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Four Is Death

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"There's four slices [of cake]! THEY MIGHT AS WELL HAVE TOLD US TO DIE!"

In most Chinese languages and languages that borrow words from it, the words for "four" (四) and "death" (死) are written differently but pronounced similarly ("" and "" resepactively in Mandarin, "sei3" and "sei2" respectively in Cantonese, "shi" for both in Sino-Japanese, "tứ" and "tử" respectively in Sino-Vietnamese, and "sa" for both in Sino-Korean). As a cultural trope, East Asian works of media tend to treat the number in much the way Western writers treat the number 13 (a number that Arabian and European cultures consider Magical, and usually in a bad way).

As a similar point of reference, building floors and apartments are (mis)numbered accordingly to omit the fourth floornote  or replace the numeral with an alternative sign, such as the letter F or 3A. Cardinal numbers in Japanese are customarily read using the on'yomi (Sino-Japanese) pronunciation, aside from 4 and 7, which are read using the kun'yomi (native Japanese) readings of "yon" and "nana" instead of the on'yomi "shi" and "shichi", respectively.note  Apparently the Japanese word form "shi ni" (four twos), which translates to 'death', gives the number eight a related association.

On an unrelated note, Christianity also has several examples of Four Is Death, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (the fourth of which is Death) and the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, and Glory).

Compare Mystical 108, 13 Is Unlucky and the Number of the Beast.

Note: This is not a repository for every time the number 4 just happens to appear in a work (or for series where the fourth installment was particularly bad), nor for when bad things coincidentally happen in the fourth episode, in the fourth installment, to the fourth person to be introduced, and so on; this is for when the trope is consciously addressed by having the number 4 intentionally and unambiguously associated with death or misfortune. Particular examples of common groups of four that are normally unrelated to this trope are the Elite Four, The Four Gods, the Classical Elements Ensemble, and the Four-Temperament Ensemble. In particular, most groups of four mini-bosses in Eastern RPGs refer to one of those or to the shitennō — often localized into the Elite Four or the Four Heavenly Kings — and have no relation to this trope.

*gasp* The math! 4 has the same position as D, and D is for Death(d)! IT ALL MAKES SENSE!

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    Asian Animation 
  • The Happy Heroes Story Arc "God of War Legend", from Season 7, consists of four episodes. The story arc features a significant character death that doesn't occur until the fourth and final part.

    Comic Books 
  • In Boxers & Saints Four-Girl was unwanted by her family and wasn't even given a name, called a devil and believed to be bringing misfortune onto the family.
  • The Sensational She-Hulk: The Black Talon, the main villain of issues #34 and #35, revives four dead X-Men villains as zombies to do his bidding.
  • Shang-Chi's younger half-sister, Sister Dagger, is positively gleeful about this association when she gets to fight the Fantastic Four.
  • Usagi Yojimbo features a band of four assassins called... Shi. It is made explicit that this is an intentional pun on their part.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ace Combat: Wings of Unity, the main enemy squadron of pegasi is known as the Reapers and they fly in a formation of four.
  • In An Acceptable Arrangement from The Untamed fandom, Hou Yue dies in childbirth at the end of her fourth pregnancy. Her baby, however, survives.
  • Used lightly in the crossover The Bridge, fittingly due to one of the properties being primarily Japanese. There are four times kaiju are brought to Equestria. The first, King Caesar is summoned by a magical being to aid historical Equestria against Tirek. The second and third times were uses of Dimension Tide. The fourth was a purposeful invasion by Bagan
  • Code Prime sees Dorothea Ernst, the Knight of Four, be the first member of her group to get killed in R2.
  • Death is forced to take a vacation: Fall Harvest is sent off to work in zone four of the farm where he works. Naturally, that area is where he dies.
  • Evangelion 303: In this fancomic we have Unit-04. During a trial flight, one of its engines exploded and the Unit crashed and blew up. One of its two pilots died and the another nearly did, spending several months in a coma.
  • In the Everyone Lives With Knives series, due to cultural issues around the number four Jiang Yanli's pregnancy with her fourth child is closely watched. It does turn out to be a difficult one for both mother and baby, with Jin Hua arriving several weeks early and Yanli nearly dying.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, Haruto gets killed by the Four of Swords card. More importantly, the death is from the fourth sword as Yayoi blocked the first three.
  • In Humble Shopkeeper, of the Bleach fandom, Shichi (an OC), whose (nick)name means 'seven', splits it into "Shi" (aka, 4) and "Chi", spelling them "death" and "blood", or, alternately, together "the place you die". This is explained due to her being an insane linguist.
  • Infinity Train: Blossomverse
    • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail
      • The Cyan Desert Car takes place throughout four days and it is the darkest arc in Act 2. The trope gets referenced by Henry and Lexi, as Henry Townsend observes that the alliance that the Red Lotus Trio made with Amelia has made them a quartet rather than a trio.
      Henry: Four people who are folded in one over another because two's company, three's a crowd, and four is just...
      Lexi: [hissing] Death waiting to happen?
      • Chronologically, Chloe is the fourth person from the Pokémon world who encountered the Apex with Trip, Tokio and Gladion coming before her. She's the one who brings about the end of the Apex.
      • Moreover Chloe is one of four Pokémon Trainersnote  who were "chosen" to help unleash the Cage of Flauros; not only is she the one trying to stop the Cage from activating she's the only trainer of the four who actually dies (thankfully Atticus saves her with the Pendant of life) in Chapter 34.
    • The prequel to Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily, the entire story changes in the fourth car Gladion enters (the 400 Rabbits Car), which is a four-part arc and deals with the death of the original White Rabbit by the Apex and Paul London having to shatter Lampetia in the fourth chapter and had drawn a Four of Clubs in a fortune-reading.
    • In the sequel to Blossoming Trail, Infinity Train: Voyage of Wisteria, Goh explained what happened during his first day on the Train in Chapter 4, which includes having to see Ogami murder Satou and Shio.
      • Grace's backstory reveals how she befriended three other passengers in the Pirate Car. All four of them die and become reincarnated as denizens on the train — Ariana becomes Romsca, Horace becomes Tomas, Mark becomes Ogami and Grace becomes Warler — with Grace the fourth and final member to kick the bucket.
  • Chapter 4 of Infinity Train: Crown of Thorns features a full flashback dealing with the untimely demise of The Apex.
  • The four number is carried on in Kira Is Justice, to the point that sixteen is a number used a few times. For example, the sixteen SIS agents.
  • In The Last Spartan, Wrex actually says four is considered a lucky number among Krogans. Krogans, incidentally, hail from Tuchanka.
  • In Mutant, the 911 call rings 4 times before it goes to the answering machine. And then the one who made the call dies soon after.
  • In Triangle of Moons the number 4 belongs to Big Bad and is associated with it so hard it is never actually used. Except in rhyming chants dedicated to the Big Bad.
  • In Where There's A Will, There's A Road, this is referenced when Nie Mingjue and Jin Guangyao find four branching paths and consider the find unlucky.

