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Jesuit-Run University Drops 666 Phone Prefix

From Associated Press

Not about to play devil’s advocate, the University of San Francisco has finally pulled the plug on its 666 telephone prefix.

The Catholic school suffered through bad jokes for years because of the number, known as the mark of the beast in the Book of Revelation, the 13th chapter of which reads, “Then I saw another beast that rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. . . . Its number is six hundred sixty-six.” (Rev. 13:11-18.)

The school’s prefix is changing to the less sinister 422, according to Pacific Bell.

“I’m relieved,” said the Rev. Frank Buckley, a theology professor at the university. “As soon as I heard the good news, I went out and ordered new business cards.”

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Until the end of the year, callers can use either prefix when calling the school. The 666 number will be out of commission beginning next year.

Marlon Villa, spokesman for the Jesuit-operated university, said the change is for practical reasons. The new prefix will allow for twice as many extensions.

“Nothing horrible has befallen us” because of the 666 exchange, he said. “Perhaps our Christian spirit deflected any spiritual assault by the forces of 666.”

The school received the phone number in 1972, when the telephone company switched from such colorful but outdated prefixes as Skyline, Overland and Lombard, according to Glenn Loomis, the director of plant services at the university.

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The university wasn’t the only school to get the prefix. UC San Francisco Medical Center also was assigned the 666 exchange, but it changed the number in 1989.

At one point, the admissions office at the University of San Francisco wound up with 666-6666 as its telephone number. “We finally had to dummy it out,” Loomis said. “Just too many calls from kooks.”

He recalled that later one staff member wanted 666-6666, thinking it would be funny. The number lasted about three days because every nut in town was calling, Loomis said.

Bible scholars said the cryptic depiction of the “false prophet” or “antichrist” of the Apocalypse originally referred to the Roman emperor Nero. Numerological calculations can be formulated so that the letters of his name add up to 666.

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“You can play the same name game with the emperor Domitian or Adolf Hitler or Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Buckley said. “Pick your villain, and you can find a way to make it add up to 666.”


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