Mothers expect Damien on 6/6/06

For one group of expectant mothers, their due date holds an extra dimension of dread. The prospect of giving birth on June 6, 6/6/06, has prompted talk of spawning devil children on Armageddon day.

A British self-help group that usually exchanges routine tips on parenting has turned its attention to the dangers of a date marked by the satanic symbol.

For Hollywood and the worldwide entertainment industry it is by contrast a once-in-a- century opportunity to turn evil into gold. Leading the charge is 20th Century Fox, whose remake of The Omen, the classic 1970s horror film, will appear on June 6.

The approach of the sixth day of the sixth month of a new century’s sixth year has prompted animated discussion among women participating in the website of Mother & Baby, a British parenting magazine.

One pregnant woman, Francesca Renouf, said she had been so worried that she had booked a doctor’s appointment to ensure that she would avoid giving birth on the sixth.

Others appeared to take the dangers less seriously. One woman, Emma Parker, wrote that she intends to call her baby Damien, after the satanic boy in The Omen. Another, Donna Magnante, said she would name her baby after Regan in The Exorcist.

In America the marketing of the apocalypse is well under way. Slayer, one of America’s most popular heavy metal rock groups, will start its Unholy Alliance tour, subtitled Preaching to the Perverted.

Crown Forum, a US publishing giant, has seized on 666 as the perfect date for the launch of Godless, a new anti-liberal political polemic by Ann Coulter, a prominent right-wing columnist.

And inevitably the internet is awash with frenzied doomsday debate and 666 speculation, all reflecting America’s continuing obsession with angels, devils and the possible nature of heaven and hell.

While some Armageddon believers fear that 6/6/06 will be “a day of satanic power” that may be marked by a comet hitting the Earth, others believe that the world is coming closer to what is widely known as “the rapture” — the moment the Lord calls the Christian faithful home and millions of born-again evangelicals will suddenly disappear from the Earth, leaving non-believers behind.

On one popular evangelical website last week, a “rapture index” that calculates the likelihood of the Lord’s arrival stood at 156 — which the website declared was time to “fasten your seatbelts”. By contrast, another website claimed that the Antichrist had already arrived — he is supposedly George (six letters) Walker (six letters) Bush Jr (six letters), the president whose name adds up to 666. “The violence and destruction that began when Bush first entered office is now certain to culminate in the apocalypse, as predicted in the Bible over 2,000 years ago,” warned Stephen Hanchett at isbushantichrist.blogspot.com.

The 666 phenomenon is based on a disputed passage from the Book of Revelation, which in several popular versions declares the “number of the beast” to be 666 — although some biblical scholars claim there was a mistranslation and the number should really be 616.

Either way, John Moore, the Irish director of The Omen remake — entitled Omen 666 — realised that June 6 was too good a date to miss for a film about a sinister child named Damien who turns out to be the Antichrist. “It’s a fantastic marketing gimmick,” Moore said. “We figured if we could hit this date it would make it all the more interesting.”

The only devils in Coulter’s book are abortion-loving Democrats, but that hasn’t stopped her publisher making the most of 666. Coulter, a tall blonde with a mean anti-liberal streak, is the bestselling author of How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Her new book, subtitled The Church of Liberalism, is reportedly even more bilious, with chapters such as “On the seventh day God rested and Liberals schemed”, and “The holiest sacrament: abortion”.

Joining Slayer on the musical front is the cult death metal group Deicide, which calls itself “Satan’s favourite band”. Its latest album, The Stench of Redemption, is scheduled for release on what it calls “the most unholy of days, 6/6/06”.

The majority of Americans may well conclude that if the last 6/6/06 (in 1906) failed to end in apocalypse, they might survive this one, too. But the current vogue for horror films suggests that the omens for Fox’s Omen 666 may be bright whatever the release date.

Unless of course anyone notices the numerological significance of “Fox”. As one contributor to Arianna Huffington’s blog pointed out last week, F is the sixth letter of the alphabet, O is the 15th letter (1+5=6) and X is the 24th letter (2+4=6). Could Fox be the studio of the Beast?

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