True Milestone: Issue #666 Special

I started getting notes last month about whether I had “special plans” for issue #666. “Not that the number actually means anything, but it tickles me to have noticed the landmark,” noted one, Jordan in S.A., Australia.

Indeed, I do consider it as much superstition as being afraid of the number 13. Wikipedia has a good article on the many variations — it addresses how the number came to be regarded with such disrepute; or should that be 616 that’s feared?

Trembling in Fear

The irrationality over the number is so great that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pushed through a change of U.S. Highway 666 due to its “infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road.” It’s now known as U.S. Highway 491. Americans laugh at “primitive” and “superstitious” people, then tremble in fear over an arbitrary number.

It’s not particularly surprising, then, that I was able to find enough “666” stories to fill an entire issue (perhaps with the exception of the last one, where I cheated — I couldn’t resist including it).

I even passed on a few, such as reports that Britney Spears had scrawled “666” on her shaved head and ran around the rehab clinic where she’s currently staying, shouting that she’s “the Antichrist” and trying to hang herself.

It just smacked of too much tabloidy speculation; there are plenty of photos of her with her head shaved, but none show any “666” marks. And indeed, adding such details is exactly what I’d expect of trashy tabloids. I didn’t find any American newspapers that reported on it — until a bunch of foreign tabloids ran the story, attributing web sites and gossip columns, and then American papers reported that foreign papers were reporting it.

That’s not the kind of audit trail I find compelling.

Then there was the Cardinal at the Vatican who recently warned the Pope that the Antichrist was coming — someone who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist.” I was attracted to it since it would help widen the story mix outside of the U.S., and it illustrated the irony of a mainstream religion trying to demonize the concepts of peace, being good stewards of our planet, and Christian unity. But Cardinal Giacomo Biffi has been crying wolf about the Antichrist for decades, and I just couldn’t find any passion in the story; so that one was dumped into the bit bucket too.

So even with more source items than I needed, it was still hard to come up with just the right mix of stories on one fairly narrow concept. But I think I pulled it off — even though I didn’t finish until 2:15 this morning!

My Post Office Box

Meanwhile, every month or so I get a note from a reader asking about my PO Box number: is that “on purpose”?

When I first was moving here, I was randomly assigned box 668. As I bent down to check it the first time, it of course occurred to me that it was “the neighbor of the beast,” and I glanced in 666’s window. There was mail in it: that meant it was in use. I smiled and went on with my business.

But about a year later, when I bent down to get my mail (tall guys always get mailboxes near the floor), I happened to notice that box 666 was closed off. I immediately went to the counter. By then, I knew the main gal there quite well.

Inner Conflict

“Connie, is 666 available?” I asked. “Yes…” she said, a bit hesitantly. She was already quite aware that much of my outgoing mail consisted of stacks of Get Out of Hell Free cards, but she explained that Don, the local postmaster, had instructed her not to rent 666 out, because he figured the good people of Ridgway would be offended by it.

“But on the other hand you’re asking for it,” she continued, starting to think about it more, “and besides: Don is on vacation,” which left her in charge. She handed over a form and I was granted the keys to the box right on the spot.

Considering the GOOHF cards are all about not taking things so seriously, having PO Box 666 being the address to order them from was just too perfect.

This year I’m having my tax guy change my address with the IRS to the box too, since every time I try to figure out the endless corporate tax forms, I curse the IRS to burn in hell. It’s why I have to have a tax guy: he is the buffer so I don’t actually say something like that to their faces.

The Locals Are Cool

So how offended are the locals by the number? Well, in 2006, when I passed a million GOOHF cards sold, the local newspaper wrote up the phenomenon. The lead-in to the story: who had Box 666 in town, and what was sold out of it.

I got lots of pats on the back when it came out. I imagine that a reasonable percentage of the people who read the GOOHF site get a chuckle when they get to the address, where “666” is in bold.

The superstitious may quiver that “666” is “evil” or something. I just laugh and move forward, because I have the ability to think.

