Your number’s up and it’s 23

Charles Cowling



The American writer William S Burroughes  met a seaman, a Captain Clark, in the 1960s who told him that he had been sailing for exactly 23 years without mishap of any kind. That very day, Clark’s ship was lost at sea; it went down with all hands. As Burroughes pondered this news he heard a news bulletin on the radio reporting the crash of an airliner in Florida. The pilot was another Captain Clark. The flight was Flight 23.

Ever after, Burroughes became mildly obsessed with the number 23. He discovered, for example, that the bootlegger “Dutch Schultz” (real name: Arthur Flegenheimer) had Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll assassinated on 23rd Street in New York when Coll was 23 years old. Schultz himself was assassinated on 23 October. Charlie Workman, the man convicted of shooting Schultz, served 23 years of a life sentence and was then paroled.

According to Robert Anton Williams in the Fortean Times, “Heathcote Williams, editor of The Fanatic, met Burroughs when he (Williams) was 23 years old and living at an address with a 23 in it. When Burroughs told him, gloomily, “23 is the death number”, Williams was impressed; but he was more impressed when he discovered for the first time that the building across the street from his house was a morgue.”

Is there something peculiarly fateful about the number 23?

It is, after all, the number of a psalm often sung in… funeral services.

Nirvana star Kurt Cobain was born in 1967 and died in 1994. 1+9+6+7=23 and 1+9+9+4=23

However, the number 23 seems not to have been all bad for David Beckham. He wore the 23 shirt for Real Madrid and lives to tell the tale.

The number 5 is gaining ground. There are all those lists of 5 top regrets of the dying. Here are 5 facts about Americans’ views of life-and-death matters. But it’s easier to track this one back to its source: Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages of grief, of course. 

Do you have favourite deathly digit? 


7 thoughts on “Your number’s up and it’s 23

  1. Charles Cowling
    Ru Callender

    Lovely to see the magic number finally gracing the GFG. Never heard of Discordianism? Shame on you Charles. All hail Eris!

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    ‘On the seventh day, He rested’. Seven even sounds restful. 666 sucks and it sounds like it does, too.

    Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Charles Cowling

      Not if you’re Chinese, Richard. They think it auspicious in all manner of good ways.

      Charles Cowling
    1. Charles Cowling
      Charles Cowling

      How right you are, Tony. As for Discordianism — thanks! Never come across that before. A philosophy with some attractions.

      Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    27 is a bad number if you are a rock legend. Jimi, Janice, Marc…

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    tim clark

    Yup. Zero. Flatline.

    Charles Cowling

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