Lost/Cursed Numbers

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The numbers or cursed numbers are a set of numbers that recur multiple times in Lost. These mysterious numbers have grown to become a prominent, recurring plot line on the show and is one of the more supernatural aspects of the series. The numbers are first mentioned in "Numbers", although they do appear on many occasions before that episode.

Due to the numbers being one of the biggest recurring mysteries on Lost, criticism was pointed toward Damon Lindelof, who revealed in a TVGuide interview that the true nature of the numbers will never be revealed. This is one of the more persistent criticisms of the series. J.J. Abrams has used a similar non-disclosure technique with another recurring number, 47, which appears in nearly every episode of Alias.


The Valenzetti Equation

In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis resulted in the world coming to the brink of nuclear war. With their respective nations having just faced the very precipice of mutual assured destruction, the United States and Soviet Union — under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council — secretly sought Enzo Valenzetti out as a disinterested third party and charged him with the creation of an infalliable mathematical algorithm for the prediction of Armageddon.

Valenzetti's result was the Valenzetti Equation, an equation that predicts the exact number of years and months until humanity extinguishes itself, whether through nuclear fire, chemical and biological warfare, conventional warfare, pandemic disease or over-population. Valenzetti gave numerical values to the core environmental and human factors in his equation: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. It is felt by some, such as Alvar Hanso, that only by manipulating the environment and finding scientific solutions will these core factors be changed and thereby give humanity a chance to survive.

The United Nations Security Council buried Valenzetti's findings, but the Valenzetti Equation was the catalyst for the creation of the DHARMA Initiative.

The Numbers

In 1988, slightly more than 16 years before the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, Danielle Rousseau's science team picked up a mysterious short-wave transmission from the island. The transmission was merely six numbers repeated over and over again: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. She wasn't the only one who heard them. The same transmission was also picked up by a U.S. Navy long wave transmission monitoring station where Leonard Simms and Sam Toomey worked.

Sam Toomey used the numbers to win a $50,000 (Australian) prize for guessing the exact number of beans in a jar — no one had come even close to the correct number in the 40 years the contest was running. After that, bad things started to happen to those around Sam Toomey. He moved to the middle of nowhere to try and limit the damage, but eventually he killed himself with a shotgun to make the bad things stop.

Leonard Simms wound up at the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, where he met Hugo "Hurley" Reyes. Leonard kept repeating the numbers over and over, and they eventually became ingrained in Hurley's mind. Hurley played the numbers in a lottery which hadn't had a winner for 16 weeks. He won 114 million dollars. After that, bad things seemed to happen to those around him too, but in a way that made him profit.

Hurley became convinced that the numbers were cursed, so he went to see Leonard, and eventually he found Sam Toomey's house in Australia and learned about the transmission but nothing more. He headed back home to Los Angeles on Oceanic flight 815, which departed from gate 23 on what was planned to be a 16-hour long flight departing at 2:15 P.M. and landing in Los Angeles at 10:42 P.M.

One interesting thing of note is that, when the numbers all appear together, they always appear in order.

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

  • The numbers are inscribed on the mysterious hatch in the jungle.
  • The latitude 4.815 and longitude 162.342 are located in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia.
  • Boone found a map of Africa on the smuggler’s plane. Latitude: 16° 23 Min.42 Sec, Longitude: 4° 8 Min. 15 Sec. will put you in Niger, pretty close to where the map showed.
  • When Hurley's car is breaking down on his way to the airport, the numbers all show up on the dashboard.
  • Hurley passed a girls sports team on the scooter in the airport that had all the numbers in order.
  • Desmond enters the numbers into his computer terminal upon waking up.
  • The bottles Desmond was using for injection have "CR 4-81516-23 42" written at the top.
  • The bottles holding the 'medicine' for Claire's baby have "CR 4-81516-23 42" written at the top also.
  • According to The Map in the Swan Bunker, there were system-wide outages of the Dharmatel Intranet on 4.08.00, 8.15.01, & 01.06.05.
  • A notation near the center of The Map in the Swan Bunker gives x4, y8, z15 as the coordinates of a subterrainean conduit.
  • A notation underneath the Flame Bunker on The Map in the Swan Bunker is for the square roots of 16, 64, & 225 (i.e. 4, 8, 15)>
  • In the flashback for the episode "Two for the Road", three of the police cars are numbered 15, 16, & 23 and 42 (on the right side of the screen).

