Why Do Hotels Not Have a 13th Floor? The Superstitious Beliefs that Surround the Number 13

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Hotel and other accommodation facilities always have an elevator to make things convenient for guests and employees. But have you noticed something odd when pressing those floor numbers in the elevator? Contractors and business owners intentionally omit the number 13 due to superstitions stemming from different cultures and beliefs. 

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13 due to the bad luck associated with it. If you are wondering why the hotels you’ve stayed in don’t have a 13th floor, it could be the superstition around the number that influenced the owner when building it. Curious about why hotels are omitting the 13th floor from their elevator buttons? Continue reading to learn how the fear of 13 started, and how hotels deal with the “missing 13th floor” in their blueprints. 

How did the superstitions around the number 13 start?

Do you have a fear of the number 13? History and culture have explanations about this phobia, and how it influences building owners to find ways not to include 13th floors in hotels.

History & Religion

Throughout history and pop culture, the number that instills fear has played a significant role. Linked with peculiar events that caused misfortunes and calamities, 13 is always associated with unfortunate situations including tragedies, discord, and death:

  • In Norse mythology, Loki, a sly and mischievous god, arrived late as the 13th guest at a party in Valhalla. The god’s presence allegedly destroyed the “balance” among the 12 gods, which caused chaos and calamity.
  • The infamous Judas Iscariot, Jesus Christ’s disciple, was the 13th disciple in the Last Supper. Judas was known in ancient and modern Christianity for betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. With this, people associate the number 13 with Judas; a symbol of betrayal and greed. 
  • In 1700 BC, the number 13 was omitted from the Ancient Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi. Given the code’s undeniable impact on the ancient people’s concept of justice, the omission raised a lot of questions. However, it was later revealed that the omission was a simple “clerical error”.
  • Renowned Italian composer Gioachino Rossini died on a Friday (November 13, 1813) – Number 13 is considered unlucky by Italians.
  • A character in the French play Les Finesses des Gribouilles (The Finesse of Gribouilles) put a strong emphasis on Friday the 13th as the “start of all her misfortunes in life” with this line: I was born on a Friday, December 13th, 1813 from which come all of my misfortunes”.

Architecture & Pop Culture

  • Skyscrapers became an architectural trend in 1885. Back then, people believed that buildings couldn’t go higher than 12 stories due to the presence of ominous shadows that could affect the property’s value. Even after someone convinced them that it’s perfectly fine for tall buildings to go higher, the tradition of “missing” a 13th floor still persisted. 
  • Princess Diana died in 1997 due to several injuries. However, many people considered it strange that the accident happened near the 13th pillar of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France.
  • The Space Shuttle Columbia occurred on the shuttle’s 113th flight. 

Do all hotels not have a 13th floor?

Making sure that all room numbers are correct and complete is a crucial part of designing a hotel. This includes crafting the layout of the elevator’s floor buttons to give guests a smooth experience. If you are wondering if all hotel owners in the world skip the 13th floor of a hotel, the quick answer is NO. 

However, Otis Elevators Company shared an interesting fact about buildings with their elevators. Otis Elevators Company estimates that around 85% of elevator panels omit the number 13. In addition to this, entire hotels skip the 13th floor. 

While a lot of hotels don’t have a 13th floor due to the fear of number 13, there are still world-class hotels that don’t mind having 13 floors both in their elevator buttons and actual building floors. The Quebec-based Hotel 71 and the W Hotel in Dallas are just two of them. 

How do hotels deal with triskaidekaphobia?

If you’re looking at this common practice from a deeper perspective, these high-rise buildings don’t really get rid of the 13th floor completely. It is very difficult to completely remove the 13th button and floor, but hotel owners who are superstitious about the number 13 can find ways to avoid it without making major changes. 

For example, hospitals and airports skip 13 as a room number or a gate number. Instead of using the actual 13th-floor button on elevators, they label the 13th-floor or gate with a different name. After the 12th floor, you might see hotels and residential buildings like apartments and condominiums mask one floor through names like mechanical floor, staff room, or maintenance room. 

Others do this subtly by replacing the button for the 13th floor with number extensions like 12A, 12B, or any quick way to dodge the unlucky number. 

What happens when a hotel doesn’t skip a 13th floor?

There is no evidence that supports the theory that all the tragic historical and cultural events took place because number 13 is unlucky. However, some hotel guests may still feel uncomfortable if given a hotel room on the 13th floor. In the 2007 U.S. Gallup poll, 13% of guests reported that they would be bothered if given a hotel room on the 13th floor. 9% indicated that they would request a room on a different floor. These numbers may seem small and immaterial for some, but for large hotels, these statistics can have a strong impact on their business.

Naturally, when someone is afraid of the number 13, that person will not want to stay on the 13th floor. If you are a hotel owner who wants to give your guests a fantastic experience, make sure to find creative solutions to this common guest phobia. 

Furthermore, despite the negative superstitions that surround the number, there are plenty of luxury hotels and buildings that still have their 13th floors:

  • The Hyatt Regency (San Francisco, CA)
  • The Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel (New York, NY)
  • The Embassy Suites (Nashville, TN)
  • The Hilton Chicago (Chicago, IL)
  • The Marriott Marquis (Houston, TX)
  • The Flatiron Building (New York, NY)
  • The Empire State Building (New York, NY)
Trivia: All Waldorf Astoria and Hilton International hotels have a 13th floor. 

13 isn’t the only unlucky number that some hotels skip.

13th became a part of various cultures. For business owners to protect their brand and their clients, they simply skip it and go directly to the 14th floor. But did you know that 13 isn’t the only number that hotels skip?

In East Asian countries, especially China, the elders fear the number 4 because of its similar sound to the Chinese word for “death”. This is why Chinese buildings don’t have a fourth floor. Car owners also avoid license plates ending in four, as the number is said to invite bad luck. Just like the fear of number 13, East Asians try their best to book a room that ends with a lucky number. 

It all boils down to the quality of service.

Being mindful of the common phobias that guests have is an excellent way for hotels to make them feel valued. The fear of number 13 and other bad omens associated with it has been going on for centuries, and it remains prevalent until this day. It is very important for hotel owners to think of creative ways to deal with this odd yet impactful fear. 

There are guests who are heavy with traditions and superstitious beliefs, and there are people who are more relaxed and flexible about certain superstitions. It’s the quality of service and how the hotel takes care of their guests that matters the most. Finding a hotel that knows how to respect and provide harmony among different cultures should be one of your top priorities. Embrace cultural diversity and cultivate social consciousness. It will make your stay extra special and enjoyable, trust me!

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What’s Next?

Are you wondering how much you need to pay for a hotel deposit? Check out our blog post titled “Understanding Hotel Deposits: How Much Should Guests Pay for a Security Deposit?

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Charvel Rebagay is the founder and main author behind BestHotelsAdvisor.com. With an impressive entrepreneurial background and a genuine passion for travel, Charvel brings a unique perspective to the hospitality industry. He meticulously reviews and recommends hotels, providing readers with an invaluable guide to the best global accommodations.