Industrious Silicon Valley Real Estate Examiner reporter Broderick Perkins, after conducting a comprehensive survey of Otis elevator records, has revealed that up to 85 percent of the world’s high-rises don’t have 13th floors. And the reason? The number 13 is unlucky.
From whence comes this utter denial of reality, this obeisance to those afflicted by the irrational fear of 13 (better known as triskaidekaphobia)?
Mr. Perkins reports:
Developers say making the 13th floor vanish is bottom line motivated.
Commercial realty brokers admit it’s difficult to lease the 13th floor because, even if every corporate employee is not superstitious, clients may be. Who wants the hassle of directing a superstitious client to (spooky music) Suite 1300?
Ironically, mislabeling the floors of a building can have serious, Friday-the-13th-style security issues:
Someone on a burning building’s designated 14th floor (actually the 13th floor) who calls firefighters for a rescue from the 14th floor, could find the rescue attempt directed at the real 14th floor (designated as the 15th floor), one flight up. Or, well, you get the idea.
Pretending there is no 13th floor, in that case, could be very unlucky.
"Fire officials have been asking building developers and architects who are installing a 13th floor to call it the 13th floor because when there is a fire they are on the outside counting the floors they need to hit," said Rangnekar.
What’s in a number?
Still, most building developers ignore the safety issue, indicating just how deeply rooted the no-13th floor policy has become.
Mr. Perkins then gives us a brief history of the scary 13 supersition.
The fear of the number 13 has roots that go back to Norse mythology and strangely enough, a certain home, according to "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions," a treatise by Edwin and Mona A. Radford, originally published by New York’s Philosophical Library in 1949 and edited for republication by Christina Hole for Barnes & Noble in 1996.
According to the encyclopedia, 12 gods were once summoned to a banquet at Valhalla, the favorite home of top god Odin. Loki, the god of evil and turmoil, crashed the bash, making it a party of 13. As the legend goes, Loki impaled Balder with a spear of mistletoe. Balder, a favored god, died trying to evict the uninvited Loki.
Why people kiss beneath such deadly foliage during a holy holiday period is another story.
"The 13 superstition exists all through Europe. It is impossible in any French city or town to find a house numbered 13. Nor to find room 13 in any French hotel. And not many British hotels will have that number marked on a door," the Radfords wrote.
"Houses numbered 13 are often hard to sell, and some town councils have been forced to take notice of this tradition and omit thirteens from their three-numerals," the Radfords go on.
Thirteen, as an unlucky number, actually predates Viking lore.
Christianity’s Last Supper helped entrench the fear of 13, according to "Man, Myth and Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown," last published in 1983 by Richard Cavendish and the Marshall Cavendish Corp. in New York City.
The disastrous dinner for 13, 12 apostles plus Jesus Christ, included Judas Iscariot — the 13th apostle to arrive and the first to leave. Iscariot ultimately betrayed Christ and gave rise to the pox on dinners of 13. Biblical interpretations vary, but some say the next day, a Friday, Christ was crucified, according to the illustrated encyclopedia.