    Film — Animated 
  • Cars 3: Lightning McQueen's crash during the Los Angeles 500 occurred at lap 461, with 40 laps to go. He was also in fourth place when he crashes.
  • The Emoji Movie: Alex's phone store appointment is at 4:00, which is the time the phone is to be erased. Prior to this, he calls the store at 12:00 and the appointment is in four hours from then.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish invokes this trope a couple of times.
    • After the Death Montage showing Puss dying in 7 ways (in addition to the death shown before the montage), Puss (claiming he was never a math guy) guesses that he's died four times.
    • The bounty hunter wolf has four fingers on each paw, Foreshadowing that he is in fact The Grim Reaper. Puss also encounters Death four times.
  • Turning Red: Grandma Wu makes a passing mention of this trope after Ming tells her the SkyDome light is from the 4*Town concert occurring at the same time, complaining that “four is the worst number." She's also unamused when she's forced to break her own talisman and use a piece of 4*Town merchandise as a hasty replacement, specifically a plastic necklace in the shape of the number 4. She blames it for her losing a poker hand when she held four of a kind: four fours, to be exact. The winning hand, which is briefly visible is four eights.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Since the 2000s, as the Importance of the Asian Box Office has increased, few film series ever get to 4 (reboot the series instead). When they do, 4 is usually not in the title (Even when numbers are in early installments). Examples include X-Men Origins: Wolverine or First Class, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Fast & Furious (followed by Fast Five), Rambo, Penguins of Madagascar, Live Free or Die Hard, Open Season: Scared Silly, The Prophecy: Uprising, The Final Destination (followed by 5, a prequel), The First Purge, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, Terminator Salvation...
  • 4:44: Last Day on Earth is, as its title suggests, a movie set during the last day on Earth, with everybody aware that the world will end at 4:44 AM.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2: The clock stops with the minute hand pointing at the number 4 at the very moment Gwen Stacy dies. The actual time shown is 1:21, a subtle reference to Amazing Spider-Man #121, the original comic in which the same event occurs.
  • In the Robert Duvall vehicle Broken Trail, his character rescues from sexual slavery five immigrant Chinese girls. Since none of them speaks English, and he obviously doesn't speak Chinese, he names them "Number One" to "Number Five". When the girls realize this, "Number Four" objects to being given an unlucky number for a name. One of the other girls eventually accepts to be "Number Four", and she does so because she fully expects a tragic fate to befall her — which indeed it does.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, when trying to kill James Bond at Slumber Inc., Albert Wint pushes the button labeled "4" on the incinerator control panel's Oven subpanel. Thanks to some well-placed forgeries, it doesn't work.
  • Bobby, Angel, Jeremiah, and Jack Mercer, the titular hooligans in Four Brothers reunite in the first act to investigate and avenge their adoptive mother's murder. They also lose Jack before it's all said and done.
  • Japanese horror film Gakkou No Kaiden revolves around things that haunt an abandoned school when the clock hits... 4:44AM. 4:44AM typically is more horrifying than 4:44PM, where it's handwaved that it's actually 16:44.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: All four tests guarding the Holy Grail have different ways of killing those who seek it. The first test has decapitation and bifurcation. The second and third tests have those who step the wrong way plummet to their deaths. The fourth and final test will make you rapidly age and take away your vitality by choosing the wrong grail.
  • Ju-on, the Japanese movie on which The Grudge is based, features a scene in which Mizuho goes back to her school to meet her boyfriend, Tsuyoshi, only to find that he isn't there. All she discovers is a mysterious cell phone that happens to be lying around. She ends up having to wait inside the school whilst a member of staff searches the building — suddenly, the room goes dark, Toshio starts running around out of her eyesight, and the cell phone she found earlier begins to ring when she is hiding underneath a desk. The number displayed on the screen is simply "4444444444". And when she takes the call, she only hears Toshio's creepy mewing noise. Of course, Toshio also happens to be right behind her at this point. Obviously, these are ghosts who like making culturally appropriate dark jokes. There's also the Ju-on short film, which is simply titled 4444444444. It is set during the first movie, and is directly connected to the scene above — it details just what happens to poor Tsuyoshi after he also discovers the mysterious phone.
  • The Gang of Four in Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky: Huang Chan, Shorty, Taizan, and Hai.
  • Royal Warriors has the heroine, Michelle, and her friends being targeted by a quartet of vengeful terrorists, all four of them whom are killing machines and leaving behind piles of dead bodies everywhere they go.
  • Shutter features a horror sequence where the protagonist is running down a series of stairs. No matter how many flights he goes down, it's always level 4. Creeeepy.
  • The Stepford Wives (original 1975 film) Joanna notices that Bobbie and Charmaine had been living in Stepford four months before they 'changed'. It seems to take four months to perfect a robot wife.
  • Sucker Punch has a Five-Man Band of girls. On the first mission where only four instead of five take part someone dies and things go From Bad to Worse. What's more is that this is the fourth mission.
  • In Versus, the Forest of Resurrection is the 444th Portal out of 666.
  • The Korean horror film White: The Melody of the Curse is about a K-pop group made up of four members, who all become cursed after covering a song haunted by a ghost.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: The Four Horsemen; Agent MacTaggert details their importance in En Sabah Nur's cult.
    Moira: Wherever this being was, he always had four principal followers, disciples, protectors he would imbue with powers.
    Alex: Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He got that from The Bible.
    Moira: Or the Bible got it from him.
  • Inverted in The Mummy (1999): the character Beni encounters Imhotep for the first time, after it's established for the audience that Imhotep is quite dangerous and could easily kill Beni. Beni happens to be very superstitious and has a necklace with about a dozen different religious emblems on it and has memorized prayers for protection in all of them and pleads with them to save him from Imhotep. When Imhotep isn't fazed by the cross and a prayer to Jesus, he moves onto Islamic and then Chinese pendants, with the same results. When he holds up a Star of David and starts praying in Hebrew, his fourth attempt, Imhotep stops—he recognizes the language and spares Beni so that he can use him as an interpreter.

