Day of reckoning?
What 06/06/06 adds up to
June 5, 2006
By Jay Dedrick, Rocky Mountain News
Numbers can't be scary, can they?
Well, sure, when you were opening last February's heating bill, or gassing up the SUV before the first road trip of the year, the numbers that followed the dollar sign were plenty frightening. But an inherently spooky number?
Actually, yes, and it'll be staring at us from the calendar tomorrow:
Thirteen may be unlucky, but 666 is positively demonic. And Tuesday's date gives us the first appearance of 06/06/06 as a calendar date in a century.
History tells us that nothing spectacularly evil befell the planet on June 6, 1906. So there's no precedent for locking your doors, staying inside all day and nibbling away at your stash of protein bars.
Yet we can't help but pause and wonder what that figure's occurrence means for us.
"It's kind of arresting, isn't it, when you see that number?" says Doug Groothius, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary. "It makes you think. It captures people's attention, because they hear a lot of rumors."
The number's ominous origin lies in the Bible. The New Testament's Revelation 13:18 specifies 666 as the mark of the beast. Christians have long debated what exactly that means, but it's generally thought to refer to an ungodly, oppressive, human leader: the Antichrist. It could be a member of an unholy past government - Nero often drew attention as a likely suspect - or someone yet to be born.
"It's interesting to note that, biblically, the number of divine completion is 7," Groothius says. "So 666 aspires to be divine but falls short."
The ample room for interpretation surrounding the number has made it cultural shorthand for the most evil of evils, with the digits long popping up in books, movies and music whenever the going gets sinister.
S. Brent Morris is managing editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, the largest magazine devoted to Freemasonry, itself an often-misunderstood, rumor-plagued institution. Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Freemasons (Alpha, $18.95), he was a mathematician before entering publishing.
"People have this real fascination with numbers," Morris says. "Part of it is, something you don't understand becomes mystical and important to you - 'Gosh, there's deep meaning here and I don't understand it, so it must be important.'
"And one of the great allures of this type of biblical symbolism is, 'Maybe I can uncover the secret meaning of the numbers!' "
So, what secrets lie in those three numbers? Here are some ways it has registered in the popular consciousness over the years:
THE STUFF OF HORROR FILMS
At the movies, the wildly popular Rosemary's Baby (1968) offered up the chilling idea of Lucifer being rocked in a nursery in modern-day New York. Then came 1976's The Omen, which pondered the childhood of the Antichrist, a tyke with anger-management issues who's being raised by a U.S. dignitary. The boy, Damien, literally has a 666 birthmark. What release date did 20th Century Fox choose for the new remake? Of course: 0 6/06/06. (Watch for a review Tuesday in Spotlight.)
DA VINCI DECEPTION
In Dan Brown's blockbuster The Da Vinci Code, protagonist Robert Langdon wonders to himself about the glass pyramid at the Louvre and President Francois Mitterrand's stipulation that it be built of exactly 666 panes of glass - "a bizarre request that had always been a hot topic among conspiracy buffs who claimed 666 was the number of Satan." The rumors may have happened, but not the construction quirk: Official reports list the number of panes at 673.
In the dark Star Wars prequel Revenge of the Sith, the evil Palpatine uses code to initiate the assassination of all the good-guy Jedis throughout the galaxy. His instruction: Order 66 - just a digit short. Other big-screen appearances: Elizabeth Hurley's devil-as-fashion-model character in Bedazzled boasts a pager number of 666. That's also the three-digit code that unlocks the coveted briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
HIGHWAY TO HELL?
The Southwest was served for years by U.S. 666, a road winding through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Three years ago, the highway's number was changed to the innocuous 491. Why? Because hell-raisers were ripping off the demonically iconic road signs faster than they could be replaced.
FIRE ON ICE
National Hockey League veteran Miroslav Satan wears No. 81 for the New York Islanders. But that didn't stop the pranksters at ESPN and Sports Illustrated from assigning him No. 666 in their Web site databases. Then there's the number of points the winger - whose name is pronounced "suh-TAN" - racked up this season: 66. Hmmm . . . .
Just in case audiences don't suspect that villainous scenes are about to unfold in Andrew Lloyd Webber's gothic musical The Phantom of the Opera, the auctioneer in the show's opening refers to the pivotal chandelier by its lot number: 666.
A best-selling series of Christian thrillers, the Left Behind books, dramatize the end of the world as suggested by the book of Revelation. It took 10 years, but the series finally has a too-good-to-be-true release date for the latest installment, which hits stores Tuesday. Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins will sign the book that day - at 6 p.m.! - at the Mardel store at 4887 S. Wadsworth Way, Littleton. Call 303-904-6015.