The 23 enigma: Captain Clark welcomes you aboard!

The ’23 Enigma’, as discovered by William S. Burroughs, presents itself as a good omen for some – disaster for others…

Well, we don’t have any explanation. We’re not into saying, This is why”. I don’t come to any conclusion. I simply think it’s interesting.”

– Genesis P-Orridge, interview in ‘Tape Delay’ by Charles Neal, 1987.

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 Ussher reckoned that the earth was created on October 23rd, 4004 BC, while the Mayans believed the world will end on December 23rd, 2012.

Hexagram 23 in the ‘I Ching’ oracle means “break apart.” 23 in telegrapher’s code means “break the line.” Aleister Crowley defined number 23 as “parting, removal, separation, joy, a thread, and life . . .”

Parents each donate 23 chromosomes to the fertilized egg . . .the human biorhythm cycle is generally 23 days, and it takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate through the human body.

And so on . . .

This inexplicable fascination with 23 has become a mind-virus, seeping into the music of ‘Psychic TV’, the art of H.R. Giger, the comics of Jamie Hewlett and Grant Morrison, the literature of Robert Anton Wilson, Arthur Koestler, Umberto Eco, and countless others. The pages of the ‘Principia Discordia’ supply another feast of 23s. It now reached a point where one has to be sharp to differentiate between the 23s meant as signposts for those in the know, and those which appear for no obvious reason, in the damndest of places. The Internet is these days littered with lists of historical and scientific ’23s’, some of which are not so ` – i.e. mere coincidence, some mind-boggling – beautiful synchronicity.

The ’23 Enigma’ has its skeptics – those who say that it’s a focusing of attention on just one number. This may be true, but as mentioned above, some folks have fun with 23s – the day-to-day synchronicity that raises a private smile – while for others it can be sheer hell, and we’re not just talking about Burroughs’ two Captain Clarks. Genesis P. Orridge (his band, ‘Psychic TV’, released 23 albums on the 23rd of each month for 23 months) told the members of another British band, ‘Cabaret Voltaire’, about the enigma. They showed interest, but skepticism. Two days later, Genesis received a phone call from them:

“You bastard! . . . We’ve come to Holland to do three gigs, and in ever hotel we’ve had room 23, and the gig on the 23rd was a complete disaster. And everywhere we turn, there are 23s. What have you done?”

“Well, I did say you’d start noticing it,” answered Genesis.

Originally published on

Beckham and #23

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Wiki: 23 Enigma

Loadsmore 23s

Yet More 23s

#23 goes tabloid in the Mirror

Universe is 23% Dark Matter, apparently
UPDATE: The Number 23: The Movie

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.


  1. Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 10:07:41 EDT
    Subject: sombunall
    Many people will think about Robert Anton Wilson today. Many people will feel suddenly healthier. Many people will laugh more than usual today.
    When tempted to get upset, many people will become aware of their breath and smile.
    Many folk will notice 23’s today and wonder about 420, 666 and 1132, etc.
    Oh, the loving . . . .
    Many folk will get high in many many ways.
    Folk of all ages will read Finnegans Wake and listen to Beethoven and read Ezra Pound and John Ashberry and feel a gentle buzzing in the center of their forehead and a strong sense of intuition.
    Many folk will feel empowered to turn on, tune in and take charge of their lives and the destiny of their planet today, July 23, 2003 C.E. (aka 23 Athena, 82 p.s.U., etc.).
    Sombunall the particles in sombunall the folk in sombunall Universe will glide together to a gentle shuffle played by Jerry Garcia and friends at some hideaway in time.
    Others will read Dante and wonder about his use of the number nine, number nine, number nine . . .
    [And Monica Lewinski will celebrate her 30th birthday today… –Finn]

  2. Bob Nystrom had #23 for the New York Islanders,he played for 14 years his jersey hangs in the colliseum with number 9 his best freid Clark Gillies. 23-9=14

  3. i don’t know when it started, but it did, and i’m haunted by the number 23. I still don’t know is that good or bad. I usually see it while glancing at the watch, without thinking about it. There were some other events that were rather puzzling, and it seems as if everything is in beautiful synchronicity. I don’t know… yet…
    There’s going to be a movie called ¨The number 23¨ in 2007., and it should be rather interesting… Greetings to all readers!

