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The Ominous 13th Floor


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Don't be fooled by crafty developers and landlords - all buildings over 12 stories tall certainly have a 13th floor - even if they don't call it that. If you find yourself on floor 12A, floor M (the 13th letter of the alphabet) or sometimes even floor 14, you are  technically on the 13th floor of the building... and therefore you will probably die there. (just kidding)

The reason for omitting the 13th floor elevator button is rather hard to pinpoint, save the long held superstition that the number is ‘unlucky’ or ‘evil’.  Some sufferers of Triskaidekaphobia - the fear of the number 13 - say it's the result of many suspicious 13th floor fires in the early part of the century. Others claim that the number of workers killed on high-rise construction sites increases dramatically after a building surpasses 12 floors.  I think the most plausible explanation is that some hotel magnates decided to ‘skip’ the 13th floor because of the fear that they would lose superstitious elevator operators and technicians who would refuse to service any elevator with said number.

Let's take a moment to rejoice in the psychedelic sounds of Roky Erickson's 13th Floor Elevators:


But still, why the nuttiness over the number 13, especially in something so seemingly unimportant as the number of a floor in a hotel or office building?  You would think that in a world that seemingly has conquered so many of its fears through science, technology and just plain common sense, a silly number would lose any sort of odd ‘power’ it might have to scare people. But we humans are, after all, a superstitious lot prone to unwarranted fears about a whole trick-or-treat bag-full of stuff, what with the black cats and the broken mirrors and the knocking on wood. Here are some examples of how the fear of the number 13 still haunts us even today:

  • Most airports around the globe have no 13th gate.
  • Many airplanes have no 13th aisle.
  • Most Hospitals have no room number 13.
  • In Italy they omit the number 13 from their national lottery.
  • Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
  • In France, socialites known as the quatorziens make themselves available as a 14th guest at dinner parties.

Going back through history we have seen many times when the number 13 was used by, seen with, or connected in some way with an event that went terribly wrong.  These events have added to the myth, including; The failed Apollo 13 moon mission (although one could argue that since they made it back alive it doesn’t count); Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all having 13 letters in their full name; Friday the 13, 1307 being the day the Knights Templar were ordered to be arrested by Philip IV of France; 13 turns make a traditional hangman's noose. Are these all just coincidences? Probably. But just to be safe let's all lock the door and stay inside until Saturday the 14th.

Apr 13, 2012


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