The 23 Enigma
The "23 Enigma" was first popularized by Robert Anton Wilson (R.A.W.), but Bob credits author William S. Burroughs with discovering the phenomena. The 23 Enigma is, simply stated, that "the number 23 shows up in the damnedest places." R.A.W. freely admitted that the 23 enigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy--if you feel that any number is significant, you'll pay more attention when it comes up, which will make the number seem all the more significant. Of course, knowing that doesn't make the enigma any less fun (and occasionally spooky).
Robert Anton Wilson has cataloged hundreds of 23's over the years and countless web sites have added their own discoveries to the list. Trying to put together a comprehensive list of 23's would be fruitless. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the instances of 23 that I personally find most interesting and/or amusing.
1. Burroughs 23's
This is the 23 that started it all. According to R.A.W., Burroughs knew a ship captain named Clark who bragged that he had never had an accident in his 23 years of sailing. Later that day, Clark's ship wrecked, killing everyone on board. As Burroughs considered the irony, he heard a report on the radio about a plane crash: Flight 23, piloted by a Captain Clark.
2. Jim Carrey and JC23
According to Hollywood.com, actor Jim Carrey was introduced to the 23 enigma by a friend and started noticing the number everywhere. Eventually, he was inspired (by the 23rd Psalm) to re-name his production company "JC23." Not long afterwards he landed the lead role in the movie The Number 23. The movie began filming on January 23, 2006.
3. April 19th
A.k.a. 4/19 (4 + 19 = 23) was the last day of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the date of Charles Manson's sentencing, the final day of the Waco siege, and the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Conspiracy theorists, start your engines!
4. The Bard
William Shakespeare was (many believe) born on April 23, 1564 and died on April 23, 1616. The First Folio, which contains the most reliable versions of many of Shakespeare's plays, was first published in 1623.
Human beings have 46 chromosomes--23 from the mother, 23 from the father. Gender is determined by the 23rd chromosome.
6. 23 Positions In A One Night Stand
If anyone's studied this kind of thing, it's Prince.
7. John Dillinger
Dillinger is a character in R.A.W. and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! Trilogy, one of the early works that popularized the 23 enigma. In the books, Dillinger often used the phrase "23 Skidoo!" (an actual 1920's slang expression meaning roughly "get out while the getting's good"). In real life, the Chicago theater where Dillinger was killed by the F.B.I. was located at 2323 Clark Street.
8. Et Tu Brute'?
Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times.
9. Air 23
Michael Jordan was #23.
10. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
The earth's axis is tilted just a bit over 23 degrees (23.5, to be exact). The earth's tilt is the reason for seasonal variations in temperature.
There are 23 axioms, according to Euclid.
12. Men on the Moon
The first moon landing was at 23.63 degrees East. The second landing was at 23.42 degrees West. The missions were Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 (11 + 12 =23)
13. The Templars: Not Just Characters In A Crappy Book By Dan Brown!
The organization had 23 Grand Masters. Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master was arrested (along with many of his brothers) by Phillip IV of France on October 13, 1307 (10 + 13 = 23).
14. Fire Walk With Me
In Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer's murder took place on February 23.
William Wallace was executed on August 23, 1305.
16. More Illuminati Connections
Adam Weishaupt founded the Bavarian Illuminati in 1723.
17. The (Decimal) Number of the Beast
18. A Beautiful Mind
John Forbes Nash (of Russell Crowe movie fame) was obsessed with the number 23. He published 23 scientific articles.
19. Hail Eris!
2 + 3 = 5, which is a sacred number to the Discordians. Discordianism, of course, was a major inspiration for the Illuminatus! Trilogy.
20. Biblical 23's
The Creation concludes in Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 23. Adam and Eve had 23 daughters. Psalms 23, ("The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.") is one of the most commonly quoted Bible verses.
21. AOL Illuminated?
The maximum number of users allowed in an AOL chat room is 23.
9 + 11 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 1 = 23
23. The End of The World?
December 23, 2012 marks the last day of the Mayan calendar. According to some people, the world will end on that day.
Other Numerical Enigmas
As stated previously, any number assigned significance will seem to show up more frequently than other "insignificant" numbers. Kevin Smith fans will notice 37's wherever they appear. Readers of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy know that 42 is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and are bound to take note of it. Potheads, of course, will note occurrences of 420 (42 x 10). Finally, some folks are prone to notice numbers that are associated with birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates.