My life has always been comfortable. We had a car and television. There was central heating. But it hasn’t always been like that. The childhood lives of my parents was very different. It was the life most people led for centuries. They grew most of their food themselves. The winters were cold. There was only one stove. They had no electricity, telephone, car, radio or television at first. Water they took from a pump. My grantparents were small farmers.
And that was only two decades earlier. There already was electricity in the cities, and in many villages too. But my parents lived in an area called Achterhoek, which translates to Rear Corner. And they didn’t live in a city, not even a village, but on remote farms. Remote in the Netherlands means that the nearest village is a few kilometres away. And a remote farm in Rear Corner was as remote as it could get in the Netherlands.
What a difference a few decades make. My son grew up with computers, Internet and smartphones. Compared to the dramatic changes my father and mother have witnessed, the changes that came later were rather insignificant. My father likes to talk about the old times. Before he went to school he had to milk the cows. There were lots of chores to do. My mother’s childhood had been like that too but she rarely talked about it. My mother’s family was quiet and reticent while my father’s family was noisy and outgoing.
My mother had three sisters and three brothers. My father had two brothers and two sisters. Both lived on a small farm. My father’s parents grew a few crops. They had a horse, a few cows, some pigs, and chicken. Neighbours were very important. If a farmer fell ill, the neighbours would step in and run the farm as long as needed. After the war my grandfather erected a windmill with batteries. They were one of the first in the area to have electric lights. Electricity from the grid came in 1952.
Then a local shop owner came by and showed them a radio, my father recalled. My grandfather didn’t want to spend money on a luxury item so the shop owner said he could try the radio a month for free. After a month my grandmother and my aunt had discovered a great radio show and wanted to keep it. And so my grandfather was pressed into buying a radio. In the same fashion a television set came in a decade later.
My father recalled when he saw a car for the first time. He was biking with his father. He said: “When I grow up I want to have a car too.” My grandfather then tried to teach him some realism: “You will never own a car. Only the physician, the notary and the mayor have cars.”
By the end of the 1960s the Netherlands had become wealthy. I was born in 1968 and have never known poverty. It may be easy to forget that most people in history have been poor and that many people today still are. But for me that was not so easy. An important lesson my parents taught me was that our comfortable lives come from hard work and that we shouldn’t take it for granted. My father worked long hours as a manager of a road construction company. “To give us a good life,” he said.
He is an outdoors man, a hunter, and well aware of what happens in nature, for instance the struggle for survival in the animal kingdom. Most people nowadays go to the supermarket to buy their food. At best they have a vague notion about farmers, crops and livestock. He grew up on a farm so it is hard for him to accept that city people take the living conditions farm animals seriously. “They know nothing about farm life or nature,” he says. And he balks at the idea of artificial meat.
My father is politically conservative, but he is also innovation-minded and very interested in improving things. He was keen on learning the newest management techniques from Japan about giving people on the workplace more responsibility to manage their own affairs. When the first home computers became available, he bought one for me. “Computers will be the future and you must learn about them,” he said to me. That was in 1984.
The lives of people completely changed in a few decades. It is happening everywhere. Millions of people in China can tell similar stories. In the past people worked with their hands and used their own judgement. Now we sit behind screens and watch graphs and check parameters. And perhaps our lives will be quite different a few decades from now.
But poverty is still on our doorsteps. We are running out of resources and pollution is running out of control. If societies break down, we will not gracefully return to subsistence farming. Many of us will starve. Most people live in cities nowadays and do not have the skills to survive. But perhaps we can fundamentally change our lifestyles in two decades. It has been done in the past.
Rumours go that some films have been cursed, for example The Poltergeist, Superman and Rosemary’s Baby. Numerous accidents have been put forward to support claims that these films are jinxed.1 Not all of them are equally convincing. Accidents happen all the time so it is questionable to relate accidents to a film, even when several actors of the same film had bad luck. Still, the curse of The Omen stands out. This story includes some personal experiences. So what about this curse?
