What Is the Meaning of the Number 23?

The number 23 spray painted on a wooden fence.
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According to "Rogerson's Book of Numbers," the belief that the number 23 holds mysterious, symbolic significance originated with writer William S. Burroughs after he had a peculiar experience in 1960. He met a sea captain with the last name of Clark who boasted that his 23-year career at sea was without incident. Later that day, Clark's boat sank, killing everyone on board. In the evening of the same day, Burroughs heard news of the crash of a plane, flight 23, piloted by another Captain Clark. Afterward, Burroughs began noting his observations of the number, and he also wrote a short story titled "23 Skidoo."

1 Examples of the "23 Enigma"

After reportedly interviewing Burroughs and hearing about his fascination with the number 23, author Robert Anton Wilson also began noticing the frequency of the number, which he related in his popular book series "The Illuminatus! Trilogy," published in 1975. Since then, significant 23s have circulated the Internet. For example, there are 23 pairs of chromosomes in human DNA; legend has it that Julius Caesar died from 23 stab wounds; and April 23 is both the day of birth and death for William Shakespeare.

Based in Kansas City, Andrea Adams has been been writing for the non-profit sector since 2006. Her areas of interest include higher education, social issues and cultural phenomena. She has a Bachelor of Science in social policy from Northwestern University.