Simply put, some hotels don’t have a thirteenth floor due to fears of the number itself.
Since there are many superstitions surrounding the number 13 (there’s even a related phobia), many buildings opt to omit this floor to comfort superstitious clients and guests.
But, how did this tradition come about, and does it make sense?
What is Triskaidekaphobia?
Triskaidekaphobia is a phobia categorized by an intense fear of the number 13.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term comes from the Ancient Greek words for ‘thirteen’ and ‘fear’. The word also relates to the fear of Friday the 13th in Ancient Greece and the Old Norse language.
As a phobia, Isador Coriat coined the term in 1910 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
People affected with this phobia become extremely anxious or uncomfortable when confronted with the number 13. To combat this phobia and general superstition, many builders omit the 13th floor from hotels.
However, according to USA Today, only 13% (somewhat ironic) of pollers responded that they would be bothered by staying on the 13th floor. So how did this tradition come about?
The Origins of Unlucky 13
Donald Dossey, a folklore historian, posits that the original use of 13 as an unlucky number comes from a Norse myth.
In this myth, 12 gods were having a dinner party in Valhalla when the trickster god Loki arrived uninvited. Through his machinations, Baldr (the god of light and joy) dies, and the world goes dark.
Since then, many have seen the number 13 as unlucky.
But there are other theories, too.
For instance, Judas was the 13th apostle of Jesus Christ to sit at the table at the Last Supper. Furthermore, ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi omits the 13th law.
Also, in the past, buildings never went higher than the 12th floor because there was a belief that tall buildings created ominous shadows and lower property values in the area. Thus, the number thirteen became even more of a no-no for taller residential buildings and other towers, so now many hotels skip this one floor.
There’s even a quote by J.W. Bill Marriott Jr., a famous hotel chairman, where he said the first thing he learned in the hotel business was not to go to the 13th floor.
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What Happens to the 13th Floor?
Well, the 13th hotel floor is still around, of course—it’s impossible to build taller buildings without one. However, building owners usually change 13 to a different floor number like 12B or 14A.
In other schemes, many hotel owners eliminate the entire floor and instead name the 13th floor as the 14th floor.
Despite the low percentage of respondents to the USA Today poll, builders rename the 13th floor a majority of the time.
The Otis Elevators Company estimates 85% of elevators do not include the 13th floor because of superstitious guests. Another survey conducted by CityReality showed that 91% of buildings do not have the 13th floor named correctly.
The easiest place to notice this is in a hotel elevator panel. So, next time you’re heading up to your hotel room, go ahead and check the buttons to see what they’ve decided to name their 13th floor.
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Is Suspicion of the Number 13 Founded?
Some people will tell you that you can find coincidences anywhere you look, while others don’t believe in them.
But no matter which way you spin it, you can find several notable disastrous events that have taken place concerning the number 13.
For example, Princess Diana died in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel at the 13th pillar. Apollo 13 suffered an oxygen tank explosion on April 13th before returning safely to earth two days later.
Even the famous Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on their 113th flight.
Regardless of these coincidences, the number 13 doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, in some countries, the number 13 is a lucky number.
Or interestingly, Chinese hotels often omit the fourth floor because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for death and, thus, has come to symbolize bad luck.
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So, because of a superstition that is thousands of years old, most hotels and other tall buildings skip the 13th floor.
It just goes to show that tradition is always with us.