The Number Three
The number three is all around us, even if we don’t realize it. From the three fairy godmothers to knocking three times on a sick person’s door is the harbinger of death. This superstition really began to surface when three soldiers lit three cigarettes with one match, which gave a sniper enough time to see the light and kill the third soldier. The number three typically carries a neutral-sort of luck, though. Many people usually believe that when two things happen, a third event will happen soon, no matter what happened. On the other hand, some people do not believe in this superstition, choosing not to believe that, when three happenings take place, they are not related whatsoever. However, there is just too much evidence to believe that three deaths could not possibly be related by the superstition that “bad luck comes in threes”. Naturally, when something unfortunate happens, a fairy tale is told, or even something pleasant happens, it usually comes or in threes.
Once one notices the number three, it is not an easy thing to forget. People see the number three everywhere but just don’t see it. For example, in the Bible, the number three represents divine perfection, completeness, and wholeness. There three tests for a person in the bible, three people or signs leading someone on the right path, or even three events that cause pain and turmoil.
In the Christian Bible, three show a beginning, a middle, and an end. It represents the bible.
In fairy tales, there is always the number three hidden in plain sight. For example, the story of the sleeping beauty, Aurora. This story involves a baby, Princess Aurora, and her three fairy godmothers, who watched over her. Furthermore, in the story of “The Three Little Pigs”, very obviously involves three pigs and an evil wolf trying to eat them. To confirm this belief, “Goldy Locks and the Three Bears” involves three bears and a little girl who wanders into their home. This could be some fun coincidence that involves almost every story involving the number three.
The number three was typically a nifty trick that storytellers would use so they wouldn’t forget a story. “It doesn’t matter how long ago you heard the story of Cinderella, you probably remember that she has two evil step-sisters…” (FTales 1).
This is a statement of fact, we always remember that Goldy Locks walked into the home of three bears and a wolf tried to eat the three little pigs. As stories began to be written down, the number three just stuck with each fairy tale. Why would authors take out a significant third that had become such a staple in a fairy tale? The answer is that they simply can’t.
The number three was really noticeable during the Crimean War. Russian captives told british soldiers about the danger of using any light for a three purposes at one time. This includes the story about three soldiers, on watch for enemies, lit their cigarettes with one match. A sniper in the distance was able to see the soldiers because of the light and had enough time to aim and kill the third soldier.
For the Orthodox Church, it is considered bad luck to light the three candles in the alter with the same taper, unless the High Priest does so, but some religions don’t have the same superstitions, though.
However, while the number three is all around us, people mainly notice when people die in threes. When someone dies, citizens just wait for someone else to finish the triangle of death.
The unfortunate death of the still-famous singer Michael Jackson is a tragic, well-known event nationwide. However, what happened in the same week is not as well-known. “Michael’s Jackson’s untimely death coupled with the deaths of Ed Mcmahon and Farrah Fawcett in the same week revived the belief…catastrophes come in threes” (Paulos 1). Although these celebrities have no direct relation to each other, this is still a spooky representation of the superstition revolved around death coming in threes.
Following this suspicion of the number three, three, almost psychotic, events occurred during 2013. A man by the name of Aaron Alexis was psychotically driven to mass murder by his paranoid delusions. Less than a week later, mentally ill John Constanino burned himself to death on the front yard of Washington D.C. Then, Miriam Carey, with post-partum depression, “drove her car into the White House fence and on a wild chase down Pennsylvania Avenue”
(Garfinkle 1). While this might possibly seem like a mass psychotic break, the nail in the coffin is that her one-year old was also in the car. The child survived…unharmed. How could this not be a perfect example of how this superstition might be more real that we think?
In 2016, this effect hit everyone’s emotions. A singer named Christina Grimmie “was shot and killed while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando”(Roncace 1). Christina first became famous when she had performed on The Voice, and was later murdered while seeing her fans. This affected people nationwide including youtuber Shane Dawson.
Not even one full day later, a shooter by the name of Omar Mateen, decided he’d had
enough and opened fire in “Pulse”, a nightclub also located in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring over 50. Although many just see this event as an unfortunate event, this is merely just a second occurence in the trifecta of madness.
Two days after the second incident, on June 14, a two-year old boy named Lane Graves was dragged into a lagoon at Disney World by an alligator. The child’s parent tried to do everything they could to file a court case with the amusement park but unfortunately the murder by alligator was the last that we’ve heard about the situation.On a lighter note, in one case, a whole family was affected by the by the superstition that bad luck comes in threes. In April 21, 2013, a nine year old girl, Amber Lavender, “was the first in the family to suffer a fractured wrist…when she was pushed over as she was playing outside” (Teesside live 1).