A guy named Danny Harkins noted on Cracked.com: “No film in history has had worse luck than The Omen. Hell, nothing in history has had worse luck than The Omen.”2 The Omen was advertised on bill boards with a 666-logo inside the film’s title and uplifting slogans like “You have been warned, if something frightening happens to you today, think about it. It may be The Omen,” as well as the cheery notice “Good morning, you are one day closer to the end of the world,” and a conclusion stating “Remember, you have been warned.”
You have been warned. In The Omen the wife of the American ambassador to Italy gave birth to a son, who died almost immediately. A priest then convinced the ambassador to replace his son with an orphan without telling his wife. Mysterious events soon started to haunt them. The child turned out to be the Antichrist. The Omen was first released on 6 June 1976 (6/6) in order to make it refer to the number 666 as the last digit of 1976 is also a 6. The length of the film is a peculiar 111 minutes.
This made The Omen a good candidate for a hefty curse. Two months before the filming started the son of lead actor Gregory Peck committed suicide. When Peck went to the film set of The Omen his plane was hit by lightning. A few weeks later executive producer Mace Neufeld’s flight was also hit by lightning. Producer Harvey Bernhard was just missed by a lightning bolt in Rome. Later, the hotel Neufeld was staying in was bombed by the IRA.1
An plane hired by the studio to take aerial shots was switched at the last moment by the airline. The people who took the original plane were all killed when it crashed on take off. An animal handler who worked on the film set died two weeks after working on the film when he was eaten alive by a tiger.1
Stuntman Alf Joint was badly injured and hospitalised when a stunt went wrong on the set on A Bridge Too Far in Arnhem in the Netherlands, less than a year after The Omen was finished. He was almost killed when he jumped off a building and missed the inflatable safety-bags that were meant to cushion his fall. Joint told that he felt that he had been pushed even though there was nobody near him at the time.1 Perhaps most of these accidents weren’t exceptional and perhaps they could be attributed to chance.
But the following should make you notice. On Friday 13 August 1976 special effects consultant John Richardson was driving through the Netherlands with Liz Moore. Both were working on A Bridge Too Far. They became involved in a car accident that killed Moore. She was decapitated in a scene that is said to have been eerily similar to one of the most gruesome scenes Richardson had designed for The Omen. The story goes that the accident happened near a road sign stating a distance of 66.6 kilometres to the town of Ommen, a name very similar to omen. And it happened on a Friday the thirteenth.1
This caught my attention. There are no road signs in the Netherlands giving distances in fractions of kilometres. Only kilometre markers use fractions. Near Raalte is a junction where route N348 to Ommen joins Route N35 to Nijverdal. This location currently corresponds with kilometre marker 66.6 on Route N348. Road signs stating the direction towards Ommen are near this wacky kilometre marker. I am familiar with the location because I lived in Nijverdal as a child. It appeared that this junction could have been the crash location. And so I came to investigate the curse.
In April 2015 I made an inquiry. A journalist from the local newspaper De Stentor helped me. He did some research and he emailed me on 14 April. He had managed to find a former police officer from the area. According to the police officer, the accident indeed took place near Raalte on Route N348, but between Raalte and Deventer near Heeten where Route N348 passes the Overmeenweg. This location corresponds with the 60.0 kilometre marker. The police officer told the journalist that he still remembered the car crash very well.3
According to the police officer, the accident happened when he was on service. A man and a woman had parked their car on a parking lot alongside Route N348. When they drove away in the direction of Deventer, they entered the wrong lane and collided head-on into an oncoming vehicle driven by a resident of Nijverdal. The view there was somewhat limited because of two gentle curves in the road. The police officer noted that there was no road sign mentioning Ommen near the crash site.3
The woman was killed on the spot. The car was completely destroyed and disposed to a fire station. It turned out that the couple were foreigners involved in the production of A Bridge Too Far, the police officer told the journalist. He suspected that Richardson, who was used to driving on the left side of the road, wasn’t paying attention. The police officer also mentioned that the accident happened during a weekend.3
In a British television programme Richardson said the following: “It was certainly very odd because it happened on Friday the thirteenth,” and “right opposite the point where the accident happened, was an old mile-post with nothing but sixes on it,” and finally “what spooked me even more was when I discovered it was on a road to a place called Ommen.”4 It appears that Richardson has misread the 60.0 kilometre marker and has taken the zeroes for sixes. The numbers may have been worn out if it was an old post.