The Cursed Number 4

  • The number of years before the crash on the island (B.I.) that Locke was paralysed.
  • The number of years B.I. that Sam Toomey committed suicide.
  • Number of years before Hurley's lottery win that his grandfather had a pacemaker put in.
  • Leonard was playing Connect Four when Hurley visited him.
  • The number of years B.I. since Sawyer made his birthday wish.
  • Number of circles on the Oceanic "O" logo.
  • The number of Aces (value 1) that were on Boone’s t-shirt. Also, Boone had another t-shirt with Asian letters that say 84.
  • The number of refills Shannon had for her inhaler in Boone's luggage.
  • Number of Oceanic planes on the mobile in Claire’s dream.
  • Number of months Michelangelo stared at marble “working” in Locke’s story. Boone then asked if they were going to stare at the hatch for 4 months.
  • Number of spots on Michael’s raft.
  • Locke tied Boone up about 4 miles east of the caves.
  • Jack's bride Sara had "44" on her pyjamas
  • A speed that Hurley’s rental car displayed as it died.
  • Number of guns in the Marshall's case.
  • Number of months that passed between Claire's two visits to the psychic.
  • When being lowered into the hatch, Kate counts to 5 to allay her fears. She gets up to 4 before the light comes on.
  • Number of years of college that Sun took to get her degree in art history.
  • After the alarm has sounded, the number of minutes available to enter the code into the computer.

The Cursed Number 8

  • Number of years Michael worked in construction.
  • Walt was born in August, the 8th month. He was born on the 24th of August. 24 is 8 + 16.
  • Number of years B.I. since Michael was hit by the car.
  • The number of years Michael didn't see Walt.
  • The number of people who died in a fire in Hurley’s shoe factory in Canada.
  • The number of months Claire was pregnant when the plane crashed.
  • Boone had a t-shirt with 84 on it in Asian letters.
  • Number of months Locke was talking to Helen before the crash.
  • Number of days Charlie went without his guitar before Locke returned it to him.
  • Number of weeks Driveshaft was going to go on tour.
  • Shannon’s age when her father married Boone’s mother.
  • James Ford's (Sawyer) age when his family was destroyed by the original Frank Sawyer.
  • The aisle for regulation footballs in Locke’s store.
  • A speed that Hurley's rental car displayed as it died.
  • The person Hurley bought the scooter from had a Crazy Eight’s hat.
  • 8 O’clock was the position on the radar where the Others boat showed up.
  • Number of the TV station that interviewed Hurley after his lottery win.
  • Number of days Claire was missing after her abduction.
  • The distance from the Environment Secretary's house that Jin was to ditch the assassin's getaway car.
  • Sara, Jack's Wife, was supposed to be married 8 months after the car accident which introduced her to Jack.
  • The number of a cart in Sara's room.
  • Hurley was accused of eating an 8-piece Dark Meat combo the day he quit working at Mr. Cluck's Chicken Shack.
  • The call number of Ana Lucia's patrol car is 8A16.
  • Number of Virgin Mary statues Charlie takes from the plane wreck (seven statues are shown in "The Long Con", and Charlie destroyed one of them earlier).
  • Number of people the deck that collapsed was built to hold.

