Have you ever noticed that there’s usually no 13th floor or room number 13 in hotels? As you ride the elevator up to your room, the numbers go from 12 to 14 with no 13 in between. And good luck finding a room 13 to stay in for the night. What gives?
The absence of the number 13 in hotels can be traced back to an age-old superstition – triskaidekaphobia, or the fear of the number 13. This pervasive superstition has led many hotels and other buildings to omit the 13th floor or room number 13 altogether. Let’s take a closer look at the interesting history behind this quirky phenomenon.
Quick Answer 👇
Hotels often skip room number 13 or the 13th floor due to superstitions around the number 13 being considered unlucky in some cultures.
Triskaidekaphobia: The Fear of 13
|Triskaidekaphobia||Fear of the number 13|
Triskaidekaphobia comes from the Greek words “tris” (meaning 3), “kai” (meaning and), “deka” (meaning 10), and “phobia” (meaning fear). As the name indicates, it’s the fear of the number 13.
This long-standing superstition associates the number 13 with bad luck or evil. Though the origins aren’t totally clear, some trace it back to Norse mythology. As the story goes, 12 gods were feasting together when a 13th, uninvited guest – the mischievous Loki – arrived and arranged for Hoder to shoot Balder the Beautiful with mistletoe, killing him.
Ever since, the number 13 has been linked to misfortune. Some even believe Judas was the 13th guest at Jesus’s Last Supper before his crucifixion. The number’s reputation only spread from there.
Triskaidekaphobia is still surprisingly common today. A 2007 Gallup poll found that 13% of Americans would be bothered staying on the 13th floor of a high rise. Hotels know many guests share this sentiment and design their buildings accordingly.
Hotel Design Adaptations Due to Triskaidekaphobia
Hotels make various design choices to avoid the number 13 out of consideration for superstitious travelers. Here are some of the ways triskaidekaphobia has shaped hotels over the years:
No 13th Floor
One of the most common hotel adjustments is simply eliminating the 13th floor altogether. The floor numbers just jump from 12 to 14.
This is especially prevalent in high rise hotels. According to the Gallup poll above, only 60% of respondents said their city’s tallest hotel actually had a 13th floor.
Alternative Floor Names
Rather than skipping 13 altogether, some hotels get creative with the floor name instead. For example, they may call it the 14th floor or even 12a floor instead of 13.
Cartoonist Charles Addams joked the 13th floor was renamed “13a” because the building’s owners were superstitious.
Other alternate names hotels use include:
- 12th floor annex
- M floor
- Floor M (M = 13th letter)
- Sky level
- Oz floor (O = 15th letter, Z = 26th)
- Horizon floor
The intent behind using a substitute name is to avoid spooking guests while still including the floor itself.
No Room #13
Similarly, many hotels don’t have a room numbered 13. They may skip right from 12 to 14 or even use room numbers like 12A instead.
This precaution is especially common in Asian hotels. A Relting.com study in China found 98% of hotels surveyed lacked a room 13, while only 78% skipped the 13th floor.
Inside elevators, you’ll notice other small changes like the absence of a 13 button. Rather than marking floors 11, 12, 13, and 14, the buttons jump from 12 to 14.
Some buildings take it even further by not even listing the 13th floor on the elevator panel at all. This gives superstitious riders no indication there even is a 13th floor.
These elevator precautions extend beyond just hotels, too. According to Otis Elevator Company, up to 85% of elevator panels in residential buildings skip 13.
Impact on Hotel Design and Construction
While accommodating triskaidekaphobia may seem silly, it’s had a very real impact on hotel design and construction.
Architects and developers have to decide early on whether to include a 13th floor and room 13. Omitting them takes advance planning.
In one hotel design case, nixing the 13th floor would’ve displaced the lounge and observatory. So the client opted to keep it, despite the superstition.
There are financial implications, too. Purposefully leaving the 13th floor unfinished means lost revenue from 10-20 potential rooms.
On a symbolic level, some argue eliminating a 13th floor is dishonest. It creates an illusion that the floor doesn’t exist when it’s simply called something else.
But overall, hotels cater to customers’ wishes. And many guests vocally prefer avoiding the number 13 during their stay.
Origins of the 13 Superstitions
Triskaidekaphobia has shaped infrastructure for centuries. But why does 13 evoke such fear in the first place? Here are some of the origins of 13’s unlucky reputation:
- Religious origins – Some connect 13 to the number of people at Jesus’s Last Supper or Norse myths about the 13th god Loki
- Calendar origins – There were 13 lunar or menstrual cycles per year, tying it to femininity and unpredictability
- Mathematical origins – 13 is a prime number, indivisible except by itself and 1. This could contribute to it feeling strange or loner-like.
There are cultural nuances too. In Italy, the number 17 is considered unlucky, not 13. And exceptions to 13 taboos exist like bakers’ dozens (13) and the 13 original American colonies.
Still, Western culture settled on 13 as a harbinger of misfortune. And triskaidekaphobia was born.
Is 13 Really Unlucky Though?
With triskaidekaphobia so widespread, it begs the question – is 13 actually unlucky? Is there evidence it brings bad fortune?
