A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor by Ogden Nash (1955)
Reading Fiction, Tuesday’s Tale of Terror June 9, 2013
I’ve been looking for a good horror story about the supernatural and legendary thirteenth floor. In my search, I didn’t come up with much. The best one I found (and it’s an amazing verse) was by Ogden Nash, a writer best known for his droll and humorous poems. A Tale of the Thirteenth Floor reads like a short story but with rhythmic beat and rhyme.
Triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number 13. From Babylonian times to Norse Mythology to Judas being Christ’s thirteenth disciple, the number thirteen holds lots of superstitions of evil powers, bad luck, death, and madness. If you remember Superman Action comics, you might recall that the story was about alien tourists from another planet who resided on the thirteenth floor. Batman stories had a thirteenth floor in Gotham that held a secret society of assassins. But architects and elevator manufacturers are famous for triskaidekaphobia: over 80 percent of buildings do not have a 13th floor or the number 13 on elevator floor stops.
So, let the poet Ogden Nash export you to Times Square, to the gilded snare of a grimy hotel. A lowly bum, carrying a knife, enters the hotel. He is in search of “the rat” Pinball Pete. Old Maxie is the elevator guy and takes him to the thirteenth floor. But is there a thirteenth floor? Or is it hidden from human sight? We quickly learn that the 13th floor appears once a year on Walpurgis Night (Satanic Night). Old Maxie, he knows more than the old bum does about who resides on the thirteenth floor.
If anyone here has a favorite supernatural tale about the thirteenth floor, please post in the comment boxes. I’m still on the hunt!
Read the tale here at OgdenNash.org
You can listen to the audio version, read by Tom O’Bedlam on YouTube
At Evening Thoughts, William Adams has an interesting analysis of this poem. Read it at HickoryTreeblogspot
I did find a film “Nightmare on the Thirteenth Floor,” 1990. Quite dated, but still fun. James Brolin, Michele Greene, Louise Fletcher, John Karlen.
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