  • In Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex, the titular mental disorder partly manifests as obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a result, Artemis starts seeing five as "lucky" but has a phobia for the number four, with his narration noting the Chinese superstition.
  • Seen on occasion in BattleTech novels set in or involving characters from the Draconis Combine. Which isn't a big surprise, since being feudal Japan In Space! is basically that Successor State's hat; it just means the authors actually did do some research.
  • A Hercule Poirot novel, The Big Four, gives the fourth member of the titular group the moniker "the destroyer", and indeed is responsible for killing those who would oppose the Big Four. As the mastermind (Number 1) of the group is Chinese, this is justified.
  • A strangely literal example: while the previous three Discworld books contained Death as a character, it took until the fourth book, Mort, to feature him as a main character. This is doubly so in French-speaking countries, where 'Mort' is a word for 'death', so to them, the fourth Discworld book is Death. And in the Discworld the unlucky number is eight — twice four.
  • Divergent's dystopian Crapsack World has Chicago divided into five factions. The point where things start going to hell for the society is when one faction is slaughtered, knocking the factions down to four.
  • In Dragon Pearl, the planet known as the Fourth Colony is a ghost-ridden hellhole after the colonists accidentally called up Gaia's Vengeance. The main character specifically mentions four being unlucky when she's thinking about how it ended up as it is.
  • In Fengshen Yanyi, when Taiyi Zhenren controls the newly born Nezha and learns from his father Li Jing that he was born on the fourth hour of the morning he claims that it's an ill omen, signifying that Nezha is doomed to break the commandment on killing. Indeed, when he's still ten he ends up killing the Yaksha Li Gen, the sea dragon Ao Bing (both in self defense) and Lady Rock's disciple Biyun (by mistake).
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Dursleys, Harry's abusive foster parents, live in 4 Privet Drive. J. K. Rowling once stated that she was never fond of number four, which was why she slapped it as the Dursleys' address.
    • Part of the prophecy surrounding Harry is that his parents defied Voldemort thrice. This means James and Lily Potter encountered Voldemort three times and survived them, but were killed when it happened again (i.e. the fourth time).
    • The Triwizard Tournament is supposed to involve three contestants only, but bad things happen when the one held in Goblet of Fire involves four. It culminates in the death of one of the contestants, Cedric Diggory.
  • House of Leaves has a lot of this: the Navidsons put four locks on the door leading to the scary parts of the house; the house is explored in teams of three with one person remaining behind to man the radios; there are four members of Will Navidson's nuclear family; there are four Exploration videos; and lots of little things peppered throughout the text.
  • James and the Giant Peach: James Henry Trotter's parents were killed and eaten by an escaped rhinoceros when he was four years old.
  • Journey to Chaos: When Eric uses a series of tricks to defeat Gruffle for the right of living under Cutlass Bridge, he frames the series of defeats as lessons for his guild junior; "lesson four is death, care to learn it?". This becomes a Running Gag between them as they clash throughout the series. In Mana Mutation Menace Gruffle has become a necromancer and states that he now knows "lesson four" far better than Eric does.
  • Features heavily in one of the stories in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, although with the Chinese si instead of Japanese shi. For example, it is a very bad thing to be the fourth concubine.
  • Lorien Legacies features numbered characters, who can only be killed in that order as long as they stay apart. By the time of the first book, it's Four who's next on the chopping block, so he constantly gets into hazardous situations because an entire alien army desires his destruction first and foremost. In addition, when the order gimmick is rendered moot, Eight (as in the aforementioned 'shi ni' example) dies protecting the others.
  • The Machineries of Empire: The Hexarchate Galactic Superpower believes the number four to be profoundly unlucky, except for the military Kel faction, who have the Gallows Humor joke that Kel luck is always bad and that four is therefore lucky to them.
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, the fourth book is titled The Necromancer, and it also marks the point where Dee is declared an outlaw by his masters, Josh makes something of a Face–Heel Turn to join him and characters start dying.
