Friday, February 23, 2007


Hola Amigos and Amigettes,

I've just come from a viewing of the newly released film, the Number 23.
The film stars Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen. Carrey offers an edgy side as Walter Sparrow, a dog catcher who gets lured into obsessing over the number 23 after his wife Agatha (Madsen) buys a novel for him for his birthday. Sparrow gets sucked into the story, which contains eerie similarities to his own life. Rather than spoil the film (especially for Mr. and Mrs. Kanniff, both of whom I've bothered about this subject), which I recommend for its suspense factor, I'll just touch on a few of the 23s that appear throughout.

Sparrow's birthday is February 3rd, or 2/3 as we write the date numerologically.
His house number is 1814. You can slice that up in the following ways: 18 + 1 + 4 = 23.
1 + 8 + 14 = 23. Also, 18 + 14 = 32, which is 23 reversed. There are all sorts of mentions to historical 23s, such as births and deaths of notable persons, 23s that happened on important dates in history, etc.
At one point, a professor friend, played by Danny Huston, reveals more of this enigma to Sparrow (such as the fact that the each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to the fertilized egg), who becomes even more obsessed.

My own experience with this number is more of a slightly more than passing curiosity.
I began to notice what I perceived as an inordinately large number of 23s around me.
I'd see them on TV, in movies, dates and whatnot. Then I read the late Robert Anton Wilson's classic book, Cosmic Trigger. He explored this topic in much more detail, which made me think there was more to it. I'd mention it, in a humorous tone, to friends, who naturally scoffed and cried "coincidence". But no sooner had the words subsided that another 23 would appear for all to see, and shake their heads in dismay.

At one point, in the first Wayne's World movie, when Wayne and Garth are in Rob Lowe's high-rise apartment building, they marvel at how high up they are and ask what floor they are on, to which Lowe replies "the 23rd". My friends then turned in their seats in the theater and asked me in a mock (?) accusatory tone "how the hell are you doing that?"

For those of you who are truly interested in doing your own research, there is the Disinformation web page devoted to the many facets of this phenomenon. Here are a few teasers to whet the appetite:

  • The '23 Enigma', as discovered by William S. Burroughs, presents itself as a good omen for some - disaster for others. Trying to convey the phenomenon to the uninitiated is as easy as describing the night sky to someone who has been blind from birth.
  • When Burroughs was in Tangiers, he knew a Captain Clark who ran a ferry over to Spain. One day, Clark told Burroughs that he had been doing the route for 23 years without an accident. That day, the ferry sank . . .that evening, while Burroughs was thinking about the incident, a radio bulletin announced the crash of Flight 23 on the New York-Miami route. The pilot was another Captain Clark!
  • Burroughs began to keep a scrapbook of 23s. When writing about Dutch Shultz, he realized that when the New York City gangster had put a contract out on 23-year-old Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll, who met his end on 23rd St. Shultz himself died on October 23rd, 1935. As Robert Anton Wilson writes in 'Cosmic Trigger', the same night, Marty Crompier, another gangster was shot, but not fatally. "It's got to be one of them coincidences," he told police.
  • Speaking of October 23rd, Seventeenth century scholar Archbishop Usher reckoned that the earth was created on October 23rd, 4004 BC, while the Mayans believed the world will end on December 23rd, 2012 (which was mentioned in the film).
Have fun, and don't blame me if you can't get to sleep tonight...

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