The 13th floor: Ooh, I'm sooo scared!

Anyone have the straight dope on the history of leaving a 13th story off tall buildings. In my building we go right from 12 to 14.

When did it start? What was the motive (Was it really harder to rent space on a 13th floor?)? I live in NYC. Is this as common elsewhere? Is this really silly practice ever going to be phased out?

I can’t give you much history, but I will note that, while I remember the missing thirteenth floor, I haven’t seen such in a building younger than about ~40 years. So, yes, I think the practice has been phased out. Anybody remember a truly great band, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators?

Now I’m curious (Oh, you knew you’d run into people like that around here); how old is your building?

Built in 1971. In Da Bronx.

Also, to clarify the OP, I’m not looking for a history of triskaidekaphobia, merely it’s expression in modern architecture.

Make that its expression in modern archtecture.

I’ve been in at least a couple of quite modern looking (less than 10 years old?) office buildings in Atlanta which lacked the Floor o’Doom. As an aside, it seems to me that not labeling the floor “13” would be more sinister to a thoughtful triskaidekaphobe–the floor which is labeled “14” is really the 13th floor {insert “Twilight Zone” .wav file here}. Yeah, you think everything’s fine, you’re really excited about your great new job working for Damien Industries, Suite 1400 of the brand new Brimstone Pointe office building…then you take a closer look at the buttons on the elevator…

The building in which I’m sitting right now is almost certainly less than 10 years old, and the 13th floor was skipped. I’ll try to find out how old the building is.

My building’s only 10-12 years old. No 13th floor.

Maybe it’s a Canadian thing, but I have never seen a thirteenth floor in any building, ever. Not one.

Any Dopers here in/been to Asia? Either China or Japan will often exclude the 4th floor because of similar superstitious motives.

…its only the 13th floor on a leap year…

Well, Asia is a mighty big region! :smiley:

However I have not noticed missing floors in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, etc.-- not to say that they don’t ever skip the 13th floor in the region, but I have not noticed it.

Every building I have worked in in Hong Kong had a 13th floor, and people here are quite superstitious–perhaps it is a superstition that never caught on?

Over here they practice feng shui which is a “holistic” analysis of buildings and building sites, and which examines the harmony of buildings and their sites with nature, spirits, etc. I have no doubt that in some cases the 13th floor could be considered inappropriate, just as could any other floor…

Although the whole 13th floor deal is pretty ridiculous in this day and age, I think the equivalent happens all over the world. In Hong Kong, there is a building that stands in between a low mountain and the sea. Since the mountain was believed to be the home of a dragon, they actually built a massive apartment complex with a huge gaping hole in the middle, the reason being that the dragon would not have his passage to the sea obstructed. The hong Kong variation of the 13th floor!

Maybe there are a few buildings in Japan that do, but I’ve never seen them. Every building I’ve lived in, worked in, or just taken a good look at while riding the elevator, has had a floor #4. While I wouldn’t be surprised to find that somewhere in Japan some architect had skipped it because of superstition, it’s not a general practice.


A tower we stayed at a few years ago in Thailand had no 13th floor; it was the first time I noticed the lack of it before, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen one since… maybe Australia doesn’t generally do it?

In Japanese, 4 (shi) is a homonym for death. 9 is also sometimes avoided, as a homonym for misery or pain. I know of a missing room 4, but not any missing floor 4s. My apartment building has a 4th floor. I live in room 505, and the neigboring rooms are 503 and 506. On the 4th floor there’s 401, 402, 403, 405 on up to 411. I have heard floor 4 is skipped in hospitals, but haven’t actually encountered one. The other main 4 superstition is with gifts - never give sets of 4.

A quick report from the field; I have just now concluded a visit to the thirteenth floor of the building in which I work and it is labeled as such.

I recently changed jobs from Newark to New York. In Newark I worked on the 13th Floor in a building completed ten years ago. I remember joking about it when I started there, and one of the partners told me that there was some controversy when the firm decided to lease the space. Now that I’m in New York, I work on the 14th Floor of a building that looks like it dates from about 1960 (butt-ugly white brick), and of course it’s a renamed 13th floor.

My best friend lives on the “14th” floor of an apartment building from the same period. He used to work in real estate and said it was very common in NYC high-rises to skip the 13th floor.

Come to think of it, my first legal job, also in NYC, was in a 1920s building with no 13th floor. So it’s a tradition with some lineage.

I used to work in a building with 13 floors. The elevantor only went up to the 12th floor; if you wanted to reach the 13th (which was just a conference room and observation area) you had to take the stairs up from the 12th floor.

I remember watching one of the Faces of Death movies wherein someone was killed because of a missing 13th floor (that and his own stupidity). He measured the heighth of one floor and multiplied it by 18 to calculate the length of a bungee cord for a jump off the 18 story building.

Caesar’s Tahoe is missing both the 13th floor and one other (probably 4th) in deference to its Asian customers. Covering all bad-omen bases for its superstitious clientele.

Or Tomnddeb for that matter. I’ve done all the google and metacrawler searches I could think of, I checked out some architecture sites, and I hve nothing to show for my efforts. This is such a widespread and odd phenomenon, you’d think there’d be bucketloads written about it.

Now I’m really curious. I’m going to start emailing architecture professors to see if they know anything.