What Happened To The 13th Floor?

Superstitious (song)

Superstitious (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was recently up at the “home office” in Toronto and accidentally boarded the “local” elevator.  As I crammed my way into the corner by the button panel, I watched as the dots started lighting up until 12 of the 18 floors had been selected.
Lucky me.

Then I noticed something I hadn’t paid attention to in a while…probably because I spend more time in field than in office buildings.

Also lucky me.  But without the sarcasm this time.

What I noticed was that there was no button for the thirteenth floor.  Now, I know this is a pretty common thing, but practicing the urgent art of noticing, as I am want to do, on this occasion it left me wondering “what’s up with that, anyway?”

Superstitions are not one of those things that we abandoned when we entered the industrial age:  like animism and ancestor worship.  And some have really stuck… our irrational fear of the 13th floor, among others.

I found a great blog piece that sheds some light on the cultural context of our irrational neuroses and rituals:

Here’s a sample for all you “cats” who like to try before you buy:

  • Black cats
    Image: Black cat

    Grlic  /

    OK, so now we understand the pull of the groundhog. But what’s the big deal with black cats, and why would it be wrong to let one cross your path?

    Duh. A black cat might be a witch who has transformed into the shape of a cat.

    “Cats fared badly (in the Middle Ages in Europe) … as people thought they were witches’ familiars. Black cats were believed to be witches in disguise,” writes Richard Webster in the reference work “The Encyclopedia of Superstitions.”

    “An alternative belief was that after seven years of service to a witch, a black cat would turn into a witch. Consequently, a black cat crossing your path was an indication of bad luck, as the devil was watching you.”

    And there you have it.  I have a “superstition” that says If you don’t get your first cocktail in between 5 and 6 PM that you can throw off your whole evening by working too much. 😉  So I end this blog here lest I miss my window….


Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, pop culture, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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