It seems appropriate that we all should pause this week to remember Robert Anton Wilson on the 5th anniversary of his death. The world is a little less fun without RAW, and his cosmic humor/insights/insanity.
When I wrote something about his departure from this plane, a remembrance more than an obituary in 2007, I naturally called it "23 Skidoo." That's what he'd done, and there was no two ways about it.
I still think that someplace, Bucky Fuller, Timothy Leary, Charles Fort, and Robert Anton Wilson are deciding whether it's time to play supercheckers or Texas hold 'em.
I corresponded with Robert Anton Wilson (RAW as he sometimes was called) from the 1970s through the early 1990s, until his health and his in-and-out self-exiles moved him near-and-far from many people. In the waning years, like many, I kept in touch via friends of friends, as it were. Wilson had a universe of friends, as was shown by Boing Boing's pre-death appeal that snatched Wilson from falling off the cliff of poverty as he was dying. We all loved the guy. But it was the intellectual part of him that really appealed to me.
RAW's writings in the late 1970s did greatly impacted me. How much? Well, let me just mention this one piece of my private life. When I married my second wife (now ex-) in 1980, after we both read Cosmic Trigger
Because we wanted to get married on May (2+3 = 5), 23rd, two 23s, in honor of Robert Anton Wilson's book or more properly, it's concepts and Fortean linkages. Back in 1980, you would have had to read Cosmic Trigger to learn why the number 23 was important. Today, as a legacy to RAW, the 23 enigma is a concept that has drifted rather significantly into popular culture. It has so much so that there appeared, soon after Wilson's death, a movie starring Jim Carrey, entitled, of course, The Number 23. (See
You will note the reflective factor of the number 23 rather compellingly for it really does appear in various random scenes in films, where, for example, a detective is knocking at a door and it is just happens to "Apartment 23." Or you flip a page in a book of cryptozoology accounts, and staring out at you is a report of the one and only Batsquatch sighting of April 23, 1994, by Brian Canfield, who was driving his truck in the foothills near Mt. Rainier (where, it should be noted, Kenneth Arnold saw the "first" flying saucers in 1947). Canfield described the thing he almost hit with his vehicle as a nine-foot-tall "Bigfoot-type creature," with blue-tinted fur, wings, tufted ears, bird-like claw feet, and a face like a wolf but without fangs, although its white teeth were very visible. The creature's eyes "were yellow and shaped like a piece of pie with pupils like a half- moon." You just can't make such things up.
RAW would figure the Cosmic Jokester was behind such an account, and move on to the next weird account to examine.
Of course, in my own writings, along with the late John A. Keel and others interested in Fortean matters, I have written often of the name and number games that influence our lives. The 23s, 33s, and yes, 11s, heighten our awareness of the twilight language surrounding us.
RAW decided to depart on the 11th, a number that has become over-analyzed perhaps, in the wake of 9/11, but then what are we to do with the fact that some numbers do seem significant, again and again. Eleven is one of them.
Does it mean anything? Who knows? But reading about what RAW thought about it all, where he mixed fiction and fact, kept all of us on our toes. Today, with Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, blogs, emails, texting, and more, it all sometimes seems overwhelming. We need a RAW to cut through it all and give some direction through this noise. I miss him.
Loren Coleman is the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, founded in 2003.
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