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The mystery of number 23

Numbers are magic. Or so they seem. Associated with a lot of things, different numbers hold different connotations. Some are more appealing, while others are considered evil or unlucky.

While the world remains undecided on some numbers, there are a few that generate more curiosity than others. For instance, 8, regarded as the infinity number signifies the never ending circle of life. It is said to be neither lucky nor unlucky. Similarly, 11 is deemed powerful because of the consecutive appearance of the number 1, which doubles its effects.

And then, there is one number which remains most mysterious yet–23. Not only does it hold the reputation of ‘a powerful number’, but also finds itself surrounded by myths and conspiracies. For instance, 23rdians are a group of people who believe in the mystical powers of 23. And when it comes to exploring conspiracies, cinema is never far behind. The Jim Carrey starrer Number 23 shows a man turning into a lunatic following his obsession with this number.

“From then on Burroughs began noting down incidences of the number 23 and wrote a short story 23 Skidoo.”

Those who believe in the power of 23 see its recurrence every day and everywhere. They add up numbers associated with significant events across the world to reach 23. Consistency obviously takes a backseat when it comes to calculations though. For example, at times, the date of birth is added to reach 23. Other times the hours and minutes, or maybe just the numbers of the year are added to get the magic number.

British travel author Barnaby Rogerson also talks about the 23 enigma in his book Rogerson’s Book of Numbers. He says: “In Tangier in 1960 the beat writer William Burroughs met a sea captain called Captain Clark, who boasted to him that he had never had an accident in twenty-three years; later that day Clark’s boat sank, killing him and everyone on board. Burroughs was reflecting on this, that same evening, when he heard a radio report about a plane crash in Florida: the pilot was another Captain Clark and the plane was Flight 23. From then on Burroughs began noting down incidences of the number 23 and wrote a short story 23 Skidoo. Burroughs’s friends Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea adopted the ’23 Enigma’ as a guiding principle in their conspiratorial Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Let’s take a look at some of the theories around the number 23 that have been doing the rounds on the World Wide Web.

By adding up the whole date

The date of September 11 (09/11/2001) terrorist attacks on the United States (9+1+1+2+0+0+1) adds up to 23. Similarly, the Titanic sank on the morning of April 15, 1912 (15/04/1912), which also adds up to 23.

By only the year

Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the American rock band Nirvana, was born in 1967, which sums up to 23. He died in 1994 which also adds up to 23. Meanwhile, The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin was published in 1859 which also adds up to this magic number.

By appearance of the number

Even though there is debate pertaining to his date of birth, it is widely believed that William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616.

On March 14, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death 23 times by Roman senators in the Curia of Pompey. While there is no confirmation of economist John Forbes Nash’s fascination with the number 23, he is said to have been obsessed with it.

These facts may not mean much to skeptics, but many others end up looking for it and find it anywhere and everywhere. Some people find faith in God, some in their work. Yet others choose to find it in numbers.

To each his own.


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