- - -

This page is an example of Randy Cassingham’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. His This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

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27 Comments on “True Milestone: Issue #666 Special

  1. Randy, you’re going to hell for this one 🙂 and you’re gonna need a stack of goohf cards to get out. The issue was great. I fell out laughing and woke up my wife. Considering it’s 1:40am, she wasn’t too happy with me or you. Keep up the excellent work and don’t let the superstitious zealots get you down. Just throw salt over your shoulder, turn in place and spit three times to ward them off.

    Give your wife a GOOHF card — and tell her it’s from me. -rc

  2. Coincidence? Having just read my copy of the Premium edition, I exited my (text-mode) emailer to be greeted with this:

    Pine finished -- Closed "INBOX". Kept 666 messages and removed 1.

    It’s a sign. Be sure you have plenty of GOOHF cards, and follow Luqman’s procedure. -rc

  3. I am 54 years old and have lived in what can reasonably be called Christian countries (England and New Zealand) all my life. I have visited Canada, USA, most countries in Europe and other nations with a strong Christian tradition but before reading this article I had not been aware of any significance attached to the number 666, beyond it being a multiple of 111. 111 is known as “Nelson” and is traditionally an unlucky score for the England cricket team.

    I conclude that the Devil would be well advised to avoid playing cricket.

  4. GREAT ISSUE! I first got the issue on my cell phone email, where only the first 1k is downloaded. When I saw the first two stories, I couldn’t wait to get to my PC to see if you could pull it off. Fantastic job! Though it was tougher for you to do, I’m sure you got an extra dose of satisfaction getting this issue done.

  5. Love the 666 issue! My daughter is in Girl Scout troop 667! I assume they skipped 666 — a web search turned up no GS troops 666 (one Cub Scout troop 666, though!).

    Thanks for the item on Congressman Pete Stark… a tiny glint of sanity in government is always welcome!

  6. I greatly enjoyed the “666” issue. I have a certain fondness for the number as that was my mailbox number in college. I was rather proud of it, despite those that thought I was the devil child. I guess they didn’t realize that had nothing to do with the box number!

  7. Last week I was in the checkout line at Walgreens. The cashier had just finished ringing up the woman in front of me when she gasped and stepped back from the register. She asked the woman if she didn’t need some gum or something. The woman asked why and the cashier said that her total was $6.66 and she didn’t want to leave it that way. The woman agreed. The six of us in line waited while the woman picked out her gum and paid.

    I was next and, as i stepped up to the register, I muttered disgustedly that that business was ridiculous. Unabashed, the cashier replied that it was better to be safe than sorry. I thought to myself that it would be even better to be smart than stupid.

    Also, Randy, thank you for fitting in the article on Congressman Stark. I think it is important that as many people as possible hear about his declaration. I also hope that it does not affect his future activities negatively. So far, so good.

  8. Since you wrote about Hell, Michigan I thought you might be amused by my near-encounter with it. This happened back in about 1971-72. I was a student at Michigan State University in East Lansing working on my undergrad degree. I’d gone to my parents home in Cleveland, Ohio and was on my way home. It was winter and, you’ll pardon my saying, colder’n hell.

    Part way back to school the exhaust manifold on my car broke. Again. This made the car very noisy and very smelly but I could still drive. Because of the fumes, however, I had to drive with the windows down. There was no way I could cope with freeway speed wind chill(!!!) so I tried to route myself on slower state and county roads.

    Looking at the map, I realized I’d be going near Hell and thought it would be fun to see what it looked like. At least then I could say I’d been. I got near it, but never did find it. As near as I could guess most of the signs pointing the way had been stolen, or maybe the highway crew was just too embarrased to put any up in the first place. Anyway, as I now tell it, I tried to go to Hell and couldn’t get there. I guess that means I’m saved. 🙂

  9. Regarding your 666 issue: As a committed Lutheran, I simply have to say — (waiting for the sound of the other shoe to drop) — that I LOVED it!!! I always enjoy your puncturing of pomposity of ALL stripes. I really have no profound wisdom to contribute, just a strong keep the faith! 🙂

  10. A couple points on the 666 business –

    The changing of the name of U.S. Highway 666 might just have been a matter of economics. As the earlier reader wrote about missing Hell, MI, signs, I think the Highway 666 signs would be very popular around the college fraternity house or dorm room.

