13th Floor Elevators

No 13th Floor -- Madeo.jpg

Thirteen, please.

By Rob Madeo

soapbox badgeHere's how we have fun in my building: when someone -- particularly someone who looks like a visitor -- offers to press the button for your floor on the elevator, you tell them, "Thirteen." They hunt around the panel until they realize that there is no thirteenth floor and one of two things happens: either you both have a good laugh or they get flustered and glare at you like you're an idiot. So far the results are about 50-50.

Like a lot of 20th century skyscrapers the building where I work, at the corner of State and Pearl, has no thirteenth floor. Well, it does have a thirteenth floor, but it's labeled fourteen. This was the norm at one time and you'd have been hard pressed to find a thirteenth floor anywhere in America. Today it sounds as quaint as throwing a pinch of salt over your shoulder, but when skyscrapers were a new thing we were a more superstitious people. And it wasn't that long ago, really.

I went up to an office on fourteen, and told Danielle H. I was doing a story about the thirteenth floor. "You mean THIS FLOOR!" She was well aware she was on thirteen -- in fact she knew the very first time she rode up on the elevator that her destination was not fourteen, but really thirteen.

"So, have you ever noticed anything unusual or mysterious on this floor? Has something unlucky happened, maybe?"

She didn't miss a beat. "No."

Today, modern office buildings like the Corning Tower and the Office of the State Comptroller have a thirteenth floor. The Hotel Albany (formerly the Crowne Plaza) doesn't just have guest rooms on thirteen, it's where you'll find the most exclusive accommodations.

But even if superstitions ain't what they used to be, people haven't forgotten them.

Cheryl Robinson, who works on the thirteenth floor of a downtown state office building, said she's not particularly superstitious, but the thirteenth floor is a regular topic among her coworkers. "Especially when we first moved here, everyone joked about it, like 'Uh-oh! We're going to the thirteenth floor.'"

Back at 90 State, architect Bob Kurzon almost seemed a bit sad that the tradition of the thirteenth floor had become a thing of the past. "There was never any practical reason for it besides people thought it was bad luck, but the mythology has been lost on the younger generation."

Later that day I stood on fourteen (thirteen) to see if I could sense anything unusual. I listened closely, but all I heard was a toilet flushing. I asked the guy coming out of the restroom if he'd ever had anything unlucky happen in his office.

"Well the elevators were out one day and I walked up. That was pretty unlucky, even though it's just thirteen flights and not fourteen."

Rob on the Soapbox:
+ On the things we Miss (Albany)
+ New Year's Rulin's
+ Jeffrey and Me
+ Something wicket this way comes
+ Growing where the cows come home
+ The Albany parking lot district
+ The Earl of Pearl

Comments

My building at 625 broadway was built in 2000 or 2001 and it doesn't have a 13th floor. The top floor where the commissioner and other executives sit is the 14th floor though.

the 13th Floor Elevators are an awesome psychedelic rock band from the 60's - no offense, but i was kind of disappointed when this post was actually about riding to the 13th floor on elevators...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYh5oMDlWwQ

I was highly disappointed when the decision was made that the new DEC building, supposed to be a center of rational decisionmaking, succumbed to superstition and bypassed the 13th floor. If I recall correctly the decision was the developer's, not the agency's, but it still seemed fantastically stupid.

Rob,

I love it!! Too bad you can't be like candid camera and get their expressions on video. That would be funny!

My house and the neighborhood around it were built in 1941. I live at #11 and my next-door neighbor lives at #15.

Our neighborhood has no #13 houses in it either. Every street just skips over it to #15.

All I can think of is Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Only that school didn't actually have a 13th floor. I think you had to jump down a non-existent flight of stairs or something

@karamia, I had the same reaction. It was good to know the possible origins of the band name.

My mother used to live in a building that was in an area with a very high number of Chinese immigrants. Not only did the building not have a 13th floor, but it was also missing at least one other - I can't remember which ones exactly, but I think it is the number 8 that is considered back luck. Can anyone confirm/deny that?

That's interesting. Now I want to see what the rooms look like on the 13th floor at the Hotel Albany.

I live on what I like to call "Lucky 13." In one of our elevators, the button says, "13" but in the other it says, "PH." I guess the elevator company was superstitious?

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