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Are Many People Superstitious about the Number 13?

It’s difficult to imagine that an entire industry would succumb to the fear of the number 13 (technically called triskaidekaphobia), but high-rise builders in the United States and Great Britain routinely avoid labeling the 13th floor in their buildings. In Manhattan, for example, more than 90 percent of the condominium skyscrapers built higher than 13 stories call the 13th floor something else. Sometimes the elevator buttons go straight from 12 to 14, or that floor is labeled "M" (the 13th letter of the alphabet), or the entire 13th floor is used for some other purpose.

CityRealty in New York City has estimated that of the 629 mid- and high-rise condo buildings in Manhattan, only 55 are brave enough to label the 13th floor. Gabby Warshawer, director of communications at CityRealty, says that it’s all about maximizing sales. “It's not an issue that the real estate community is very concerned with," she says, "but from the developers' perspective, even if there's a .01 percent chance it'll affect prices, why take a risk at all?”

These facts may floor you:

  • During the early days of skyscraper construction, New York architecture critics warned developers not to exceed the height of the 13th floor. They predicted increased street congestion, ominous shadows, and lower property values.

  • Some buildings skirt the issue in other ways. Some use Floor 13 for a building’s mechanicals, some create an entire pool floor, and some locate a restaurant there. The Trump Tower in Chicago, for example, uses the 13th floor as a mezzanine.

  • In Asian countries, there are similar floor-naming phobias. The Chinese skip any floor with a four -- 4, 14, 24. etc. In Mandarin, the pronunciation of “four” is frighteningly similar to the Mandarin word for "death." Eight, on the other hand, signifies prosperity.

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