if it might soften fine lines or plump sagging skin? Vampire facials and plasma cremes have made a splash in the influencer circles in recent years. Proponents say they’re effective and safe when done in hygienic facilities, but these treatments are expensive, have potential for risk of pathogen exposure, and are not clinically proven to work.
Cigarettes are filled with nasty additives, many of them a mystery, since the tobacco industry doesn’t need to disclose what’s in their products (gross). Anything to keep these chemicals out of your lungs, right? Some cigarette manufacturers use pigs’ blood to increase the effectiveness of their filters; the hemoglobin allegedly traps tar and other carcinogenic compounds. Yet another reason to quit, if you smoke!
Lil Nas X has been making pop culture waves in recent years, and everyone from the governor of South Dakota to a popular PNW sports brand is upset. Nike is suing the musician and art collective MSCHF over a controversial collaboration: sneakers with two ounces of red ink and a drop of human blood suspended in the soles. Just don’t.
There is no substitute for donated blood. While scheduling your next appointment may feel mundane, it’s anything but. The need never stops. And the need may even go up on Friday the 13th: hospital admissions actually increase.
And if you’re not eligible to give for the community supply, consider donating for research.