Plane crash data – There were two Russian airliners crashed on the same date a year apart; October 13th. (SimpleFlying)
Lottery data – One UK study found 13 ball is drawn less in lotteries
Survey data – A Finnish study found over 60% consider 13 unlucky
However, controlled studies haven’t found concrete effects of the number 13:
- No consistent lifespans trends based on 13 connections (BMJ study)
- No uptick in vehicle accidents on 13th days (BMJ study)
So while 13 maintains a cultural reputation of being unlucky, the empirical evidence is mixed. Superstition may play a bigger role than actual heightened risk.
Other Building Numbering Quirks
Thirteen isn’t the only number treated curiously when numbering floors and rooms. Here are some other odd conventions:
- Skipping 4 – In Chinese culture, 4 has a similar unlucky association as 13 does in Western culture. So some Chinese and other Asian buildings omit the 4th floor.
- Skipping 40-49 – Some buildings skip the entire 40s decade over Tetraphobia concerns (fear of 4). They jump from 39 to 50.
- Skipping 666 – Many structures avoid labeling the 666th unit due to associations with the Biblical mark of the beast. So they may use 665A instead.
- Skipping 911 – After the September 11th attacks, some U.S. buildings skipped 911 to avoid uncomfortable associations.
So 13 isn’t alone in getting selectively avoided in infrastructure labeling. Cultural context shapes various numbering quirks.
Folklore Around 13
Given all the lore surrounding 13, it’s spawned many legends and tall tales. Some famous folklore examples related to 13 include:
- If 13 people sit down to eat, the first to rise will die within the year
- Sailors believe having 13 people onboard is unlucky
- Never measure boys until they’re 13 years old or they’ll stop growing
- A house with 13 windows is fated to darkness
These superstitions feed into triskaidekaphobia. They paint 13 as not just an ordinary unlucky number, but a precarious, even sinister one.
In modern times, triskaidekaphobia has faded in some regards but persists in others:
- Many now treat 13 as any ordinary number
- Fear of 13 has become a pop culture trope in movies like Friday the 13th
- Buildings still frequently omit 13th floors and rooms
- Judas at Jesus’s Last Supper is still linked to 13’s notoriety
- Hotels continue skipping 13 to indulge triskaidekaphobics
While not as taboo as in the past, 13 maintains an aura of superstition today. The patterns ingrained from triskaidekaphobia remain etched into infrastructure and culture.
Is Skipping 13 Totally Irrational?
Given the shaky evidence that 13 actually brings misfortune, is avoiding it completely irrational?
The case against 13 triskaidekaphobia:
- It propagates faulty magical thinking
- It’s not backed by empirical data
- It causes logistic hassles for architects
- It displaces rooms needed by hotels
The case for accommodating triskaidekaphobia:
- If guests aren’t comfortable, they may not return
- Hotels cater to phobias like fear of heights via low rooms
- It makes many guests feel more welcome
- Alternative floor names preserve 13 symbolically
At the end of the day, hotels are businesses. If skipping 13 makes customers happy, the practice likely won’t going away anytime soon.
Conclusion: 13’s Lasting Mark on Design
So why do so many hotels lack a 13th floor or room 13? As we’ve explored, it ultimately comes back to triskaidekaphobia – a deep superstition regarding the unluckiness of the number 13.
This fear has shaped infrastructure and design for centuries, including in hotels. To cater to superstitious guests, most hotels opt to skip the 13th floor or room 13 altogether.
However, the alternative solution of using a substitute name allows hotels to keep the floor while accommodating customer concerns. Elevators also frequently omit 13 buttons and floor listings.
While the evidence for 13 actually bringing bad luck is mixed, the superstition remains culturally strong. Hotels choose to oblige triskaidekaphobia out of hospitality, not just blind tradition.
So next time you press an elevator button and notice 13 missing, know there’s a long, quirky history behind that small design choice! The absence contains multitudes about architecture, culture, and customer service.
That’s why many travelers have yet to find Room 13 or a 13th floor waiting for them at the hotel. The number 13 may be losing some of its taboo, but still has an aura of superstition that shapes the world we build.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do some hotels skip room number 13?
Hotels often skip 13 due to superstitions surrounding the number, like triskaidekaphobia (fear of 13), to avoid scaring guests.
Q: Is it common to have no 13th floor in hotels?
Yes, it’s common. Hotels often label the 14th floor directly after the 12th to avoid the number 13.
Q: What’s the history behind omitting 13th floors?
The superstition stems from various cultures deeming 13 unlucky. To appease guests’ fears, hotels avoid the 13th floor.
Q: Are hotels the only buildings that skip 13?
No, many buildings skip the 13th floor, including office buildings and hospitals, due to the same superstitions.
Q: Do other countries follow this practice?
Yes, the fear of the number 13 is a global superstition, so many countries omit it in buildings.
Q: Can guests request a room on the 13th floor?
Some hotels accommodate such requests, but it’s not common due to superstitions.
Q: What happens if a hotel doesn’t skip the 13th floor?
It varies, but guests with triskaidekaphobia may avoid booking or staying on the 13th floor.
Q: Do people really believe in the unluckiness of 13?
Yes, many people still believe in the unluckiness of 13, leading to this architectural tradition.
Q: Are there any hotels that include the 13th floor?
Yes, some hotels don’t follow this tradition and have a 13th floor as any other.
Q: Has the belief in 13 as an unlucky number changed over time?
While some superstitions have lessened, the fear of 13 remains strong for many, influencing this architectural choice.