Now, at a glance, this may seem like an unfortunate occurrence, but the next events that take place will leave you with the question, “Is this superstition actually real?”.
Not even three days later, her mother, Caroline Lavender, “jarred” her own wrist when closing her door. Soon after, thirteen year old Robert Lavender fractured his finger when he was in
a rugby match. Some may say this is just a weird coincidence, but this isn’t the only event showcasing the number three.
It is a given that there are people who choose not to believe in this superstition, while others do. In fact, there are more people who have not even heard of the worldwide conspiracy revolved around the number three. Some simply think that “the timing of these violents events, and their location, are nothing more that coincidence” (Garfinkle 1). Although there is plenty of evidence
that something is odd with the number, three is not widely understood to be necessarily “bad”. Renee Garfinkle wrote on PsychologyToday.com to talk about how death coming in threes is not superstition so much as government corruption. Instead of the magical belief that something has to happen in threes, Garfinkle explains that “sometimes people with mental illness are particularly influenced by the emotional tenor of the times.” This covers the incidents that involve mental patients like the happenings 2013, stated earlier in this paper.
Without the personal experience of the number three, one would not believe in the superstition. Garfinkle, in her paper, says that that this particular superstition is simply just not real. Garfinkle explains the “Cynicism and disrespect” that the people have for the government cause people to act out around the same time as a certain event. When something big happens and is recorded in the media, “the echo chamber dysfunction begets aggression, distrust vitriol and the pressure increases. The most vulnerable among us implode, hurting others in the process” (Garfinkle 1).
Garfinkle sees these events as cries for a change in the nation. One for helping the mentally ill, and the other to reconstitute civility within the United States. Given, America needs quite a few changes but there are bigger things at play than a simple cry for help. In the U.S, people are already fighting for rights and changes, but deaths are not necessary to make people see that the mentally ill need attention as well.
But why is the superstition about threes so prominent? Why do people believe in death coming in threes and the pattern of three throughout both Fictional and real history?
This is because the number three shows itself whether or not you try to include it into something. Past poets, storytellers, and other historians all include threes whether they like to or not.
On a less-depressing note, the number three is in nature as well as folklore. According to folklorethursday.com, “three butterflies is considered bad luck” since seeing this could give a person, on average, five years of bad luck.
Furthermore, “hearing an owl call three times”, says D’este, could cause bad luck to those hearing it. Upon hearing all of these superstitions revolved around the special number three, one may seem to be overwhelmed by the circumstances. However, some people do not realize the effect thus has on the world.
However, some believe the the number three is “magical”. Many people believe that “third time’s a charm” or that everything will happen in threes.
In many religions, the number three has its own significance. In Chinese culture, the number three is considered lucky. Even if three bad events happened in succession, chinese citizens will typically look for a good event to happen afterwards. In Hinduism, there is the Trimurti. The Trimurti is the three forms of God, representing divinity as three-faced.
For Buddhists, there are three jewels, The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. The Buddha is the enlightened one, the Dharma are the teachings from Buddha, and Sangha is the order that performs Dharma.
In Wiccan, Neopagan, and Dianic religions, there is the Triple Goddess, The Mother, The Maiden, and The Crone. Each of these is part of the “three fold aspect of Gaia, the Earth Mother” (Crystalinks.com 1)
Throughout history, the number three has almost plagued our textbooks, fairy tales, and religious beliefs. What was once a trick-of-the-trade to help storytellers remember their stories became a historical landmark in our lives. This superstitious myth helped some but has harmed countless others.
Snipers were able to find a man by a match which lit three cigarettes. Once one person dies, people look for the next two to follow in the first’s footsteps. Even in the stories we heard when we were children, there were three bears, three fairy godmothers, or three trials to face somewhere in the story.
The amount of evidence revolved around the number three proves that it is undeniable that there is some energetic power behind the myth. If this was just a simple coincidence, then why would so many deaths happen in threes?
There is some reason not believe in the superstition, though. Sometimes people are influenced by the mainstream media and other factors of their environment. But could that really happen all of the time?
Why would an owl only call three times? Why would three butterflies land on one leaf? How could three family members break a bone within a week? The superstition of “bad luck comes in threes” is a perfect explanation tho these questions.
Remember, threes can be a good omen too. The number three is believed to be lucky in Chinese culture. There are the three jewels In Buddhism, the three faces of God in Buddhism, and the Triple Goddess in Neopagan religions.
How could we ignore all of the evidence that things just have to happen in threes? Next time there is an unfortunate event that happened, watch as people just look for the next occurence in the media.