Our Peculiar Relationship with ‘666’, an Ancient Evil in the Modern World

The Number of the Beast is 666, by William Blake (1805) in the collection of the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

In the iconic 1976 horror film The Omen, an American ambassador and his wife unknowingly adopt the baby Antichrist following the death of their newborn son. As the movie progresses, young Dameon’s parents realise something is incredibly wrong with their toddler who throws a passionate fit outside of a cathedral, inspires monkeys at the zoo into a frenzy, watches as his nanny gleefully hangs herself at his birthday party (though not directly his fault), and passively attempts to murder his mother. His father confirms his suspicions that Dameon is the Antichrist by uncovering the most damning evidence of demonic association: a birthmark on his son’s head of the number ‘666’.

666 is associated with the root of all evil, and for many this evil is linked with the Christian figure of the Devil. 666 means torment, damnation, and (much like its fellow ‘unlucky number’ 13) bad luck. It’s been appropriated by heavy metal artists and angsty teenagers, shoe-horned into films and novels, and become so ingrained in our popular culture that even those without a Christian upbringing side-eye the number when it appears in the wild. Some people are so terrified of the number that the fear of 666 is an official phobia known as hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. And while the origins of the number’s meaning stem from Biblical Times, its influence on the lives of people around the world continue to this day. 

Origin of the Devil’s Number

The Book of Revelation, traditionally attributed to John of Patmos and written sometime around 96 CE, is the bizarre fever dream finale of the New Testament. Nods to Revelation exist abundantly in contemporary popular culture and countless pieces of art have been created throughout history that visualize depictions of mankind either being lifted into God’s loving embrace in heaven, or tortured in the fiery pits of Hell. And within Revelation we find the origin of the infamous number 666 and the source of an ancient fear that continues on to this very day:

The Beast with the Seven Heads and the Beast with the Lamb’s Horns, by Albrecht Durer (1497–98) in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

He also caused everyone (small and great, rich and poor, free and slave) to obtain a mark on their right hand or on their forehead. Thus no one was allowed to buy or sell things unless he bore the mark of the beast—that is, his name or his number. This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is man’s number, and his number is 666.

Revelation 13:16-18 (New English Translation)

The above passage from Revelation 13 tells of the dramatic emergence of the Two Beasts in John’s apocalyptic vision. The first beast rises from the sea with seven heads and ten horns, and with the physical characteristics of a leopard, a lion, and a bear. Believed to represent the Antichrist, the first beast is granted full authority by the dragon (Satan) and is worshiped by humanity as he slays Christians and commits blasphemous acts against God.

The second beast then rises from the earth and is described as having “two horns like a lamb and [speaking] like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11). While this second beast is often interpreted as the False Prophet (encouraging humanity’s worship of the first beast), it has also been interpreted as another representation of the Antichrist. The second beast proceeds to brand willing humans with the number 666, known as the mark of Satan. This represents the person’s rejection of God and devotion to the beast and appears on a person’s forehead or right hand. Those who do not allow themselves to be branded with 666 and choose instead to continue their devotion to God are unable to participate in the world’s economy and eventually killed. To accept the mark of the beast, according to Revelation, is to turn one’s back on God. 

Like the rest of The Bible, Revelation has been translated and re-interpreted countless times throughout history, meaning there isn’t really one ‘true’ reading of any particular passage. But for Christians and non-Christians alike, the number 666 has become something terrible and cursed, an association with an otherworldly evil, the betrayal of God, and the end of the world.

But because 666 is a normal number, it’s going to exist naturally out in the world. You can probably recall the last time you saw it, since we can’t help but note its presence despite our own religious backgrounds (or lack thereof). Let’s examine some instances 666 has appeared in our day-to-day lives, how we react, and how we ultimately interpret it.

6 June 2006, the Day of the Devil

For someone with hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, any dates that involve the number 666 would be understandably frightening. Some expectant mothers experienced concern after being informed that their due date landed squarely on the ‘demonic’ day of 6 June 2006 (6/6/6). According to an NBC News article, many women were cancelling and rescheduling C-sections that fell on this date, and others were requesting labor to be induced the following day. Religious implications aside, concerns that their children would be bullied for their peculiar birthdate also played on many parents’ minds. 

But the majority of new moms saw the date as just a regular day and chose to give birth regardless of superstition. Robbie Dean-Met was one such baby born on 06/06/06 at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, England who also happened to weigh 6 lbs and 6oz when he was born 6 minutes before 6 o’clock. When Robbie was 6 years old, he was interviewed by Teesside Live where he shared the love of his unique birthday and fascination with the number 6.

Robbie wasn’t the only one to have fun with this particular date. Not coincidentally, the remake of The Omen was released on 6 June 2006 (6/6/6) along with Strummin’ with the Devil, a bluegrass cover-album featuring original Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth. And the town of Hell, Michigan (yes, that’s a real place!) threw a party to celebrate the ‘day of the devil’ with thousands of people in attendance. 

