As you make your way down the long hall to your hotel room the surrounding doors creak, the sky darkens to an inky black, rain thrashes against windows, and the wind howls. You feel the icy grip of shadows on your shoulders, but spin around only to find no one there. You look down at your key, and see you are on the gulp. 13th Floor. Do you take the room?
Triskaidekaphobia is a fear of the number 13, which is the 6th prime number, a Fibonacci number, and one of only three known Wilson primes. Hotel keepers have found that although some guests have no problem with a room or floor containing the number 13 others will request to have their location changed. Some even refuse to stay on the floor just above 12, knowing that it is the 13th level in the building.
No one knows the origins for sure but when skyscrapers were first being built it was considered unlucky to have a 13th floor. Maybe it was because 12 floors were more typical, because the height meant ladders were too high to reach in case of fires or just as a nod to superstition. In any case, most hotels still do not label their 13th floor as such so they don’t upset superstitious guests or those with a phobia. Instead they label floors from 12 to 14, skipping over 13. Others may begin with a B for basement and ending on 12, or have the 13th floor designated as M (13th letter in the alphabet) for mechanical. The Mechanical floor may even only be accessible by freight elevator. Some, such as the Sheraton on the Falls have made their 13th floor into a restaurant. The Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore Maryland draws attention to their 13th floor, whose special restaurant is appropriately dubbed The 13th Floor. Their logo is even a bit cheeky with a black cat right in the middle.
The omission of the 13th floor can also be seen as a conspiracy such as with that in some government buildings. It is spoken about in hushed tones that there is a secret floor only accessed by a private elevator or entrance on a floor other than the lobby.
The superstition surrounding the number 13 does not hold everywhere in the world. Italians in fact believe the number 13 to be exceptionally lucky, promising prosperity and long life.
In newly built hotels in some parts of Asia, numbers 4, 14, 24, 34, etc. are avoided.
In Mandarin the word “four” sounds similar to the word for death, which carries it’s own superstitions. Hence, floors labeled 40-49 are sometimes skipped entirely, picking up again in the 50’s or 60’s. This also gives the impression that the building is taller than it is.
Have you seen a 13th floor? If you were given a room there, would you take it or ask for a different one?
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