    As a teacher in a public school in NY, I know many teachers who anxiously await “55/25” (55 years old with 25 years of service) when they are eligible for retirement. A former colleague chose to work an extra year when she learned that her pension would be 66 2/3% of her final average salary. 66 2/3% is, of course, 0.666 .

  11. I enjoyed this week’s edition. The number don’t mean diddly to me, I find people’s attitudes about it as amusing as you do, and I thought you’d find the following interesting: My son, the first child born to me, came into the world on June 6th, 2006. My wife and I chose the date. Her actual due date was June 4th but the boy takes after his Daddy as well as looks like him, so he was late. We were in the doc’s office for a regular visit on the 6th and the doctor said we should come back the following Monday, if baby hadn’t debuted yet by then, and they would induce labor. We, knowing that many people had stayed out of work, rearranged appointments, and done other things to avoid being out and about on 6/6/06, asked if we could just go ahead that day and get it over with. The doc hadn’t considered the date until we mentioned it, so she checked with the hospital and, lo and behold, it wasn’t too busy to get us right in. At 8:04 PM, Sean took his first breath. Proud daddy, me.

    I imagine he’ll get some grief about the birthdate as he goes through life, but I think he’ll deal with it OK. I intend to do my best to teach him to think for himself and not pay much mind to the carping of strangers. Besides, he’ll know the reason his Daddy wanted him to show up on that particular date. 62 years before, the free men of the world launched the most ambitious military operation in history to free Europe from its oppressor. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor the memory of that day and all the people who brought it about and participated in it than to have my son celebrate his birthday every year on the anniversary of it. I hope he understands the significance someday.

    As for his name, I’d decided long before the boy was ever thought of what his name would be. A friend of mine since we were in junior high school died on Halloween 2004, one day past his 40th birthday. Sean Bednarz was a good man, a retired US Navy submarine sailor who’d spent over fifteen of his twenty years in service at sea, something that’s almost unheard of in the modern Navy. That’s where he wanted to be, though. Where else would a true sailor want to be, right? It cost him promotions because he was more interested in doing the job than getting his ticket punched for advancement. At his retirement ceremony a former commanding officer of his called it an injustice that he hadn’t made it higher than CPO. I was and am proud of Sean for his service and was looking forward to spending time with him after his retirement, time together that we’d missed out on while he was defending the nation, and hearing his sea stories. Less than two years after his retirement, he was gone. When his dad called me with the not-unexpected news, the first words I said to my wife, after I’d cried a while and then taken time to gather myself, were, “Someday, honey, if we have a son, I’d like to name him Sean.” She agreed without demur. I miss him every day, but have my son to remind me of him.

    I think Sean has a great daddy, and a lot to be proud of. I’m guessing he’s going to turn out to be an awesome man. -rc

  12. A few years back our home phone number had a 666 prefix. When we got the number, the phone company actually asked us hesitantly if we had any objections. I found it funny, even though as a Christian I’m apparently not supposed to.

    Every time I gave anyone my phone number, I got a funny look or a comment, most frequently a frightened ‘ooooh’ sound. I always replied, ‘yes, it’s true; Pacific Bell is the antichrist.’ If they persisted, I would say ‘do you honestly believe that both God and Satan have nothing better to do than play number games?’ before launching into a very brief explanation of the biblical meaning of ‘666’ as found in Revelation.

    I don’t have that phone number anymore since we moved, but my address is now 676, and I use the ‘neighbor of the beast’ line a lot. It happens that my next door neighbor’s address is 666 and his wife is not very nice. heh.