  4. ok this was soo wierd the other day i was walking along and i noticed 2 cats running with my dog and then i though to myself i have three brothers and two parents. It was soo creepy because look at this
    the parents multplied by ten is added in there so it equalled 26 and i could be cool to

  5. My uncle David died the 23rd of June and the day after he died we went on the computer and typed in 23 and lots of sayings poped so i dont now if 23 is a good thing os a bad thing [2/3=.666 the mark of the devil?

  6. Been reading up on this 23 thing (don’t know what else to call it really)for a few hours and seen what people have had to say. So as im reading some people say you can notice it any time anyware so im thinking to my self sure… i just happened to look at my stack of cd’s. (i have 2 stacks next to each other) and i decided it would be funny to count how meny cd’s are in each stack. the number is 23…(i must say it did freek me out a little). Next i was telling a mate of mine i had pre – ordered my PS3 to realise the date of witch it is being brought out…the 23rd of march (In the UK) So yeah dont really know what to think :S

  7. my name is tyler matthew lynch tyler equals 80 matthew equals 90 and lynch equals 62 80 + 90 + 62= 232
    my birthday, july 28 1988 7-28-88 7+28+88=123

  8. I’m a writer…My name when I write a poem, I sign 23 because it has too many meanings in my life. I was born on december 23rd (the same day Mayans thought the end of the world). I leke listening Silvio Rodriguez Music; he wrote a song using that number. This year 2007, I’m 23 years old and as well as 23 those pergect, strange days in my life.

  9. hi, i am rebecca, 15 years old. i have just started studying this 23 enigma stuff. i dont know much yet, but i have been seing 23s every where. i have been seeing 23s for 3 years now, and im started to get obsessed. the more i look, the more i see.. and im starting to get worried. i believe it is trying to tell me some thing. i know i am still very young, but i know what i am talking about. i know what i am seeing.. and i am seeing way too much for this to be a coincidence. 3 years ago, i thought i was the only one seeing this. i was studying omens and every thing trying to figure this out. i never found it until i found out theres a movie about 23s. thats when i found out i wasnt the only one. so i typed in 23 and a page popped up about 23s. i started studying things off that page. i got here so far. i was wondering, would you be able to help?

  10. Realy this is a fancy of imagination, 23 is just a number, the crucial point is you are trying to see it anywhere, forget it! It’s insane because many people have problems with 13, 7 and many others. I know a guy who detest the number 8 because is his astrology this number means failure.The Crazyness is so big he’s had lost a job because he was the 8. I was reading Rebbeca’s e-mail and she said she was seeing the 23 everywhere, what certainly shows she is mentally sick. I can say this is vicious and doesn’t serve to nothing. what’s 23? imagine if you think 7 is a powerfull number including some of this number in History, You will find many facts in Time where the 7 is. Think on it, I’m seeing many people getting obsessed with this number and all i ‘ve known have had trouble to rehabilitate

  11. hmmm …. interesting.
    I have always beleived 23 is my lucky number because my birthday is the 23rd, and the year I was born (1976) 1+9+7+6 = 23, then this movie came out and I thought I would look it up.
    Personally I beleive in the power of the mind – ie: if you think 23 is lucky then it will be, but if you think it’s unlucky then it will be.
    I would like to point out that #27 seems to be a bit unlucky for legendary musicians … people who died at 27:
    Jim Morrison, Jimmy Hnedrix, Janice Joplyn, John Lennon,
    that’s all I can think of right now, but the list goes on!
    Happy 23-ing!
    the 23est.