  • In the Shadowrun short story "It's All Done with Mirrors", the characters go to meet with a Yakuza boss who arrived in Seattle because of mishaps in his business to ask what will appease him into leaving. The Yakuza boss then outlines a task they will have to do for him. One of the mob boss's servants lays out sake with cups, and the boss offers to pour the drink for his guests. When The Smart Guy asks what will happen if they fail, the mob boss doesn't answer but pours three times into his cup and four times into the cups of his guests. Only The Smart Guy, the Genius Bruiser, and The Professor in the group get the message.
  • The Stepford Wives: Bobbi, Charmaine, and eventually Joanna are all turned after four months of living in Stepford. It seems to take four months to perfect a robot wife.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings (2010) introduces us to the bridge crews, a collection of slaves tasked with carrying the bridges to cross the innumerable chasms that cover the Shattered Plains. As the region is an active warzone and the bridge crews are always on the front lines, the death toll across the board is absurdly high, by design. The crew that experiences the brunt of the losses is the bizarrely unlucky Bridge 4, to which Kaladin is sent to with the intent to die. in the end he has other plans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Billions: Discussed when "Dollar" Bill accuses a Chinese-American co-worker of stealing his lucky dollar. The co-worker retorts that everyone knows that Bill's dollar has four fours in a row in the serial number, so no Chinese-American would consider it lucky.
  • Charmed: The third season ends on a cliffhanger wherein Prue and Piper are fatally injured. The fourth season confirms that while Leo was able to save Piper, Prue died, and they don't have any magic that can bring her back.
  • In the CSI seventh season episode "Toe Tags", this trope is mentioned as they investigate the drowning of the bodyguard of an Asian high roller at a casino. She had been drowned because the high roller had bad luck and came unexpectedly back to his room and found her taking a bath in the bathtub he had sprinkled with rose petals for good luck. So he blamed her for his bad luck.
  • Four (Ryo Tetsuda) from Dark Matter (2015) is a murderous, brooding ninja. Since he's Japanese (and the crown prince of a space empire), his silent acknowledgement of his new name is pretty telling.
  • Disney Channel shows normally end after their fourth season, a trend set since That's So Raven broke the original 65-episode limit. To date, three shows (one live-action, one preschool and one short-form) have exceeded this.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Forest of the Dead": Other Dave's last words are repeated four times before the Doctor realizes he's been eaten by the Vashta Nerada and the words are echoing through his neural relay.
    • The death of the Tenth Doctor is heralded by the prophetic Arc Words "He will knock four times." Ultimately, this refers to Wilfred Mott knocking four times on a plexiglass window when he is trapped, and rescuing him requires the Doctor to absorb a lethal dose of radiation.
  • Food Network used to have a Chinese-cuisine show called East Meets West, whose chef/host Ming Tsai occasionally mentioned this trope and went out of his way to make servings consist of either three or five.
  • The Fresh Off the Boat episode "Very Superstitious" focuses on this, with Jessica being forced to sell a house with the number 44 on 4th street, containing 4 bedrooms. Her commission cheque also has the number 4444, convincing her to destroy it. Cutaways also show that she's removed the number from the entire house — all her children had two third birthdays, and the clocks have the number flipped to look like a lowercase 'h'.
  • Downplayed for comedic purposes during DJ's nightmare in the Full House episode "The Test". One of the latest changes of the rules about the SAT tests requires the #4 pencils instead of the #2 ones.
    D.J.: Number 4 pencils? I thought we were supposed to use #2 pencils.
    Kimmy: Wake up and smell the changes. *shows a cluster of pencils, with D.J. taking one*
  • God of War Zhao Zilong is a China-produced series about the backstory of Zhao Yun from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, meaning that there's a lot of new gaiden characters with no Plot Armor to speak of. The traitorous Gao Ze is responsible for four of them — and the last one is in episode 44. Being a gaiden character himself, it's also his last, too.
  • Done in Gotham twice with Jerome Velaska, including with his actual death:
    • His fourth episode is also his last.
    • He'd have died sooner had Theo allowed him to go a fourth round of Russian Roulette.
  • Kamen Rider
    • Masked Rider Agito: Kino Kaoru/Masked Rider Another Agito is the 4th Rider and is the only one who ends up dying.
    • Same goes for Zanki/Masked Rider Zanki in Masked Rider Hibiki.
    • In Masked Rider Den-O, Momotaros, who counts his attacks, ends up missing "Part 4" due to some combination of tiredness and feeling unappreciated. When Ryotaro calls him out on this, he claims that not using four is cool and proves it by counting from one to ten... while skipping four.