Based on the current location of the marker and the details given by the police officer, another possible scenario is that Richardson was brought to Raalte or a hospital in Zwolle, and crossed the junction of Route N348 with Route N35. He may have noticed the 66.6 kilometre marker there and a road sign stating the direction towards Ommen close to it. This may have freaked him out to the point that it became part of the legend of the curse. Recollections of an event that happened decades ago are often not accurate, and this applies to the memories of the police officer as well as Richardson.
Alan Tyler, who made a documentary about the curse of The Omen noticed that odd things happened when he was working on it. The strangest thing was that he had two different camera crews filming on separate locations but that all the footage showed the same fault. It did not seem satanic to him, but it made him wonder.1 It is at least remarkable that the 66.6 kilometre marker is near a road sign stating the direction to Ommen on the same road that was the scene of the car crash, so that I came to investigate the curse, most notably because of what happened next.
When I was compiling my findings after receiving the email from De Stentor, a few curious events transpired. After reading the email I took a glance at my stock portfolio. Apart from a few mutual funds I owned stocks of three corporations. One of them was Heymans, a constructor. It had a quote of € 13.13. Another position was Macintosh, a retail company. I owned 500 of these and the quote was € 2.626. Hence, the total value was € 1,313. This was strange because the car crash happened on a Friday the thirteenth. Meanwhile Macintosh is bankrupt while Heymans stock went down 60% after the company ran into trouble.
This may seem a bit of a curse already and it suggests poor stock picking skills from my part. But there was more to come. That evening I had an appointment with a contractor who was coming to make a tender for renovating my bathroom. He cancelled because his van had broken down earlier that day. That’s a bit peculiar because that doesn’t happen quite often. He came from Almelo while I live in Sneek. There are two routes from Almelo to Sneek. The first one is via Nijverdal passing the junction of Route N348 with Route N35 and the 66.6 kilometre marker. The alternative route is via Ommen.
Another curious finding was that my search for ‘Ommen 666’ in Google produced a link to a website called Hondentrainingsneek.nl. At first glance this appeared to be a site for dog training in Sneek, but it was a bit fishy. Somehow ‘Ommen 666’ had been inserted into topic titles such as ‘Dog Training Terry Ommen 66.6km’.5 The texts on the website were incoherent with a few references to Ommen 66.6 in it. This is noteworthy as I currently live in Sneek and previously lived in Nijverdal while my enquiry uncovered that Richardson crashed into the car of a resident of Nijverdal.
A final titbit is that my wife has a heart condition that made her visit the hospital in Sneek around the same time I began investigating the curse. The name of her doctor happens to be Oomen, a name pronounced exactly like omen. She had an operation in 2018 and is still visiting dr. Oomen a few times per year. There certainly is something odd about The Omen, or perhaps this universe, where strange incidents happen.
If you like this post, then you might also like:
US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were both involved in drafting the US Declaration of Independence that was signed on 4 July 1776. Both died on 4 July 1826, fifty years after the Declaration of Independence. There are more of such oddities in history.
What may strike you about the coincidences surrounding 11 September 2001 is that many of them could have happened accidentally but that the combination of these incidents might be too improbable to be just coincidence.
Other image: Route N348 from Arnhem to Ommen. User Michiel1972 (2007). Wikimedia Commons.
1. Curse of The Omen and other Hollywood hexes. Barry Didcock (2012). Scotland Herald. [link]
2. The Insane True Stories Behind 6 Cursed Movies. Danny Harkins (2008). Cracked.com. [link]
3. Email exchange with De Stentor. Theplanforthefuture.org. [link]
4. Curse or coincidence?… ‘Conspiro Media’ re-examines the grisly chain of events connected to those involved in the ’70s horror-flick, ‘The Omen’… Matt Sergiou (2014).
5. Dog training Terry Ommen 66.6km. Theplanforthefuture.org. [link]
Eleven is the fool’s number in the Netherlands. On 11 November (11-11) the Councils of Eleven are elected. It marks the beginning of the carnival season that ends in the celebrations of carnival in February. In the formerly Roman Catholic areas of the Netherlands, which mostly are in the south, forty days of fasting ended with carnival, a feast of excessive eating and drinking in which people disguise themselves in all kinds of costumes. In any case, in the Netherlands eleven is associated with oddity.