But as far as apocalyptic or ‘evil’ events occurring on any dates in history that involves 666 in any form, there has never been any sign of the end of the world or the arrival of the Antichrist. If he’s planning to return and plunge the world into eternal darkness, perhaps including ‘666’ in the date of the event makes things a little too obvious – he has to keep humanity on their toes!

The Physical Manifestation of 666

Love it or hate it, 666 is nothing more than a number. And because of this, it will continue to make frequent appearances in our day to day lives in the same way as any other number. But despite the ancient origins of hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, the presence of 666 in the most mundane of places has the ability to draw both curious and concerned reactions from us.

For instance, U.S. Route 491, which serves New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, was originally named U.S. Route 666. While ominous, this wasn’t the result of anything more than a traditional numbering system enacted when the route was first upgraded to a highway in 1926. Despite following the standard numbering system, Route 666 gained a reputation for being the ‘Devil’s Highway’ and rumors began circulating that the highway was cursed. Frequent fatal accidents along the New Mexico stretch didn’t help these accusations.  But when it was announced in 2003 that the route would be changed to 491, theft of Route 666 signs unsurprisingly skyrocketed. The St Petersburg Times reported that by 20 July that year every single Route 666 sign had been stolen.

Inevitably, as with Route 666, the number is going to eventually appear in many residential neighborhoods and office buildings. In 2006, the parks office at 666 S. Main Street in Wheaton Park District, Illinois suddenly changed the address of their building to 660 S. Main Street. The former executive director stated that he allowed the change after being repeatedly asked by district staff and community members to rid the building of the so-called evil number.

And famously, American President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan changed the address of their LA home to 668 St Cloud Road from 666 St Cloud Road. Across the country in New York City, 666 Fifth Avenue was recently changed to 660 Fifth Avenue in 2021.

Even buses aren’t safe – in June 2023 bus number 666 who’s route served Hel, Poland changed the route number to 669 after receiving unrelenting complaints from Christian groups for almost a decade. On various online forums and in the comments of news articles, debates flourish questioning whether changing the number of anything involving 666 is complying to a silly superstition or a necessary step in the war against a looming satanic threat. 

Whether or not we disagree, the practice of removing uncomfortable numbers isn’t a new practice. In many hotels and apartments around the world, the 13th floor has been redesignated as the 14th floor – a practice that can be confirmed by examining the buttons in an elevator. Fear of the number 13, called triskaidekaphobia, rivals that of the fear of 666 and is perhaps even more prevalent since its origins aren’t Biblical. 

Other instances of numbers being shunned can be found in China where citizens are known to avoid floors that include the number 4 (4th, 14th, etc) since the word sounds like ‘death’ in Mandarin. As with the number 13, you are likely to find high-rise buildings skip out on floors associated with 4s if you’re visiting China. And in South Korea where the number four also sounds similar to  ‘death’ in the native language, newly constructed buildings will occasionally replace the number on the fourth floor with the letter F. All of these changes are also often applied to room and apartment numbers within the same buildings.

Conversely, according to Chinese numerology 666 represents luck and ‘smooth sailing’ since the Mandarin word for ‘6’ sounds similar to the words that mean ‘successful’ and ‘smooth’. This has been adopted by Chinese internet and gaming culture as a prevalent slang term to imply someone has done a good job or to wish an opponent good luck. So if you’re playing League of Legends with a bunch of Chinese players who spam ‘666’ at you in the chat, they aren’t cursing you but giving you a solid pat on the black for excellent gameplay!

Do You Fear the Devil’s Number?

We may roll our eyes at someone with a phobia of something as silly as a number. But we should consider our own reactions to seeing 666 randomly during our day-to-day lives. So let’s ask ourselves: would we buy a house, cash in a lottery ticket, postpone the birth of our child, question the price of a luxurious item, if the number 666 was somehow involved? Would we continue on without a care in the world, or would we secretly wonder if we are special enough to receive a sign of the brewing apocalypse? How much power are you willing to give a number?

Sources and Additional Reading

Revelation chapter 13, English Standard Version. www.bibleref.com

“Hell no: mothers don’t want babies born on 666.” NBC News. 6 June 2006.

“Born on 06.06.06, weighing 6lbs 6oz and now Middlesbrough boy turns 6.” Teeside Live, 7
June 2012.

Profita, Hillary. “See You in Hell, Michigan.” CBS News, 6 June 2006.

“U.S. 666 is gone, but signs went first.” St. Petersburg Times, 20 July 2003.

Goldsborough, Bob. “Parks office deep-sixes ‘666’ from its address.” Chicago Tribune, 4 October 2006.

“End in sight for Poland’s bus route 666 to Hel.” BBC News, 14 June 2023.


Ashley is a history lover, paranormal enthusiast, and easily swayed sceptic with a BA and MA in the History of Art. Originally from Canada, Ashley lives on England's Isle of Wight (one of the most haunted islands in the world!) and enjoys internet deep dives into peculiar histories from around our weird and wonderful planet.