Hotel Superstitions: Why Is There No 13th Floor?

By Kathy Adams

What's the reason behind the unlucky number 13, anyway?

Hotel Superstitions: Why Is There No 13th Floor?

Silly as it seems, the hotel floor directly above the 12th is labeled "14" in many hotels. Skipping the 13th floor is largely due to the unlucky stigma attached to the number 13 – a superstition that dates back to ancient times.

Why is there no 13th floor?

Superstitious belief in the bad luck of the number 13 is so widely held that the fear even has its own name: triskaidekaphobia. Obviously, hotel guests bothered by the number would prefer to avoid staying on the 13th floor, creating a booking problem for hotels. The solution? Skip it altogether in the hope that guests won't think about it at all or question it – even though the "14th" actually is the 13th floor of the structure.

Bad luck?

Accounts of the origins of superstitions surrounding this unluckiest number are ancient and varied.

  • One of the earliest surviving legal documents, the Code of Hammurabi, supposedly omitted a 13th rule from its list, but it was actually due to a translation error. 
  • Others believe 13 is unlucky because it follows the number 12, which the Sumerians used with great efficiency as basis for a system of numerals used to measure time. The number 13 isn't easily divided into equal proportions, so in ancient times it was considered unusual. 
  • At the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples totaled 13 guests. The 13th person to arrive was Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. 
  • Nordic folklore features its own story surrounding an important meal meetup. In this case, 12 gods met for a dinner party. A 13th god, Loki, showed up and introduced evil and troubles to the world. 

Other hotel superstitions

Hotel superstitions centering around the spirit world are more common in Asian cultures. Some hotel guests believe that knocking on their hotel room doors three times before entering chases away any spirits that might be lurking.

Leaving shoes pointing in opposite directions is thought by some to confuse spirits, effectively keeping them from finding the owner of the shoes.

There are even those who flush toilets, open curtains and turn on lights to dispel negative energy in exchange for positive energy.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.