For instance, my son Rob had two biking accidents in which he was injured. The first one happened near our home in Sneek just before the home of a retired physician who could help him with his injuries. The second accident happened on our holidays in Ameland just before the home of a retired physician who could help him. That is odd, even more so because these were the two only biking accidents Rob ever had.
Just before the discovery of Natural Money a strange accident occurred just before our house in Sneek. A car had crashed on a lamppost. The lamppost broke off. Two men stepped out and hared away. A few years later I realised that the accident may have been a prelude to the strange events that came later on. That same day I biked towards IJlst, a village near home. There I found a broken off lamppost that had been removed. This was remarkable because it was on the same road as our house is on the road to IJlst.
Once I was visiting my father. That day I was driving on a narrow road in the vicinity of Nijverdal where my father lived. An oncoming car hit the rear-view-mirror and it broke off. A few weeks later my father had exactly the same type of accident in his car. As far as I know never before had anyone I knew an accident of this kind.
In August 2014 we were waiting for a traffic light near home in Sneek. In the back of the car before us sat a guy who looked like my cousin Rob. And so I told my wife Ingrid about that. My cousin and I had been best friends for over a decade. We made a funny newspaper together. Immediately after I finished speaking, four trucks from transport company Leemans came from the right. My cousin Rob had once decorated a truck of Leemans. When I was eighteen years old my cousin and I went on holidays together, hitchhiking in Scandinavia. A truck driver from Leemans brought us to Sweden.
I had never seen a Leemans truck in Sneek before. They were there because of railroad construction work. My cousin came from Haaksbergen, a village halfway between Eibergen where I was born and Enschede where A******* was born. In June 2015 we were leaving Nijverdal after visiting my father. Haaksbergen was in the news because of a shooting incident.1 Haaksbergen had been in the news a few times before because of electricity failures,2 3, skating,4 and a monster truck accident.5 And so I said to Ingrid that Haaksbergen is in the news quite often. Just after I had finished speaking, we passed a Leemans truck by the side of the road.
In 2014 a woman rang our doorbell. Her father was about to turn eighty. He had lived in our house during the 1950s. As a birthday present she wanted to give him a tour in his old home. She made an appointment to visit us the next Saturday. She showed up with her sister and father and I gave them a tour around the house. A few hours later the door bell rang again. Ingrid opened the door to an elderly woman with her daughter and son in law. They asked if they could see the house because she had lived there in the 1960s. Both groups came independently and they hadn’t spoken to each other.
In July 2014 we went on holidays to Sweden and Norway. My son Rob wanted to visit Hessdalen Valley where mysterious lights have been sighted. Those lights look like orbs and so they are known as the Hessdalen orbs. Some people have claimed they were UFOs. When we were in Hessdalen we went to a viewing point on the top of a hill. Some Norwegian guys were standing there for hours already, hoping to photograph a UFO. We didn’t see anything unusual. We took some pictures of the environment. Only, after we came back we noticed orbs on one of the photos we made. But orbs on photographs are a phenomenon unrelated to the Hessdalen orbs so this is remarkable.
Featured image: Orbs on photograph taken at Hessdalen, Norway (2014).
1. Schietpartij Haaksbergen, politie geeft beelden vrij en toont auto schutter. RTV Oost (7 May 2015) [link]
2. Leger helpt Haaksbergen bij stroomstoring. Nu.nl (26 November 2005). [link]
3. Stroomstoring treft Haaksbergen en omgeving. De Volkskrant (29 March 2007). [link]
4. Natuurijsbaan. Wikipedia. [link]
5. Derde dode door ongeluk monstertruck Haaksbergen [link]
When I was eighteen years or so I once read The Limits of Growth. That’s depressing stuff, most notably if you’re young and expect to live for another sixty years or so. Doom seemed imminent and I would probably live to see it happen. That was the moment when my views about the future turned grim. Before that I hardly had views about the future at all. A few years later I became an environmentalist and a member of Friends of the Earth in Groningen. Friends of the Earth does research and tries to convince people that they should change their lifestyles. Friends of the Earth also lobbies with politicians and pressures corporations. And sometimes we protested.
