It will amaze you to know how deeply some superstitions are nurtured by humans. A string of bad events regarding a certain thing and that thing is deemed as a bad omen forever.
Such is the case with the 13th floor in buildings and the superstition regarding the number 13 is something that has affected the real estate in many major metropolitan cities and hubs of modernization where archaic superstitions should not have any power.
So what exactly is the deal with the 13th-floor and high-rise buildings? Let us find out.
Do buildings have a 13th floor?
If you take a trip down and around large metropolitans such as New York, you might see that many buildings and hotels that have more than thirteen floors do not actually have a thirteenth floor. Technically, the floor itself is present but the demarcation is absent. Due to some negative connotations associated with the number 13, the floor after the twelfth level is demarcated as either 14 or 12A or just a relevant letter such as M, standing for mezzanine level.
It is difficult to imagine that a vague and abstract concept like superstitions can have any real-life consequences on such a serious matter as real-estate but if we were to refer to the results of a study conducted by firm CityRealty in 2015, out of 629 buildings in New York City which have more than 13 floors, only 55 of them have a clearly demarcated 13th floor.
There is a whole different word to refer to the fear of the number thirteen – triskaidekaphobia, and developers not only avoid marking this floor but also inhabit it. For instance, if you see a building that does not have the number thirteen on the elevator or something else such as 12A instead of 13 then chances are that the floor is being utilized for purposes such as storage or laundry services. In essence, the space is not open to being rented or sold.
However, this is not the case with all buildings or real estate projects because, with the steep housing prices, it will be financially impractical to waste a whole floor without earring off of it. Keeping this in mind or just a simple disregard for any unfounded superstitions, many buildings have stood tall even with a demarcated thirteenth floor.
The Empire State Building opened in 1931, and the Flatiron building, both of which are well-known pieces of architecture, have a marked 13h floor.
Where did the 13th-floor superstition start?
Well, the superstition surrounding the number 13 that says that the presence of the number will bring about bad luck, ill health, or death was mostly a cultural and/or religious thing and the earliest source of this can be traced back to the biblical Last supper where Lord Jesus Christ himself dined with twelve of his closest disciples and Mary Magdalene for the last time before he was put to the cross. Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans was the thirteenth disciple.
In a similarly doomed dinner with the Norse Gods present, apparently the 13th guest Loki killed the host Balder with an arrow.
The Bible has plenty of ominous references to the number. The thirteenth chapter in the Book of Revelation details the coming of the “Great Beast” and the antichrist, both of which are evil elements in Christian mythology and are greatly feared by God-fearing people.
Friday the 13th is widely known as the day when the Knights Templar who was on a holy mission to protect the holy grail were to be arrested. Specifically, it was Friday, October 13th in 1307 when the roundup started, and eventually, the knights were massacred. Since then any Friday which falls on a thirteen is considered an unlucky day.
There are also certain associated beliefs of a coven of witches and mythical creatures such as vampires having exactly 13 members. In any case, the number has a negative connotation attached to it, and although there has been no scientific evidence to prove the relation between having a thirteenth floor and something bad happening, developers often omit the floor to abide by the superstition.
Famous Buildings without a 13th Floor
As already mentioned, the strange beliefs surrounding the number 13 directly affect real estate as many developers or owners choose to omit the number 13 from the premises of their building levels.
Many of those buildings happen to be quite famous as well. Here is a list of famous buildings with no thirteenth floor:-
- Hotel Burnham – Chicago
- Trump Tower- Chicago
- The Essex House- NYC
- The Sherry-Netherland
- Grand Hyatt- San Francisco
Why is the 13th floor unlucky?
Well, scientifically speaking there is no empirical evidence that the thirteenth floor is unlucky. It is just that many people associate the number with bad luck and dark omens.
It is all a matter of some coincidental accidents that occurred surrounding the number 13 and many negative connotations to it in certain religions such as Christianity and the Nordic traditions.
These beliefs have a scientific reason as well. The number thirteen succeeds the number 12-which is considered a perfect number. The number 12 is the result of 4×3, 4 elements – 4 corners of the earth – 4 cardinal points.
When these are multiplied 4 x 3, three being the sacred number of God, the result is 12 – the perfect number. And the number thirteen follows right after it, seemingly as a blotch to its perfection. Such an unfounded notion remained in the minds of people for hundreds of years until it became a real fear in people, who truly and actively avoid the number.
If hotels and other buildings get such Triskaidekaphobic people it may create unnecessary conflict, so developers and owners forgo using or marking the floor altogether. Some hotels even go as far as not having any rooms with the number 13.
Why don’t elevators have a 13th-floor?
If the building in question where the said elevator is located has no thirteenth floor to speak of then it makes sense for the numbers on the elevator to not display the number thirteen as well.
When the first skyscrapers started arriving way back in 1885, it was common for the buildings to not have more than 12 floors. This was because the builders had the superstition that building the floors above will cast evil shadows on the streets outside. Although with urbanization this tradition has long been forgotten, instead the floor 13th is erased or tactfully made into a non-habitable floor.
Most elevators, around 85% of them, thus do not have a button or panel for the 13th floor. Because it is structurally impossible to omit a thirteenth floor, the name for it is either changed into 12A or M for the Mezzanine level. Or to do away with giddy occupants who refuse to live or work on the 13th level, it is made into a storage space or laundry service area.
This is a classic case of real estate following after superstitions because it’s not like every builder believes that something bad will happen if they build a level after the twelfth and name it thirteen but they cannot afford to lose out on tenants and workers who create a fuss about the matter and it is too much of a financial loss to leave the floor uninhabited and unutilized.
Did the world trade center have a 13th floor?
According to a New York Times article from 1977 entitled “13th Floor, Anyone?”, the World Trade Center did have a thirteenth floor clearly demarcated and we all know the tragedy that befell the Twin towers of the World Trade Center.
The destruction of the WTC by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda is often considered one of the most gruesome acts of terrorism in the past century and there are countless conspiracy theories regarding this event of 9/11.
Yes, you guessed it right, a building with a thirteenth floor befell such a tragedy obviously led many triskaidekaphobic people into associating the number thirteen with the tragedy. However, in all fairness, this is just a conspiracy theory and has no factual evidence to support it.
Whether or not a thirteenth floor will be included in the floor plan or not depends on the prerogative of the developer or the owner, as in this urban age there are more people who do not believe in such unfounded prejudices than those who do.
It also has something to do with religion, so if you see a building without a thirteenth floor, there is a good chance that the owner of the building or the one who built it is a devout Christian.
In any case, there is no hard scientific evidence to keep faith in such a thing or any reason to consistently avoid a mere number.