The Reason Why High-Rise Hotels Don’t Have a 13th Floor

by SharonKurheg

Have you noticed that lots of high-rise hotels don’t have a 13th floor? Ever wonder why that is?

A lot of people say it’s because of superstition – the number 13 is unlucky and goes right up there with black cats and walking under a ladder.

Welp, as it turns out, that IS the reason why. 😉 But here’s some history about it…

Think what you want about superstition, but fear of the number 13 has been going on for decades. When skyscrapers started popping up in the early 20th century, triskaidekaphobia (literally, “fear of 13”) was rampant enough that the 13th floor was skipped when buildings went that high. 13% (I know, I know. It wasn’t lost on me, either) of people responding to a 2007 Gallup Poll said they would be bothered by being assigned a room on the 13th floor. And if you have many people who do not want to stay on one floor of your hotel, that’s a problem if you’re a hotelier. So a lot of hotels just started skipping that number too, and their floors went straight from 12 to 14.  Even J.W. Marriott Jr. was quoted as saying, “It was one of the first things I learned: Don’t go to 13.”

13NoIn fact, the Otis Elevators company estimates that 85% of the buildings with their elevators don’t have a named 13th floor.

Of course, not all hotels skip the 13th floor.

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And others are sneaky and find ways to get around it…like floor 12A

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Or labeling it as M (which is the 13th letter of the alphabet) and/or designating it as the Mechanical floor.

How did the superstition start?

It depends on who you ask.

  • Ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi (1700 BC) omitted the number 13 in its list of laws. People kinda lost their minds about that, thinking there was a “reason” for it. As it turned out, it was eventually discovered just to be a clerical error but by that point, it was too late for “take-backsies.”
  • Loki, a sneaky and mischievous god in Norse mythology, was said to have arrived at a party in Valhalla as the 13th guest, and it threw chaos into the balance of the 12 gods who were already there. And calamity ensued.
  • In Christianity, Judas was the apostle to betray Jesus. He was also the 13th guest at the Last Supper.
  • When skyscrapers started being built in 1885, it was rare for a hotel or other building to be more than 12 stories high. That’s because superstitious builders thought that omitting the 13th and subsequent floors would increase street congestion, ominous shadows, and lower property values. Eventually, someone convinced them that it was OK to build taller buildings, but the lack of a 13th floor persisted.

Is this followed everywhere?

Nope. It all depends on where you are, how much faith society has put into the superstitions above, and how much they cater to people who buy into the superstitions above ;-).

There are also some regional variances:

  • In China, some buildings avoid floors that end in the number 4 (i.e., 4th, 14th, 24th, etc.) because the word “four” in Mandarin sounds similar to the word “death.”
  • The number 9 is unlucky in Japan, most likely because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for “suffering.”
  • The number 17 is believed to be unlucky in Italy. It’s suggested the superstition dates back to ancient Roman times. In Roman numerals, 17 is XVII. One anagram for XVII is VIXI, and in Latin, vixi means “I have lived.” The implication for having lived (past tense) is that you’re now dead.
  • Going back to China, they find the number 666 to be lucky. However many Christians around the world associate it with an evil beast described in the biblical Book of Revelation. It’s even got a word: hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

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1 comment

JRG November 25, 2023 - 7:05 pm

The number 4 in Asia (not just China) is avoided because the character for that number associates with death. Not the sound of saying it, per se. Number 4 is avoided in South Korea as an example. Another thing about Asia (or so I’ve been taught) is to never write the person’s name in red ink – for example, don’t ask them to sign anything with a red pen – that means death also. Every culture has quirks and differences…….


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