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Next time you’re in a hotel elevator, try to find the button for the 13th floor. There’s a good chance that you won’t be able to. Sound nuts?

For years, hoteliers have succumbed to good old-fashioned superstition when they’ve crafted their blueprints. And while the practice of “removing” the 13th floor—or erasing its traces—may seem a bit drastic, it can be partly attributed to a very real phobia. Specifically, triskaidekaphobia, which is an extreme suspicion of the number thirteen. To wit, Friday the 13th gets a bad rap as an unlucky day, but there are also folks who believe it’s no coincidence that Princess Diana died at the 13th pillar of the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, or that the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred on the 113th flight of the shuttle.

By removing the 13th floor, many hotel owners are simply making sure they don’t alienate any superstitious clients. But is it worth the trouble? According to a 2007 USA Today article, 13% of Gallup Poll respondents would be bothered by a 13th floor room assignment. In the same article, hotel-industry veteran J.W. Marriott Jr. responded, “It was one of the first things I learned: Don’t go to 13.”

So, how does the practice hold up in Chicago? As one of the city’s oldest hotels, the luxurious Palmer House Hilton still has its 13th floor. “A lot of older buildings still have the 13th floor, and the Palmer House Hilton is a 140 year-old-property, so it’s tough to say whether the developers were even concerned with that at the time,” adds a hotel customer service rep at the hotel. However, two blocks away at the 105-year-old Hotel Burnham, things are a little different. “There is no 13th floor here—it goes from 12 to 14,” said a front-desk employee. “People don’t really notice it; I think it’s standard practice inChicago. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a 13th floor [in the city].”

At the sparkling-new and much-anticipated Virgin Hotels Chicago, it seems as if no one is even batting an eyelash at the thought. “We actually do have a thirteenth floor, and we have 26 floors total in the hotel,” says a customer service rep. Has anyone tried to change their 13th floor reservations there? “Not yet that I’ve heard of, but we’ve only been open two months,” she said. Maybe the 13th floor is finally making a comeback.


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Raf Miastkowski

Raf Miastkowski

Raf is a long-tenured Baratheon loyalist and Point Break apologist. He once stayed as an artist-in-residence at the world's narrowest house in Warsaw.

18 thoughts on “Very superstitious: The truth behind hotels’ missing 13th floors”

  1. In China 4 is unlucky so is sometimes buildings I was in had 3, 3A and then 5 but as 14 got the same treatment giving 13, 13A then 15. I was funny for me as it may be less unlucky for Chinese but having two 13th floors would make it double unlucky for westerners!

  2. That’s hilarious, because whether or not it’s labeled as Floor 13, there are still 13 floors. Labeling them as 14 does not change the fact that it is still the 13th floor of the building.

    1. That’s exactly what I said. It’s still there. We actually took an elevator to 12 and took the stairs just to see if maybe there was a 13th floor, but they went straight to 14, so we looked for room 1408.

  3. i have built 13 traditional home stays in sicily i will burn 1 down now, but then here 13 is lucky as to when you made the football pools

  4. A resort I worked at made the 13th floor for employees only with house keeping on that floor. So you needed a key to make the elevator stop on 13. I thought that was interesting in staying true to not having guests stay on a wrongly-numbered floor (13th floor labeled as 14 still makes it the 13th floor ). That was the 1st time I heard of the 13th floor superstition.

  5. How about opening a hotel called The Lucky 13 and having all 13 floors labeled number 13, and as an added bonus all persons afflicted with Triskaidekaphobia …(fear of the #13) STAY FOR FREE ,with legit proof of course……. Happy Hoteling! Oh and don’t forget a 40% discount for all veterans……Thanks Tons, Robyn S.

  6. HI
    in Iran number 13 is unlucky too.this maybe source from eldest belives in history.for example if you travel to Iran you can see offices for marrige number12+1 and for divorce 14-1. This is so funny for me in century21 people belive these.

  7. How about an office with a true 4th floor and a true 13th floor, labeled as 4 and 13 respectively, and make them accessible to the public with no restrictions? In the case of a 20-story building, all stories must be labeled by their floor numbers without missing a single number. For instance, the story that stands on the road is the ground floor, four stories up is the fourth floor, nine stories from there is the thirteenth floor, and the rest of the stories up to 20 continue the floor numbering pattern normally…without omitting a single number. The consequences for missing 4 and/or 13 include having the office demolished even after its inauguration, prompting for a reconstruction with the proper floor labels (4 and 13 included).

  8. And if the reconstruction fails to abide the rules above, the builders will be fired and stripped of their jobs with the building demolished and a notice that the land where the office was to be built will be made into something else.

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