One day we blocked the entrance of Groningen Airport to protest against the government subsidies for the airport. The city council felt that Groningen needed an airport but Groningen wasn’t big enough to make it profitable. When we were sitting there, the police came to remove us, and it suddenly became clear to me that activism didn’t help. Politicians will be voted out of office when they are serious about solutions. Businesses will go bankrupt if they take appropriate action unless all other businesses do the same. The required measures are extremely costly and will affect our lifestyles so profoundly that it would never happen in the current political and economic system.
Once being over a cliff, a cartoon character can only clutch at a straw. And only in cartoons the straw might hold. Friends of the Earth in Groningen worked together with the Strohalm Foundation. The meaning of the Dutch word strohalm is straw. According to Strohalm, the economy must grow because of interest, and that’s destroying the planet. It is ‘grow-or-die’ because interest rates need to be positive. Any solution begins with ending interest, they believed, and interest causes a lot of other problems too, like poverty and financial instability. Strohalm’s idea was banning interest and charging a fee on money as Silvio Gesell had proposed, so that it would be attractive to lend out money without interest.
Economists didn’t take interest-free money seriously. If you can receive interest elsewhere then why would you lend out money without interest? And if you can borrow money at an interest rate of zero, you would borrow as much as you can and put it in a bank account at interest. Therefore, interest-free money with a holding tax would never work, at least so it seemed, and it didn’t take long before I realised that too. Only, that wasn’t satisfactory. Accepting doom is like committing suicide. If interest is the root of many social and environmental problems, and may destroy human civilisation, you can’t ignore that. And perhaps it could work. During the Great Depression it had been tried in a small Austrian village and it was a stunning success.
For years I used public transport as much as possible, but at some point I began to realise that it was all pointless. More and more people started driving SUV’s. They didn’t care. It didn’t matter what I do. A car can make your life more comfortable and I had no higher morals than other people.
A few years later, in 1998, I became a freelance IT specialist. I made a lot of money so I had money to invest. My first investments were small and not very successful. That was because I believed that the profits of corporations matter. But investments in loss-making internet startups did very well while profitable corporations did poorly. And so I came to believe that I had to stay informed about the developments in the financial markets. In 2000 I joined the investment message board Iex.nl.
On the message board was a day trader who shared all kinds of conspiracy theories with us. For instance, if the markets were about to collapse, a secret group called Plunge Protection Team would come to the rescue. He was ridiculed, but after the internet bubble popped, markets often miraculously recovered when they were about to crash.
And gold often crashed because of sudden selling. The day trader believed central banks wanted to keep confidence in their currencies. If the gold price were to rise, he claimed, people would lose trust in central bank currencies. This was new to me, and probably it wasn’t true, but I already had bought some gold because I didn’t trust financial markets and the people operating them. I was not good picking stocks, and I was too risk averse to be very successful in the stock market, but the gold turned out to be a good investment as I held on to it for decades.
In 2001 after the Internet bubble had popped I pitched the idea of interest-free money on the message board. My lack of knowledge was eclipsed by my zeal and lengthy discussions followed. On the Internet people from different backgrounds and different knowledge can be in one virtual room and participate in a discussion. I was rebutted time after time, but as these discussions went on, my knowledge of the financial system increased and I became aware of the issues that had to be resolved in order to make interest-free money work.
As a gold investor I became familiar with the Austrian School of Economics. This group questions money creation by banks and the need for central banks. They pointed at the inflation caused by money creation and central banks. At some point all the debt banks create would eventually collapse the financial system and money would be worthless, they believed.
And so two opposing fringe ideas, interest-free money with a holding tax and Austrian School, were challenging each other in my mind, which may be how Hegelian dialectic is supposed to work. In 2008 this resulted in a resolution and the idea of Natural Money was born. The economy can do better without interest so returns for investors can be higher. As positive interest rates are not allowed, the money may rise in value, so that interest-free money can give better returns. Hence, interest-free money was possible, perhaps even inevitable. In the following decade I integrated modern main stream economics into the theory of Natural Money. This research can be found on the website Naturalmoney.org.