The Cursed Number 15

  • The number of hours Boone spent on his flight to Sydney
  • The aisle for Nerf footballs in Locke’s store.
  • Number on the whiskey bottle that Sawyer and Christian drank from.
  • A speed that Hurley’s rental car displayed as it died.
  • Sun was supposed to slip away from Jin at 11:15 A.M. Also, all the digits add up to 8.
  • 14:15 was the scheduled departure time for Oceanic 815.
  • Sawyer was supposed to meet with an investor for one of his cons at 15:30.
  • Michael’s estimate of how far out to sea they were when the detected the radar blip.
  • In backgammon, each side starts with 15 pieces.
  • The number of ribbons on Sam Austen's ribbon rack.
  • Part of the number of the safety deposit box (1516) in which Locke's father had put $700,000 from a retirement con

The Cursed Number 16

  • Number of years Rousseau has been on the island (after hearing the numbers transmission that brought her science team there).
  • $160,000 was the amount of money Sawyer was planning to con from a family.
  • When Jack tells Kate his story about fear as she sews him up, the patient in the story is 16 years old.
  • Number of circles around the outside of the Oceanic Logo when it is part of Oceanic.
  • Number of hours the flight to L.A. was going to take.
  • Number of hours after the crash when the pilot was found.
  • Number of weeks the lottery hadn’t been won before Hurley won it.
  • Number of years since Boone’s nanny Teresa fell down the stairs and broke her neck.
  • Number of years ago that Kate buried the time capsule
  • A speed that Hurley’s rental car displayed as it died.
  • Number in hundreds that Hurley paid an old man for his scooter.
  • The speed Desmond was going on his exercise bicycle.
  • Number of people in Locke's anger management group.
  • Part of the number of the safety deposit box (1516) in which Locke's father had put $700,000 from a retirement con

The Cursed Number 23

  • The sum of both parts of the plane's flight number.
  • Number of the floor Hurley stayed on at a Sydney hotel.
  • Number of the gate the plane took off from.
  • Jack’s seat number on the plane was 23B.
  • Rose and Bernard were sitting next to Jack in row 23, too.
  • The reward for turning in Kate was $23,000
  • The morning of their departure from Sydney, Walt woke Michael up at 5:23 A.M.
  • The temperature in Hurley’s rental car when it died.
  • The initial total number of survivors from the plane's tail section.
  • W is the 23rd letter of the alphabet, and W begins Walt's name.
  • Mr. Eko recites the 23rd Psalm when he burns the plane that contains his brother's body
  • Inman shows Sayid DIA video footage labeled 'Reel 23108-42'
  • Number of people on the deck when it collapsed, in Hurley's accident.
  • The Black Rock was bound for dock 23 in Portsmouth, Britain in 1881

The Cursed Number 42

  • Locke is playing Risk during his lunch break. In Risk, Earth is divided into 42 territories.
  • Leonard was playing Connect 4. 42 is the number of spaces on a connect four game board.
  • Rousseau wrote down the number sequence seven times, creating a matrix that totals 42.
  • Ana-Lucia was sitting in seat 42F.
  • Room number of Hurley’s room at the Sydney hotel.
  • The distance Hurley’s rental car had travelled when it died.
  • 10:42 was the scheduled arrival time of flight 815 in L.A.
  • Scrawled on the wall as a part of the mural in the bunker.
  • Since winning the lottery, Hurley increased his net worth by 42 million dollars.
  • The letters A-L-E-X (the name of Rousseau's child who was also kidnapped by the others), when given numerical value based on their position in the alphabet, add up to 42.
  • Shannon had revealed during the census that she was 20. Boone would've been 22 then, as their parents married when he was 10 and she was 8. They are the only two characters with flashbacks centered to themselves (not like the Marshall with just popping in at random points) to have died, and their ages equal 42 when added together.
  • The prize for the boat race that Desmond entered was $42,000.

The Sum of the Cursed Numbers: 108

  • 108 is the sum of the numbers: 4 + 8 + 15 + 16 + 23 + 42.
  • The number 108 is painted twice on a wall inside the hatch.
  • The number of minutes in the countdown in the Swan bunker.
  • CV III (Cerberus Vent Three) is 108 in roman numerals.

A Special Combination: 48

  • There were originally 48 survivors in the main group.
  • 48 days passed on the island until The tail section survivors encountered the main group.