  13. My husband is a Presbyterian pastor and when he went to his first church in Amherst, VA, he discovered that the mailbox # was 666. Apparently the Baptist postmaster made the assignment as a joke on the Presbyterian assistant postmaster. The church still has that post office box and no one has trouble remembering it!

  14. Haha, your 666th issue reminds me that the Arizona DMV thinks I’m the Antichrist. In my Az ID (but I won’t say were) is the number 666. I once was writing a check and the cashier was writing this info on the check, noticed this number and actually crossed herself! And I personally DON’T think I look like someone who’d be an AntiChrist! People are so rude and silly nowadays.

  15. I got real kick out your 666th issue so I figured I’d stop by to give you a virtual pat on the back. Then it happened… After clicking on the link for this thread I noticed an ad for “Ann Coulter Emails” in 1 of your Adsense image boxes. How utterly perfect! Could there actually be some truth behind the 666 fairy tale?

    Anyway, many thanks for another divine division of THIS is TRUE 🙂

    Really? I didn’t see that ad on this thread. (I of course have no influence on what ads are shown; that’s all handled by Google.) But indeed I’ve seen some real “winner” ads on my stuff. Sometimes it drives me nuts. -rc

  16. I read the story of baby Sean and realized that my 1st born son is the exact same age. Wonder how many babies are born each minute…

    My son JD was born 8:04PM 06/06/2006, ok fine 6/6/6 if you will. I’m not a superstitious man, don’t care about 13th floors, or Fri. 13th, or walking under a ladder; if it’s secure. I’ve even broken a mirror or two. I do however believe the Bible and understand the sign of the anti-christ. Some believe it to be NERO, or even VISA if you do some weird number to alphabet conversions. We decided on a name for our son way before he was born, and a girl name if that’s what my wife delivered. I joked with the nurses about naming him Damien and such (from the movie the Omen).

    The only time I had finally had enough of the 666 bit was when they assigned us delivery room 6. I said, “I’m not superstitious, but seriously do I have to see that number all day?” They kindly moved us up a room to room 7. Only to be given the recovery room of 66 on the second floor. Sigh.

  17. For 35 yrs. I lived in Topeka, Kansas, home of the notorious Fred Phelps and church. In the early 1970’s I saw that PO Box One was available and have had that ever since.

    Every Topeka zip code starts out 666. Mine is 66601. Even though I have not lived there for 8 yrs., I still keep that box and have mail forwarded to me.

    Surely got lots of comments from folks about the number one post office box with that zip code. Guess I ought to advertise that p.o. box on eBay. 🙂

  18. Strange that some people are so afraid of the number 666 when it appears, and still give no credence to 999 (spiritual completion, also associated with the Christ) when it happens to show itself. I guess they need something, anything, to be afraid of, no matter how silly. Even to create a word like Triskaidekaphobia. Coming very soon, too: April 13, 2007 falls on a Friday, for those who want to start panicking early.

  19. I seem to remember that two or three years ago, there seemed to be a brief flurry of interest in which religious scholars seemed to indicate that the number of the beast was actually 616. The NPR show of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” made mention that this was an area code in Michigan; so if you wanted to see the devil, one could call Tuesday. The problem was that the President was scheduled to be in Michigan giving a speech that day. Apparently “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” had the original story and two successive apologies.

    As for the attack on the IRS, I do understand that the tax laws are complicated, loopholes, and are constantly modified. I know that given the same set of information that four accountants can come up with different results for taxes for a family (USA Today, Financial Section. 26 March 2007).

    While it is difficult to part with the hard earned money and the organization that collects and enforces the tax laws is universally hated, please remember that in the USA, CONGRESS is the legal government body that creates the tax laws that the IRS must implement, enforce, and educate the public.

    Yes, I curse the taxes also. I curse the “15 April” date. I also realize that this collection of taxes is the main method that the government uses to finance Defense, Social Programs, Road construction, Research….

    Again a wonderful issue. Thank you!