    • In Kamen Rider Wizard, the mysterious White Wizard is attempting to recruit and train four other magic-users, including the titular Wizard. Because he has a spell to restore his dead daughter to life, and it requires sacrificing the lives of four magic-users... as well as everybody within the magic circle they form, which in this case would be all of Tokyo.
    • Kamen Rider Drive:
    • In Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, the 4th Rider introduced in the series, Kuujou Kiriya/Kamen Rider Lazer, was the first Rider getting killed in the show.
    • Even if he's the 3rd Rider, Fukamiya Kento/Kamen Rider Espada is the 4th to appear in Kamen Rider Saber, and ends up having a pseudo-death.
  • Numerous occurrences on Lost. Four is one of the show's Numbers. Boone wears multiple t-shirts in the first season containing fours or sets of four and is the first regular character to die. In a Season 5 flashback, Miles discovers his ability to speak to the dead by finding a dead man in Apt. #4. In Jacob's cave, Locke is indicated by the number 4, and is the first of the six uncrossed names to be crossed out (as he is dead). There are many other instances.
  • Nature: The fourth videocassette in the Nature Video Library series from Time-Life Video is of the episode "Death Trap".
  • NCIS:
    • In the second episode, "Hung out to Dry," Tony initially refuses a switch of reserve parachutes with a marine because their reserve is number 4, citing the fact that four is unlucky in China. He relents when Gibbs points out they're not in China. Turns out that the reserve Tony had (Number 13) was unable to open as the marine he swapped with sabotaged it to kill the victim. It was up there as part of a Batman Gambit by Gibbs to expose him. The number of the "dirty" reserve parachute was selected because the victim was like a living rabbit's foot. The guy's mindset wouldn't let him say no to taking the 'chute.
    • In Season 7, Gibbs brings up Rule #40: If you think someone's out to get you, they are. It's the first time a rule in the 40s comes up in the series, and it's not the last time in the season; Abby and Tony are both immediately on guard due to the subtext:
    Tony: [The rules]'re for daily use, most of them, but the 40s—
    Abby: The 40s, the 40s are for emergency use only.
    Tony: If the 40s are in play, something unspeakably bad is going down.
  • The game show Press Your Luck had the Whammy, which not only reset a player's score to zero, but getting four of them total disqualified them from the game permanently; even if there is an all-zero tie, anyone who has four Whammies have already automatically lost the game in addition to no money, so they won't be invited back.
  • Squid Game:
    • The fourth episode has a massive riot in the bunk room, which kills off a lot of contestants. The event reveals that the creators are willing to let deaths happen outside the games, meaning everyone are truly on their own.
    • It's in the fourth game that the show begins killing off the main characters, namely, Ji-yeon, Ali, and Il-nam (although the last one is later revealed to have been faking his death).
  • Stranger Things: During the climax of Season 4, the protagonists realize that Vecna needs to kill four people, and create a gate to the Upside-Down at each location, in order to create a super gate large enough to wreck Hawkins and allow for a full-scale invasion of Earth.
  • In the episode "Phantom Traveler" of Supernatural, planes keep crashing after 40 minutes of their departure. Later it is even mentioned that this is because four is a "biblical number" and "means death" (Noah's ark and the forty days of flooding given as an example). Hell, the episode itself is the fourth episode of the show ever! On top of this, try to guess what's the number of the gate the last plane takes off? Talk about numerological motifs!
    • A very literal example occurs in Season 5, where the Winchesters encounter the Four Horsemen. The last one they meet is Death.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Mika Koizumi starts off Choudenshi Bioman as Yellow Four. She ends up Dying to Be Replaced in Episode 10, with Jun Yabuki taking up her mantle.
    • In Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, Big Bad Gengestu Kibaoni and his followers are resurrected as Youkai exactly 444 years after his death at the hands of the Ninningers' ancestors. Also in episode 44, the Ninningers are horrified to learn that the final step to gain the title of Last Ninja is to kill the current one, their own grandfather.
  • Ultraman Mebius: Big Bad Empera's generals are known as the 4 Heavenly Kings, four powerful and malevolent aliens who prove to be some of Mebius and GUYS' most challenging foes in the series.
  • Klaus Hargreeves from The Umbrella Academy (2019) is "Number Four" of seven adopted children and has the ability to see and communicate with the dead. It is later revealed he can also manifest them into the psychical world to do his bidding.

