419ers one digit short of a conspiracy theory
The neighbour of the beast
Our illuminating piece yesterday on the figure 420 stirred a certain feeling of unease among some Reg hacks who noticed a chilling sequential relationship between this new number of the beast and Nigeria's favourite numeral: 419.
Were, we wondered, the two in some way related? Was the dark hand of conspiracy at the the controls of a black helicopter so vast that the mere thought of it might obscure the midday sun?
In short: yes.
419 is, as regular readers know, commonly used to abbreviate Section 419 of the Nigerian Penal code relating to advance fee fraud. Hence 419 scam, 419er, and so forth.
It's also the year in which the Visigoths invaded Spain (AD), a London bus route between Richmond and Hammersmith, an area code in northwest Ohio, and the number of a 2003 Scottish Statutory Instrument relating to regulation concerning the importation of peanuts from China.
A pattern is beginning to emerge.
Let's consider 419 as a date: 19 April in the US (41 September in the UK). On that day in 1012, St Alphege* was martyred in Greenwich, London, while in 1587 Sir Francis Drake specifically chose 4/19 to sink the Spanish fleet in Cadiz harbour. Here's more, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- 1692 - Bridget Bishop goes on trial in Salem, Massachusetts for witchcraft.
- 1904 - Much of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is destroyed by fire.
- 1927 - Mae West is sentenced to 10 days in jail for obscenity for her play Sex.
- 1961 - The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba ends in failure.
- 1971 - Charles Manson is sentenced to life in prison for the Sharon Tate murders.
- 1980 - In The Hague, Netherlands, Johnny Logan wins the twenty-fifth Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland singing What's Another Year.
- 1993 - The 50-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside Waco, Texas, USA, ends when a fire breaks out. Eighty-one people die.
- 1995 - Oklahoma City bombing: The Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, is bombed, killing 168.
That's right: the event, considered by many to be the blackest of the 20th century, took place on 19 April 1980, when Johnny Logan secured the Eurovision crown, effectively sounding the death knell for a musical Pax Britannica under which the citizens of Europe had enjoyed years of high-quality, undemanding melody.
But it was long before 1980 that the number 419 made its first artistic appearance. The warning from history came in the form of 1933 film The Girl in 419 - a melodramatic tale of hospitals, gangsters and vigilante sawbones.
What's the significance of the year 1933? It began badly when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 30 January. On the very same day, the first radio episode of The Lone Ranger was broadcast. The series would eventually run for 2,956 episodes, a figure which, when divided by 419, gives 7.05: the exact time of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster on 2 May - an event which in turn played no small part in the Paraguayan declaration of war on Bolivia on the 10th of the same month.
And if you're still not convinced, consider this: it was in 419 BC that Sparta attacked Argos. Quite why a Greek city state would want to assault a UK domestic goods retail chain is unclear, although this transcribed stone tablet from the time closes the conspiracy circle:
GOOD DAY SIR
I AM MRS MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR, WIDOW OF THE LATE CHARLES TALYOR OF ARGOS. DUE TERRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING SPARTAN ATTACK ON CITY (READ HERE PLEASE)
AFTER WHICH I ESCAPE TO SAFETY ONLY ABOARD RED CROSS CHARIOT WHILE HUSBAND THROWN INTO GORGE IN GHOSTLY DEATH INCIDENT, I AM LOOKING TRUSTWORTHY PARTNER TO COLLECT 13,000,000 (THIRTEEN MILLION) GOLD PIECES DEPOSITED BY DEAD HUSBAND FOR SAFEKEEP IN ATHENS BANK FACILITY.
FOR YOUR HELP AND ASSISTANCE I WILL GIVE 5% (FIVE PER CENT) OF ALL SHECKELS AFTER DUE EXPENSES SUBTRACTED. DUE TO THE CONFIDENTIAL NATURE OF THIS BUSINESS, I ASK DO NOT DISCUSS WITH OTHER PERSON.
IF I CAN, GOD HOPES, TRUST YOU IN THIS MATTER, PLEASE RESPOND ON CLAY TABLET FOR SPEED.
YOURS IN DESPERATE,
MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR (MRS) ®
* St Alphege was a noted cleric captured in Canterbury by marauding Danes who demanded a three thousand pound for his release. When they didn't get the cash, they hit him with an axe and then beat him to death. Whether the Danes in question had acquaintances in Lagos is not recorded.