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The cell phone number whose owners all die

Three successive owners of a particular cell phone number in Bulgaria have lost their lives. The number has now reportedly been suspended.

A film director in Singapore once told me that he sent back a very expensive crane he had just bought because its serial number, according to numerological lore, signified "Will die, must die." (From what I remember, there were too many 4s.)

Bulgaria, however, is not a place, as far as I am aware, that is deeply committed to number-based superstitions. Until now, perhaps. For, according to the Telegraph, three consecutive owners of one single cell phone number have left this life for the next.

Perhaps your first thought was that the number was 0666-666-666. You would be closer than you think. For it was 0888-888-888.

If I grasp Chinese numerology by the right end, 8 is purported to be a very lucky number said to symbolize potential and growth. That may well have been the reason the CEO of cell phone provider Mobitel decided this would be his number. He died of cancer in 2001 at age 48.

Those with a feel for intrigue reportedly suggested at the time that he had actually been bumped off by one of his competitors, who happened to have a feel for radioactive poisoning.

CC Sam Foster/Flickr

The next owner of the number clearly didn't feel that the same lightning, radioactive or not, would strike twice. His name was Konstantin Dimitrov. He was a Mafia boss. And he enjoyed the kind of end that Mafia bosses occasionally do. He was assassinated in the Netherlands, where he had journeyed to see how his drug business was faring.

You might wonder why anyone else would go anywhere near this number. You might wonder why anyone with even two 8s in their number wasn't rushing to Mobitel's stores to get a number that might be just slightly more lucky.

In which case, you are not Konstantin Dishliev. Actually, I know that you are not Konstantin Dishilev, because, in 2005, shortly after adopting the number, he was gunned down in front of an Indian restaurant in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Though he presented himself as a realtor, he is said to have been one of the less trustworthy of the profession. It appears he was rather heavily involved in trafficking cocaine.

One might wish to conclude that the less scrupulous among Bulgarian businessmen should merely get themselves highly anonymous cell phone numbers. Or, if one were a mathematician, one might wish to beg for 0888-888-888, because the statistical possibility of your encountering misfortune would be truly minuscule.

Mobitel decided that it couldn't even risk giving it to a number-cruncher, never mind a bone-cruncher. It suspended the number for five years, while police continued to search for someone who might not have been fond of Dishilev.

That quest now seems to be over. However, Mobitel doesn't want to tempt the fates any more. It's bad for business. So the word in Bulgaria is that the number has been permanently suspended, though Mobitel has refused to confirm this.

I decided to call the company to see if it might comment. Then I decided it might be better to wait until August 8.