  • The song 4の歌 (Song 4) on BABYMETAL's first album BABYMETAL is full of wordplay based on this. Although it is track 8 on the album.
  • The fourth track on Coldplay's Viva La Vida—their fourth full-length album—is "42." All of its lyrics explicitly reference death, ghosts, and the afterlife, and it's almost exactly four minutes long. That's four 4s. There's no way this is a coincidence, but good luck getting them to cop to it.
  • Shiina Ringo's Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana runs for exactly 44 minutes and 44.4 seconds long and is full of allusions to death, with the final song translating as "Funeral".
  • Kagerou Project has the Mekakushi Dan, who numbers their members. Member number four is Marry, who is not only the granddaughter of a Medusa referred to as a Shinigami, or Death God, but also is forced to watch her friends die over and over again as she resets the timeline so she can see them once more.
  • The fourth and last Chapter of End of An Empire, Celldweller's newest album, is named Death.

    Myths & Religion 

  • The four Dark Judges in the Judge Dredd pinball — Judge Mortis, Judge Fire, Judge Fear, and Judge Death.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Dire Wolf omnimech was assigned the code name Daishi (Fourth) by the Japanese-speaking Draconis Combine specifically because it was such a powerful and deadly foe.
  • Exalted: In-universe, the number four is often considered unlucky and ill-omened by Realm citizens due to being one short of the count of the Five Immaculate Dragons, and thus short of their divine perfection.
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Some Sin Eaters have the number four tattooed onto them as a reminder of their deaths.
  • Kuro uses this as a game mechanic: when you roll a four for anything other than weapon damage, it actually counts as a 0. Rolling too many 4s in a single check can count as a Critical Failure should the GM deem it so. All in all, rolling 4s during important moments can quite literally mean your character's death.
  • Magic: The Gathering has Demonic Pact. It has four effects, the fourth of which will result in the player who controls it losing the game, and each effect can only be used once while that copy of Demonic Pact is in play.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • The games have the four evil Chaos Gods, omnicidal eldritch creatures that feed on emotions and mess around with the real world for the lulz. They are the main antagonists of both settings. 40k also had the four C'Tan, the material gods of the Necrons, though those have been broken into pieces and can be used like forces of nature in weapon form. Games Workshop has since filled out their ranks a bit, though in order to differentiate them from the Chaos Gods.
    • The Eldar pantheon was slaughtered by Slaanesh, leaving only three survivors: Isha, Khaine and Cegorach. The Eldar are trying to make a 4th one, Ynnead, from the souls of their fallen in the hopes that he'll rise up and defeat Slaanesh. Unfortunately, Ynnead is a god of death and will require every last one of their race to come into being. For the Eldar, four really is death.
      • However as of the events of The Gathering Storm, Ynnead has come into existence without the sacrifice of all the Eldar. It even has an Emissary, Yvraine; and a physical avatar, the Yncarne. On the tabletop, Yvraine and the Yncarne are both One Man Armies, so it becomes Four is Death for everyone else.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Sasuke Samurai #4. When it battles an enemy, if the player gets a coin flip right, SS4 instantly destroys that enemy without actually battling it. If you're playing one of the video games, expect the computer to ALWAYS FREAKIN GET THE RIGHT FLIP.
    • The Number archetype of Xyz Monsters doesn't follow this rule universally, but there are plenty who do:
      • "Number 40: Gimmick Puppet of Strings" lets you place String Counters on every other face-up monster on the Field during your turn. Then, at the end of your opponent's turn, all monsters with String Counters are destroyed and the opponent loses 500 Life Points for each one.
      • "Number 43: Manipulator of Souls" is a necromancer that draws power from a Number in its controller's Graveyard and whenever its controller gains Life Points, draining an equal amount from the opponent's Life Points and straight into its own ATK.
      • "Number 44: Sky Pegasus" is a bright and pleasant monster. Its effect forces the opponent to choose between letting one of their monsters be destroyed or sacrificing their own Life Points to protect it.
      • "Number 45: Crumble Logos the Prophet of Demolition" is an ominous zombie centaur that can target one card on the Field and negate not only its effects but the effects of all cards with the same name.
      • "Number 48: Shadow Lich" is, naturally, a lich that draws power from the Tokens it spawns.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Disneyland Hong Kong in the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars rollercoaster, the train goes through shaft no. 4 (which is covered in danger signs) instead of shaft no. 8 (a lucky number). Inevitably, later in the ride, a cable "breaks" on a chain lift, sending the train backwards.