After working for Cap Gemini I became a freelance IT specialist in 1997. In 2002 there weren’t any freelance jobs available so I started as a database administrator at a government agency near home. Most people in the Netherlands know about the agency because it processes traffic fines for the police. It didn’t take long before I was tested. Already on the second day one of the main systems crashed, leaving a corrupt database. After two days of research I didn’t find the exact cause but it probably was a bug in the Oracle software so I advised to upgrade the database software.
Instead management declared it a crisis and to set up a multi-disciplinary task force to deal with it. They decided that the cause of the crash should be found. Every day at 10 AM there was a meeting to discuss the state of affairs. Every day I proposed to upgrade the database software. And every day the proposal was brushed aside. After two weeks the cause had yet to be found. Managers were getting desperate. Finally they were willing to consider my suggestion. And it solved the problem.
It was not possible track what access rights were granted and to whom. At the time it was an urgent issue and nobody was taking action. In 2004 I built an account administration system named DBB that automated granting and revoking access rights for all the main systems based on job roles. Nobody ordered me to do this but there was a business need. Nevertheless DBB faced stiff opposition and red tape. In 2005 it was introduced in a sneaky way with the help of the people who were responsible for granting access rights.
The logo of DBB was a drawing made by my wife Ingrid. It features jokers grinning at a set of file folders symbolising bureaucracy. Bureaucrats considered it a rogue system. For more than ten years they were busy scheming and devising plans to replace DBB. Two projects were started to this aim. The first one was halted prematurely because the complexity of the matter had been underestimated. In 2016 a new project team realised that it was pointless to replace DBB as it was doing a good job and was costly to replace. After eleven years the main systems of 2005 had were of age and were expected tp be decommissioned within a few years, so that DBB could retired together with those systems. Indeed DBB made a joke out of bureaucracy so the logo had been apt.
But DBB was also joking me in a rather peculiar way. In June 2010 someone requested me to drop a user. This was an unusual request as normally DBB took care of that. In fact, this hadn’t happened for several years. The username I had to drop was ELVELVEN. If you read that aloud, you say eleven elevens in Dutch, a reference to the 11:11 time-prompt phenomenon. Usernames were made up of the first one or two characters of the employee’s first name followed by the last name in full. To me 11:11 signals a combination of two related unlikely events that are related. And indeed, the joke had a part two, and it was even more peculiar.
In 2014, when I was testing an improvement to DBB, a test signalled that an illegal account had sneaked into our systems. The username was the first character of the first name followed by the last name of the lady of the dormitory. If she had been employed with us, this would have been her username. And her name isn’t common like Jane Doe so this is peculiar, even more so because it was the only username that popped up. It turned out that a guy with the same last name as hers had been employed with us. He had the same first initial. The account wasn’t illegal. I had mixed data from two different dates for the test, which made it appear that way.
In 2005 my manager promised me a promotion. He believed there should be a senior rank for experienced database administrators. He noticed that I had managed to introduce the account administration system DBB. “You have vision and you make things happen despite the opposition,” he said and added that he believed I was the best database administrator. Only, he didn’t appear to take any action so I tried to make him put his promise into writing.
That became quite a challenge. I feared I would end up with nothing. I asked him a dozen times to put his promise into writing. Just before he left, after putting some pressure on him, he wrote down that I could only get a minor wage increase, not the promotion he promised earlier. A few weeks later when he had already left, I was summoned to the human resources department. A bureaucrat had come up with a technicality so I couldn’t even keep the minor wage increase. Having it in writing didn’t help. My manager had left and his temporary replacement didn’t care.
When I arrived at home that evening Ingrid told me that a freelance agency offered me a job. This was the first time in a long time. And I was angry. With the benefit of hindsight it was rather peculiar that the agency called exactly on this particular day. I had worked so hard to get the promise in writing because managers and the human resource department weren’t dependable, which the incident demonstrated once more. And so I made a rash decision and resigned. It didn’t take long before I started to have second thoughts. There weren’t many jobs for database administrators near home. There were issues with my son and my physical condition didn’t allow for long travels. There was a new manager and he accepted my change of mind. After a few years of bureaucratic wrangling, the senior rank was established and I was promoted.