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The number 13 and superstition (even in elevators)

Superstition has often accompanied humanity, since the dawn of history. It is certainly curious that in 2023 there are still traces of superstitious attitudes even inside an elevator.It all starts with to widespread fear surrounding the number 13, known as triskaidekaphobia, in American and Western European culture, many architects still opt to omit the number, skipping straight to the 14th floor or renaming the 13th floor instead.

In a 2007 Gallup poll, 13 percent of respondents (in USA) admitted they would “feel uneasy” staying on the 13th floor, making the decision to omit the feared floor a logical economic decision for hoteliers and developers. According to a study by, apartments located on the 13th floor of their building sold 18 percent less frequently.

According to a 2002 estimate compiled by a well-known elevator brand at the time, as many as 85% of the same company’s elevators in the United States did not have 13th floor buttons. In New York, a study of residential condominium buildings found that only 5 percent have a 13th floor.

The missing 13th floor isn’t the only superstition common to architecture. During construction, when buildings reach their maximum height, builders still place “topping trees” or wreaths at the top of the structure. The evergreen tree can be traced back to Northern European traditions meant to honor tree-dwelling spirits, either expressing gratitude for the lumber used or acknowledging the sacrifice of the land. Today, construction crews around the world still hold “topping out” parties and sign structural pieces to celebrate the occasion. The gargoyles common on medieval European churches and buildings, in addition to draining rainwater away from the buildings, are reputed to ward off evil spirits, as are China’s curved roof lines.

According to folklore historian Donald Dossey, the unfortunate nature of the number “13” stems from a nordic myth about a meal among 12 gods in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who had not been invited, arrived as the 13th guest and had Höðr shoot Baldr with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Dossey: “Baldr died and all the Earth went dark. All the Earth was in mourning. It was a bad and unfortunate day.