  • Machine Robo's MR-4, Gyro Robo, was designated as an Enemy character in the American GoBots line.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for BFDI: The host of the season is Four, an extraterrestrial with the body of the number itself, and compared to the Announcer or any of the Speaker Boxes from the original Battle for Dream Island, Four is much more Ax-Crazy and destructive, at least until he's resurrected in BFB 10 and becomes somewhat nicer. Four's Establishing Character Moment has him grabbing Pin and mutilating her, describing her mangled corpse as "pretty cool".
  • The only "evil" Netking in TOME is Rubirules, who is designated as Netking Number Four.

  • Daughter of the Lilies inverts this trope. The main team has four members (as of Chapter 6), and the phenomenally adorkable Thistle appears particularly gifted in life magics and fighting evil.
  • Ludicrous Power has Eve fight a lich in comic #44, titled "Deathty-Death".
  • The Noordegraaf Files: The number 4 shows up a lot. The second page has the numbers 4 and 4444 written in binary, along with the GRAVE "`" key in groups of four. Not to mention the panel was about the inescapability of death. Also, pages post every Wednesday (4th day of the week, not using biblical calendar) at 4:00.
  • Our Little Adventure has introduced four high-ranking members of the Souballo Empire who each seem to be in charge of a department.
  • The cover of the fourth print volume of Problem Sleuth is adorned with Death's weeping face. This also makes it look like the ~ATH coding book. Tildeath.
  • The Order of the Stick #444 is entitled "He's Dead, Jim", referring to Roy, who fell to his death on the previous page.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 comic "The Naked and the Dead", a dying Scout meets God in Heaven, who then sends him back to Earth saying that he'll die on December 4th, 1987.

    Web Original 
  • hololive streamer Calliope Mori, as the apprentice of The Grim Reaper, loves the number 4 precisely for this reason. For example, she alluded to this trope when she got 44,400 followers, and her birthday is on April 4, which can be written as 4/4.
  • The number four shows up more than what should be considered coincidental in Marble Hornets:
    • In Entry #26, Jay receives a mysterious text message on the 4th of April (i.e. 4/4). Two weeks later, he receives a tape dated 4.4.2010 which contains footage of Jay's missing friend Alex and his girlfriend Amy narrowly avoiding an attack by the Operator, which happens at 4:04 PM. There is also some distortion around the entry's 4:04 mark.
    • The Totheark video "Decay" was uploaded on April 4, 2012, and it shows some of the footage from the tape in Entry #26, distorting it so that the date and time overlay each other. The last seven seconds of the video, when run through a spectrograph, reveal an image with the text, "TODAY IS YOUR LAST BIRTHDAY," with four dots under the word "birthday." Alex's birthday is April 4th. In the same video, Totheark writes, "(HE WILL) LEAD ME TO DEATH."
    • The motif is continued in entry #40 - posted on May 4, with screen tearing occurring at 4:40 on the YouTube player and The Operator showing up moments later.
  • In 7-Second Riddles, there's a mirror rumored to kill people if they look in it at 4:44. However, this is subverted; it actually kills people at 7:16, when the mirror image of the clock reads 4:44.
  • In The 10 WEIRDEST Superstitions in the World! by Matt Santoro, Matt mentions how some Chinese buildings don't have fourth floors.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode "The Phantom of Retroland", after the Phantom turns out to be Nick, another shows up that turns out to be Cindy and Libby, then a third that's actually Judy, and then finally the real Phantom shows up.
  • In "Hard Luck", a Season 4 episode of Code Lyoko, in which Odd is suffering from a case of bad luck from a broken mirror, as the gang are traveling to one of X.A.N.A.'s Replika via the Skid are talking about bad luck — to Odd's annoyance — Yumi remarks something similar to the following: "People in Japan avoid anything to do with the number 4 because it sounds like the word for death."
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper", Dipper's fourth attempt at cloning himself gets a paper jam (the copy machine copies people), resulting in this clone coming out hideously deformed. During the scene where most of the clones are melted, Paper Jam Dipper treats his death as a Mercy Kill. Yikes!
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Operation: Ruthless", Helga is advised not to get in the bumper car numbered 4 because it has a faulty accelerator, so she tries to get Ruth into that particular car in the hopes that she'll get in an accident. Sure enough, Helga accidentally gets Ruth into the car numbered 3 and she and Phoebe get into the one with 4, ending in their car flying off the track and into a hot dog truck.
  • This shows up in Jackie Chan Adventures, most notably the final faceoff in the main Season 2 arc where four demon sorcerers assault the protagonists. Said demons have Four-Fingered Hands.
  • In The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Superstitious Stimpy", Stimpy considers the unluckiest day on the calendar to be Tuesday the 17th, which is four days after Friday the 13th.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Face Freeze!", one of Mr. Krabs's stories involves a person who liked to make funny faces, most enjoyably sticking his tongue out. After doing it 444 times, he couldn't get it back in until most of it crumbled off of him.
    • In the episode "One Coarse Meal", when Plankton is scared by Mr. Krabs too many times, he tries to get run over by a bus that comes at 4:00. It also happens when there are 4 minutes left in the episode.

