I first read about the 23 enigma in Robert Anton Wilson's book "Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati". I wrote to Mr. Wilson to tell him of my own experience of the 23 phenomenon, intending to deliver the letter in person at the "Cerealogist Cornference" being held in Glastonbury in August 1991, where he was due to give a talk. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. What follows is based on that original letter:
My father died on 23rd. December 1990 in Krefeld, Germany. I went over the next day to join my mother and help with the arrangements for the funeral service and cremation. I had been discussing the 23 enigma with my father when I had last seen him in the summer of 1990. My mother had noticed the irony of the date when he died, and although the atmosphere was pretty grim, there were moments of light relief during my first hours there when we kept noticing things like the sell-by dates of items of food being the 23rd. and prices being 23 Pfennigs.
After supper, my mother was telling me about a trapeze-artist she'd become friends with. She and Dad had been to a circus performance during which she'd unfortunately suffered a serious fall which ended her trapeze career. Mum had visited her in hospital and they'd subsequently kept up a correspondence. She passed me the latest letter she'd received - and I noticed that her house number was 23.
Christmas in Germany is on 24th. December, and that evening Mum wanted to unwrap the presents anyway, and asked me to open Dad's. I didn't really want to, especially when it came to my own to him, which I left till last. It was an anthology of stories of the supernatural. When I got into bed that night, I decided I'd read out one of the stories to Dad. The first story - a ghost story - was set on 23rd. December.
We had several visitors over the next few days. Among them was Brian, who mentioned with pride that he had a large collection of shirts - 23 altogether. While he was there, Mum got out a personal stereo that dad had kept aside for one of my children. As she gave it to me, we were startled to see that the model number was BFM 23. Later, as we tried to sort out the teletext information on the T.V. to check on my brother's incoming flight from America, we noticed that the listings ran to 23 pages.
During the week a group of us had dinner in a restaurant. I ordered a pizza by name, and the waitress said, "Ah yes - number 23." When I reacted, the others wanted to know why, so I explained. There was some interest and some scepticism. Then Renate, who was sitting next to me, told us all about the collection that had been taken in Dad's office just before Christmas. The staff had been asked whether they wanted to have the money spent on a meal, or have it shared out equally amongst them. They chose the latter option, and the share amounted to 23 marks each. Renate realised with shock what she'd just said. At the end of the meal we agreed to split the total bill equally amongst us, rounding up to the nearest mark to cover the tip. The actual amount each came to 22 marks, 64 pfennigs, which, of course, rounded up to 23 marks.
Before the funeral service Aunty May (Dad's sister) and I went to the mortuary in the R.A.F. hospital in Rheindalen to pay our last respects. The bus route going into the hospital grounds was for bus number 23. As we parked, I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and noticed that the time was 10.23. I began to wonder if Dad was having a last joke. Then as we were led round to the mortuary, I couldn't help but notice that all the buildings were numbered. Surely the mortuary couldn't be - but it was - building number 23.
Mum had been asked by the padre to pick the hymns for the funeral service. She chose "The Old Rugged Cross" because Dad had expressed a wish for that at his funeral and "The Lord Is My Shepherd", not knowing, until I pointed it out, that its real title was Psalm 23. (Curiously, despite it having been chosen, it didn't appear on the order of service, so didn't get sung.)
The day after the service I was discussing all this 23 business with my brother, Peter. We were sheltering from the rain in a doorway downtown. He was a bit dubious about it all, until he noticed over my shoulder that we were standing in the doorway of building number 23.
When I left at the end of the week to return to England, Brian (of the 23 shirts) gave me a lift to Aachen to pick up the train to Zeebrugge. On the way we got lost in one of the worst thunderstorms I have ever experienced. After much frantic detouring (we were running out of time), we found our way back onto the motorway on spotting a sign which read, "Aachen - 23 Kilometers".
On the ferry, I was idly looking at my passport, when I realised that the issue date was 23rd. July. This prompted me to look for any other 23's I might have on me, although I felt instinctively that I shouldn't actually seek them out. I examined my boarding pass, which bore two serial numbers. The first added up to 24 and the second to 22. The one inbetween - the "missing" number - was, of course, 23.
When I arrived in Felixstowe I got a taxi to the railway station in Ipswich. As we set off the driver said into his microphone, "23 here..."
Dad's obituary appeared in "Sixth Sense", the newspaper of the British Forces in Europe, in January 1991 - in the edition of the 23rd. He also appeared posthumously on television, during an item on some ex-servicemen who were getting up a petition. While one of them was being interviewed, a photograph taken at his wedding years earlier was shown. Dad had been the best man - and there he was on T.V. Mum subsequently gave me the phone number of someone who could give us a copy of the video-recording of the news item. The first two digits of the phone number were 23.
Mum came over to England in 1991 to find somewhere to live. After three depressing weeks of looking we finally found the ideal place, in Sheringham in Norfolk. A new estate was being built on the outskirts of the town. There was one house left for sale. Mum was 99% convinced she ought to go for it, and was wondering whether Dad would have liked it. As we stood in the site office and I studied the map of the new estate, I asked the woman there if, since the plot number was 30, the address would be 30 also. No, came the reply, that was only the plot number. The house address would be number 23...
Mum bought the house.
(One final note - I wrote the original letter to Robert Anton Wilson on the day I received the tickets for the crop circle conference. It was as I began the letter that I first noticed the date - 23rd. August 1991. And the day I'm uploading this file - 23rd. April 1997.)
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