A Special Combination: 815

  • The flight number of the plane.
  • The number of the safety deposit box Kate robbed.
  • Charlie was trying to sell Copier model 815-C.
  • The date of Kate’s time capsule is August 15, 1989, 8-15.
  • The number on the building Sayid walked into in Sydney.
  • Adam Rutherford was pronounced dead at 8:15 A.M.
  • The real Henry Gale's house number.

The Significance of The Numbers outside of Lost

  • 23 & 42 are two 'random numbers' used by hacker tradition
  • 23 is the gate number Ross waits outside of for his newly-wed and estranged wife in the Friends episode 5x01.
  • 23 is one of the sacred numbers of Eris, Greek Goddess of Discord
  • Author William S. Burroughs considered the number 23 to be very unlucky, and kept a notebook of the number's occurrences.
  • 23 is referred to often in Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus Trilogy; it is most often used as an example of a number that pops up in patterns and seems to have meaning, but only because one is looking for it to appear.
  • Some calculations place the end of the Mayan calendar on December 23, 2012, when an apocalyptic event is predicted to occur.
  • The 23rd Psalm is arguably the most famous, the "Divine Shepherd" psalm.
  • 23 is the number of individuals (16 female and 7 male) that the One is supposed to select from the Matrix to start a 'new Zion' after re-inserting the prime program (essentially re-booting the Matrix) in the Matrix trilogy, as revealed by the Architect in Matrix Reloaded.
  • 42 is the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • In Kabbalism, 42 is the number of characters in the unspeakable name of God.
  • There are 108 stitches on a baseball.
  • 4, 8, and 16 are all powers of two: 22, 23, 24; the same digits as in 23 & 42.
  • In Japan, 4 is considered an extremely unlucky number because it is pronounced "shi", which is the same pronunciation as "death". On the other hand, the number 8 is considered a lucky number. This is because of the shape of the kanji character for eight, whose two strokes are wider at the bottom, suggesting a better time or better things to come in the future.
  • I-Ching
4 - Folly
8 - Grouping
15 - Humbling
16 - Providing For
23 - Splitting Apart
42 - Increasing
  • In the movie Battle Royale, 42 students are brought to the island to compete in the death tournament.
  • 108 is the traditional number of beads found on both Buddhist and Hindu mala, or rosaries.
  • Each Hindu god has 108 names that are considered sacred and are recited during religious ceremonies.
  • The number of sacred stars in Chinese astrology is 108.
  • In The Odyssey, Penelope had 108 suitors.
  • August 15, or 8/15, is the Orthodox feast of Dormition (the death of the Virgin Mary) and the Catholic feast of Assumption (the reception of the Virgin Mary in heaven). There are a number of other references to the Virgin Mary in "Lost", such the small statues with the heroin inside and Locke's mother claiming he was immaculately conceived.
  • At position 176025488 of pi, the sequence of digits "48151623" occurs. At position 155209220, the sequence of digits "15162342" occurs. The complete sequence of numbers doesn't occur within the first 200 million positions. (of course neither one of these facts is remotely a coincidence -- if you randomly selected any 8 digit number you would expect to find it in the first 200 million digits of pi's decimal expansion)
  • When a person is created, 23 chromosomes from each person are put into the cell.

References to the Numbers in Other TV Shows, etc.

Cover for Catwoman #51
  • At the end of the Veronica Mars episode "Donut Run," the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 appear as the lucky numbers on a fortune cookie message that Veronica hangs on her mirror.
  • The numbers appear on the cover of Catwoman #51. (See image)
  • In Dan Slott's The Thing #6 the Trapster uses the numbers as the deactivation code for bombs he is using to sabotage the Thing's good works.
  • In Season 2, Episode 6 of British comedy show That Mitchell and Webb Look, a slightly altered version of the numbers is given as the test of a military computer's ability to calculate Numberwang. The numbers fed to the computer were 4, 8 ,15 ,162, and 3420. The numbers are, in fact, Numberwang.
  • In the game World of Warcraft, a hatch on a small island in Sholazar Basin has the numbers 5, 9, 16, 17, 24, 43 written on it.