Tattoo artists have been up since midnight tattooing for Friday the 13th

An eclectic gathering of people wandered around the back room of The Prophet Bar in Deep Ellum early this morning, bleery-eyed and sucking down coffee like it’s going out of style. It kind of looked like a half-adandoned carnival with rows and rows of booths stacked end to end. Except the fun wasn’t over; it was only just beginning.

Tattoo artists came in from all over the country to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the 24-hour Friday the 13th tattoo event“Tonight this place will be madhouse,” says Oliver Peck, East Dallas tattoo artist and founder of the event. “We’re down to the skeleton crew this morning.”

Peck had been up all night, inking hundreds of Dallasites who flocked to the Prophet Bar for a 24-hour tattoo marathon. “I’m a little out of it,” he says blinking, and he still has more than 13 hours to go.

Today is Friday the 13th, and in case you don’t already know, every Friday the 13th Peck (better known as “Oliver Pecker” — he said it, not me) throws a 24-hour tattoo bonanza where he and his friends tattoo “13”s on anyone who walks in the door for a mere $13.

They started at midnight last night (this morning?) and will go until midnight tonight. At midnight, they’ll stop selling 13 tats for $13 dollars. But this year, the fun won’t end there. The Friday the 13th event will be followed by a weekend-long celebration, to mark the 13th year since the beginning of the tradition. Although they won’t be doing 13 tats anymore, the artists will still be inking people all weekend — for full price, of course.

Oliver Peck

Oliver Peck

“We partnered up with Reverend Horton Heat and put this whole festival together. We’ll have 40 bands playing tonight, tomorrow night and Sunday night,” he says.

Twenty years ago, Peck, who co-owns Elm Street Tattoo with Dean Williams (which, by the way, I believe it’s his birthday today), tattooed his first Friday the 13th tattoo.

“I have a bit of an affinity for the number 13 — a stigma of bad luck, superstition and all that stuff,” he says. “When I first started tattooing, I tattooed an old veteran who got a 13 on him. I said, ‘What’s up with the 13?’ and he says, ‘The old sailors for centuries believed if you got the number 13 tattooed on you, then bad luck would recognize you and pass you by. So it’s a good luck omen. When he told me that, I said, ‘I’m getting a 13 tattoo.'”

Peck got his first — of many — 13 tattoo behind his left ear, and then when Friday the 13th rolled around he tattooed 13 tattoos on 13 of his friends. By the next year, so many people wanted them he had to do more than 13, and it continued to grow from there. “Within a couple years, I was doing hundreds of tattoos,” he says. “People were lining up and we were so busy.”

There are a variety of different 13 tattoos to choose from

There are a variety of different 13 tattoos to choose from

That’s what birthed the 24-hour marathon, which began 13 years ago this year. “That year I did 380 tattoos,” he says. “Then after that everybody in the shop was doing 13 tattoos all day.”

Every year they have a guest artists. This year they have dozens of them.

“We usually just do this in the tattoo shop (Elm Street Tattoo) with just six or ten tattoo artists,” Peck says. “This year we’re doing it here with 50 tattooers.”

It’s become a big thing in Dallas. So if you see people with a 13 tattooed on them, you’ll know why. And within the tattoo community, it’s a practice that’s becoming known worldwide.

“There are shops in every state that are doing the same thing,” Peck says. “This poster that we made, with the 13s on it, we’ve sold hundreds and hundreds of those to tattoo shops all over the world.”

So what’s the big draw?

Lakewood neighbor Robert Elorduy gets yet another 13 tattoo

Lakewood neighbor Robert Elorduy gets yet another 13 tattoo

“People want a cheap tattoo,” Peck says. “It’s fun, it’s a little bit of history, and a little bit of nostalgia and superstition.

“To me, I kind of look at it as customer appreciation day,” he continues. “Normally, even your smallest tattoo is $60 or $80. These are small, but they’re bigger than the tiny stars or hearts that people will get. This isn’t really a money-making deal. When you divide what we make by all the artists and the expenses, the supplies — we don’t do it for the money; we do it for the fun.”

This morning, two Lakewood neighbors were there getting 13 tattoos. One of them, Robert Elorduy, was back for his sixth (or seventh? Who’s counting?). His arms, back and legs were spotted with 13s, each incorporated into a more elaborate design.

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