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Heather Treadway of Denton gets her fifth Friday the 13th tattoo from artist Bryan Black at Elm Street Tattoo in Deep Ellum.EXPAND
Heather Treadway of Denton gets her fifth Friday the 13th tattoo from artist Bryan Black at Elm Street Tattoo in Deep Ellum.
Danny Gallagher

Elm Street Tattoo's Daylong Friday the 13th Marathon is 'One Big Party'

Every Friday the 13th, the staff and artists at Elm Street Tattoo, a Deep Ellum tattoo parlor, spend 24 straight hours tattooing people who line up to a "13" themed tattoo for a rock-bottom price. The place opens at midnight every Friday with a number 13 on its date and doesn't stop until 11:59 p.m.

This business plan might sound like a grueling, proverbial hell for any other worker, but the staff of Elm Street Tattoo say they look forward to this wary date on the calendar, especially because there are two this year.

"It's one big party," employee Audra Babral says.

The parlor's annual tattoo tradition has been going for the last eight years on every Friday the 13th, including last Friday. Customers choose from one of more than 200 small tattoos, such as a severed hand giving the middle finger, a flying eyeball or the classic anchor. They cost $13 each with a $7 tip to the artist "for good luck," according to the shop's website.

The only catch is that all of these unique tattoos contain an unlucky "13." Apparently, the superstitious number hasn't chased away the clientele.

"It's like a little club," says Emily Speers, who showed up Friday with her father Neil to get their fifth Friday the 13th tattoos together. "A lot of people recognize the Elm Street tattoos, and as a travel agent, I get asked about them all the time."

It's become such a popular tradition that the staff members usually require time to prepare. They rest up the day before each special sale so they can go the full 24 hours, and they even call in a few extra hands from out of town to help with the demand.

"It's pretty exhausting, but at the same time, it's pretty engaging," Babral says. "You're talking to everybody and meeting with them and keeping them happy while they wait."

Natalie Miller of Fort Worth picks out a tattoo from the board during Elm Street Tattoo's Friday the 13th sale.EXPAND
Natalie Miller of Fort Worth picks out a tattoo from the board during Elm Street Tattoo's Friday the 13th sale.
Danny Gallagher

The line starts outside the tattoo parlor and sometimes reaches all the way down to the Cafe Brazil on the corner of Elm Street. The parlor puts out tents and awnings. The customers enter the shop and are greeted by music blaring from the stereo playing bands such as Queens of the Stone and the Alkaline Trio, and an employee asks them to pick out a tattoo from the wall.

Once they pick their body stamp and pay $20 in cash, they sign a waiver and wait for their name to be called. Elm Street Tattoo has since added an extra bonus for the truly lucky. Customers take turns rolling five dice, and if they get the same number on each die, they win a $500 gift certificate.

"It's like a crazy party," says tattoo artist Tayson Arndt, who traveled from his home in Portland, Oregon, to join the tattooing marathon. "Crazy stuff happens all the time."

Babral says the employees usually have a bet going during their marathon tattooing sessions.

"One of the employees had his nipple pierced after losing a bet," she says. "I think it was more about him getting his nipples pierced than anything else."

Kelsey Patterson of Dallas gets a black cat tattoo on the back of her leg.EXPAND
Kelsey Patterson of Dallas gets a black cat tattoo on the back of her leg.
Danny Gallagher

The employees' high spirits make the tattoo parlor's annual tradition an infectious party for the customers.

"It's the best party day of the year," employee Mikey Smeaton says. "There's something special about that. We're all super tired, but it's all worth it. It's just so stimulating because there's so much going on." 

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