    Do you work for the IRS, Richard? But yes, point taken: you’re right that the basis of the tax code, and much of the complexity therein, can be blamed on Congress — the article you mentioned (which I found and added a link for) notes that for 2007, the tax code is 67,204 pages long. How can even a full-time tax professional know everything that’s in something that huge?!

    That said, federal agencies make the rules to comply with those laws, and they also are needlessly complex in many cases. (E.g., the IRS, not Congress, creates the forms. And if I, an intelligent, college-educated adult can’t figure out a basic form, it’s too complex.) -rc

  20. The comment made by Garret Kim about April 13, 2007 being on a Friday reminded me that my wife is scheduled for surgery on that very day. When the nurse noticed that, she offered to change the date. My wife laughed at her and insisted it stay on that date. We both find superstitions to be a great source of entertainment.

    Best of …um… luck to her! 🙂 -rc

  21. Reading all these tales reminds me that I used to walk the same route in Oakland, CA for exercise most mornings. I couldn’t help but notice that one house stood for months with a lonely “For Sale” sign out front. Its street number? You guessed it. It was also in need of a paint job, but so are a lot of other houses that sell like hotcakes in the Bay Area.

    It so happened that there was a gap between the numbers on the adjacent houses that was large enough to allow assigning a new street number to the house. I came back from vacation to find the house newly painted, numbered 668, and with a “Sold” sign out front.

    Coincidence? I think not… :^)

    So it’s not the “home of the beast” anymore, but instead “neighbor of the beast.” Whatever works, eh? -rc

  22. Damn! I waded through two pages of comments hoping that you would tell me the “‘real’ reasons religious people ‘respect’ the number” and you didn’t tell me.

    Ken refers to a comment I made in the next issue.

    I only approve comments that are worth the time to read — I always want things posted here to be respectful of people’s time (with the assumption that if they’re reading the comments, they’re at least interested in the topic). While there could certainly be such a comment about why someone “respects” the number 666, none have yet to be posted here to be approved that meets that criterion.

    Most, for instance, “informed” me that there’s “dispute” about “666”, that some believe it to really be 616. Yep: and I made note of that in the original post, and even linked to an article in the very first paragraph that goes into more detail. Those posts were redundant, and thus were rejected. But have faith, brother: we’ll get one eventually. -rc

  23. Re the teacher who chose to work an extra year because “66 2/3% is, of course, 0.666”. No it’s not; to 3 decimal places, it’s 0.667. A teacher who’s superstitious AND innumerate? Perhaps it’s a good thing she finally retired!

  24. I love superstitions.

    My parents were married on a Friday the 13th, have been married for 35 years, and managed to raise 4 relatively normal children into 4 relatively normal adults. My dad’s social security number contains 666. Our phone number for 5 years contained 666. I received a college scholarship based on an interview that was on a Friday the 13th. Three of my immediate family members have had minor surgeries in the last year, and they all scheduled their surgeries on Friday the 13th dates.

    So like I said, I love superstitions. I love to laugh at them.

  25. Years ago, I worked for a homecare agency with company cars, one of which had a license plate with “666.” I wanted that one, of course! The nurse driving it was freaky about the whole number thing, so gave it up easily. This is a supposedly educated person of science! I thought it was cool and ironic that the atheist nurse got to drive the devil car! Fun!

    It was probably the best car in the fleet, since it had the lowest miles. 🙂 -rc

  26. Poway Ca. Fire Dept is sponsored by Boy Scout Troop 666. I will see if a friend who lives in San Diego can send pic of sign in front of station. Made me think of This is True and how much I miss reading the complete weekly treasure you put out. THANK YOU AND YOUR CREW.

    Actually, Boy Scout Troup 666 is in a much more appropriate location: Washington D.C. Yes, really! It has been active since 1931, and sure enough they meet at a church (the Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist). Poway is the home of Troop 682. Meanwhile, yes: I have a terrific EMS crew to work with! -rc


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