  12. my story is simple:
    i never knew about so called “23 Enigma”, but always had something good about 23, it felt close maybe because my BD is on 23rd of Feb.
    about some 2 years ago I noticed that end of my mobile number that I have allready for 10 years is …779 7+7+9=23
    for 18months I was searching for my favourite car VW G3, “20Yahre GTI Edition” TDi, there is only 250 of them produced, and finally I found it!!! i registrated it with number 023, when I was looking at VIN number of my car i discovered that there are 6 numbers in the end 096134, so 0+9+6+1+3+4=23
    more over, first registration ever of my vehicle took place on the 23.07.97
    on registration papers we have somekind on identification nr, if I put all number together it is 32, so backwards 23
    number of my house I live in is 46, 2X23
    I fully agree with people saying its just an obsession and that depends on what you turn your attention, but still, its wierd that too many people are turning attention to the same thing!?
    “W” has 2 points down 3 points up, on standard keybord “W” is situated under 2 & 3, “W” is 23rd letter in alphabet etc…
    I relly advise to everyone whos interested to scan for 23 enigma, unfortunately too much information is repeating:(
    I´ll try to say in touch!

  13. My brother and I were looking for a place, we wanted a sign and suddenly two women walked out with red sweaters that said 23. so I, not seriously, said we go where 23 meets 23.
    So we found a place…on June 23rd, a house that was built in 1923, our total that we have to pay is 2300, the original address is 23 lemon street, now its 529 Lemon street (23× one, oh well), the check number for the deposit was 1013…

  14. My brother and I were looking for a place, we wanted a sign and suddenly two women walked out with red sweaters that said 23. so I, not seriously, said we go where 23 meets 23.
    So we found a place…on June 23rd, a house that was built in 1923, our total that we have to pay is 2300, the original address is 23 lemon street, now its 529 Lemon street (23× one, oh well), the check number for the deposit was 1013…

  15. I just want 2 add that the Shakespear and Mayan calander things were not complete.
    Shakespear died, not only on the 23rd, but in the year 1616. 16+1+6=23
    Same thing with the mayan calandar, which ends on the 23rd of the year 2012, 20+1+2=23

  16. The number 23….scary right?
    I never really thought much about it, then my brother watched teh film with Jim Carrey in (which is AWESOME!) Then he worked out that my name, my birthday and teh month I was born in added up to 23, its in my favourite colour, and it just spooked me out, I suppose its just how your mind and imagination takes the number…..we make our own destiny I guess, Though the number is starting to spook me out a lot!
    Anybody else officially freaked out by it?
    Let me know!

  17. ahem…..@ Jo,
    Sorry to say this but I think you may be missing the (more) obvious…
    9+11= 20
    2+1 = 3

  18. Hey. My name is Scott Matthew Lambie, I’m 23 years old. My birthday is 4th Febuary 1984. 1+9+8+4=??
    I’ve just watched ‘The number 23’ and ive alwayz considered myself to be a fairly-level headed person. After watching the film, i immediately sat down to phone a take-away. As i ordered a chicken chow mein, the person recieving the all said ‘Yes sir, a number 23’. I nearly hung up. After i had finished my meal, i waz watching tv when i saw an advertisement for a programme i wanted 2 watch. i only realised it was on channel 23 once it had finished. The programme? 23 ways to get away with murder!! im now currently actively seekin clinical, professional help, as i think i need it!

  19. Yo.
    I’m doing an essay on this for my English class, the whole 23 argument thing.
    So far, I’m writing up the side of the argument that believes in it. I need ONE more worldwide tragedy, though, that connects to 23, that I can use as an example. It cant be a terrorist attack, cause I’ve got loads of them. I’ve got the sinking of the Titanic and the crashing of TWA Flight 800, but I feel like I really, really need one more on the tragedies side of things. Help??

  20. Hi im andy.
    Im 23
    My bday 23/05/1985
    My dick is 23 inches long.
    I live on numba 23.
    I like the letter W.
    My soka number is 23.
    My friend was admited to hospital on 23June.
    I have 2 fingers on one hand 3 fingers on the other…
    I masterbate 23 times a day..

  21. ive found number 23 has a bad sign the last 3 house numbers ive lived at is 69 divide that by 3? the other two are num 5 2 and 3 make ? my birthday is the 8th august 23 days before the end of the month my mum died was the 5.09.2007 5+9+2+7 =23 all 3 addresses ive lived at ive had a bad time i could go on forever if you find time email me

  22. Hi,
    My name is Kat, i have a strong interest in this subject, and am wishing to talk to people that believe in this enigma. I want to try and find out just how strongly people believe in it, and what effect it has had on their lives.
    I would be truly grateful if someone would get in touch with me about it.
    my email address is
    thank you

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