If you are a frequent traveller and adventurer, then at one point or another you may have had to sleep in hotels and if you are lucky, you may have had a chance to be in a large one that holds several stories. If that is the case, and you are a keen observer, you may have noticed that some hotels miss number 13, either in terms of floors or hotel rooms. They usually go straight to number 14 or 12A. This is not a mistake, trust me, the construction workers were not terrible at math. Several factors come into play and we are going to look into some of them.

Fear of number 13: Triskaidekaphobia

A few months ago someone commented that there is a word for everything you may experience in this world.

A perfect example is a severe fear of the number 13, known as Triskaidekaphobia.

People with this condition exhibit acute fear when they encounter the object of fear which in this case is the number 13. Some of the symptoms include nausea, difficulty breathing, fast heartbeat, sweating, and panic.

Skipping the 13 in hotels helps people with the Triskaidekaphobia disorder especially when in elevators or rooms with the number 13. 

Superstition and 13

It is believed that the fear of the number 13 dates back to one of the earliest written texts – the Code of Hammurabi which is also known as the Babylonian code of law.

The story goes that the writers of the code left out the 13th law on the list even though the list has no numbers.

Nevertheless, the superstitious fear of the number 13 did crop up.

In Norse mythology, Loki is said to be the 13th Norse god. For the noobs, Loki is the trickster god and deity of mayhem and mischief.

He is one of the most well-known gods of Norse mythology. He is at least half-giant but some say he was full giant and snuck his way into becoming a god. Anyway, I digress. Back to the number 13.

History of the matter

Around 1885 when skyscrapers started being built, it was rare for a hotel or building to be more than 12 stories high.

This is because superstitious builders believed that building past the 13th floor would increase street congestion and ominous shadows, and lower the property values.

Eventually, they saw that it was possible to build taller buildings but the lack of a 13th floor persisted.


In Christianity, Judas Iscariot was the last person to join Jesus’ 12 disciples and inclusive of Jesus that made him the 13th member of the brigade.

And  at the last supper was said to have betrayed Jesus. Here we see again that 13 is equated to badness. 

Is it everywhere?

It is not everywhere but it depends on where you are and how much effort society has put to cater to people with such superstitions.

In China for example, instead of the number 13, the number 4 is considered an unlucky number. This is because it is nearly homophonous to the word death.

Some buildings in Asia omit floors and rooms containing 4, similar to the western practice of not having a 13th floor.

In a place like Hong Kong, East Asian and Western cultures blend because some buildings omit both the 13th floor and the 4th floor. 

An honorable mention goes to the movie ‘Friday the 13th ‘that messed up my childhood and I wouldn’t have made this article without it.

Written by Fidel Gatimu