Get in the hotel elevator to go to your room, and something may be missing: the number 13 on the button panel. So why don’t hotels have a 13th floor?
According to a USA Today article from 2007, a distinct percentage of Gallup Poll respondents — as luck would have it, 13 percent of them — would not want a room on the 13th floor. Hotels seem to be okay with that. J.W. Bill Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott International, told USA Today at the time, “It was one of the first things I learned: Don’t go to 13.”
Superstition Around the Number 13
Granted, issues with the number 13 extend well beyond the hotel world. Superstitions about the number 13 may have originated with basics connections. We have a 12-month calendar and 12-hour parcels of time, which made 13 a natural outlier of sorts. In Norse mythology, an infamous Valhalla dinner was disrupted by the 13th arrival—the troublemaking god Loki. Then there’s the Last Supper of Jesus. The 13th guest to arrive, Judas, created the problems that led to the crucifixion.
Whatever its causes, plenty of people continue to be spooked by the number. Surveys have shown that roughly 10 percent of the population have triskaidekaphobia, or a fear of the number 13. That can cause anxiety symptoms for some.
Why Hotels Skip Floor 13
Certainly, that’s not what any hotel manager would want. So if omitting the number 13 from the elevator panel helps, then so be it. Indeed, according to Otis elevators, up to 85 percent of the elevator panels it produces lack the number 13. Some buildings just skip from 12 to 14, or coyly label a floor 12A, 14A, or the noncommittal “mezzanine” or “M.” (Fun fact: M is also the 13th letter in the alphabet.) Next time you’re at the airport, see if you notice a Gate 13 as well.
In Asia, the number 4 carries bad karma. That fear, tetraphobia, is actually more pervasive than Western triskaidekaphobia. The number four is often missing from Asian hotel room numbers, along with street addresses and restaurant tables. The underlying reason: In Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese, the word for the number 4 sounds an awful lot like the word for death. And that’s certainly not what you want in your vacation getaway.