    Real Life 
  • This even carries over to technology.
    • Sony has created several successive types of digital videotape, named D-1, D-2, D-3, etc. There was no D-4, due to the stigma associated with the number.
    • Canon also has several product lines conspicuously skipping from 3 to 5, but not skipping 40 and other multiples of ten.
    • Music equipment manufacturer Roland/Boss do this as well. The Boss guitar pedals are generally named along the lines of DD (digital delay) or OD (overdrive) and then a number. Guess which number is nowhere to be found in their product lineup.
    • People were legitimately surprised that Sony released a PlayStation 4 for this very reason. The more superstitious among them were probably quite surprised when it became their fastest-selling system ever, and became the biggest success of the eighth generation (even in comparison to the Nintendo Switch, which was launched halfway within the period in question).
    • The Xiaomi Mi 4, Redmi Note 4, Huawei Honor 4X, and DJI Phantom 4, all of them having a successful release despite Chinese firms observing the superstition.
    • Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oneplus clarified that their following phone (after the One, 2, X, 3, and 3T) would be the Oneplus 5, not 4, invoking the cultural reason behind this trope as the rationale behind the decision. Amusingly, they had no issue with naming an earlier device "Oneplus 3", which, treated as arithmetic, equals "Four".
    • Nokia, a Finnish company, also observe this to a large extent being that they had a huge Asian market in the 2000s. Among other things, they skipped the 4000 series and S60 4th Edition, though somehow they did release the Nokia 3410, a revision of the 3310, and the Series 40 platform for lower-end feature phones.
    • Asus skipped the number four with the release of the ROG Phone 5 gaming smartphone, also citing tetraphobia as their reason. Though they apparently had no problem with the earlier Zenfone 4 series back in 2017.
  • Rather morbidly, even the very business of death adheres to this trope—in places where there are at least four retorts for burning dead bodies, the fourth retort is numbered 5 for some reason.
  • 164 (一六四, yī liù sì) is a Chinese near-homophone for "one road to death" (一路死, yī lù sǐ). This was the reason that the Alfa Romeo 164 was marketed in many Chinese-speaking societies as the 168 (一六八, yī liù bā) instead. Which, incidentally, sounds like "one road to prosperity" (一路發/一路发, yī lù fā).
  • Rolex dealers in East Asia are reported to have difficulty selling watches whose serial numbers include lots of fours.
  • In Cantonese, 14 (十四, sahp sei) is considered an unluckier number than 4, since it sounds like "will surely die"/"is doomed" (實死, saht séi). 24 (二十四, yih sahp sei) is even worse, as it could be interpreted as "easy and sure death/easily doomed" (易實死, yih saht séi) or if its digits are read individually (二四, yih sei), it sounds like "easy death" (易死, yih séi).
  • While US FCC regs normally prohibit customers from choosing specific numbers, T-Mobile company policy specifically requires them to grant any and all requests for a phone number with no 4s.
  • The Gang of Four from China were the four Communist party officials who were officially blamed for the Cultural Revolution. After their arrest, and during their trials, a massive hostile propaganda campaign was launched against them, which made full use of the four/death homophone. And one of the goals of the Cultural Revolution was to get rid of the "Four Olds" ("Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas").note 
  • The Big Four Pollution Diseases of Japan were four major environmental disasters which led to the establishment of the Environment Agency (the Japanese equivalent of the American EPA) in 1970. Three of the incidents took place in the 1960s, but the 1912 outbreak of cadmium poisoning called "itai-itai disease" is lumped in because a lawsuit wasn't brought until 1968.
  • In East Asian countries, the fourth floor is either skipped (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, ...) like the thirteenth floor is skipped in the West or, in an elevator, the buttons are numbered 1, 2, 3, F, 5 ... with "F" standing in for the English word "four" (which does not sound like death). Another common workaround is to replace the "4"-number with the previous floor's number appended with the letter A (i.e. 3A, 23A), as is floor 13 (replaced with 12A, and 14 replaced with 12B in this case). 14 is particularly bad. In Mandarin, 14 can be read yao sinote , a near homophone of "will die" or "death wish". In Hong Kong, floor numbers with the number 4 are all skipped together in some newer buildings. And thanks to the influence from being a former British colony, the traditional 13 is also skipped. This convention is also quite common in Vancouver and Toronto, owing to their large Chinese population. The combination of eastern and western superstitions means that it's not unheard of for floor numbers in apartment buildings to jump from 12 to 15, missing both 13 and 14.
  • Tea sets or chopstick sets are sold with 3 or 5 cups/pairs rather than 4.
  • A common gift in China is three or five oranges, rather than four (generally, combo packs sold in Asia never comes in sets of 4 if they can help it).
  • In Japan, professional sports team uniforms that have the number 4 in them are often assigned to players with Western origins (e.g. Americans), not because they wish ill on these players, but rather because of the belief that the number 4 does not have the same connotation for them as it would for native Japanese or other Asian players.
  • Many East Asian countries do not assign number 4 to military units. One notable aversion was the North Korean 4th Infantry Division during the Korean War, an elite unit made up of experienced veterans who fought in the Chinese Civil War and equipped with top of the line Soviet equipment. It wound up proving the point, though, as it was nearly annihilated during the battle for the Pusan Perimeter. A different unit that proved the point in reverse was the ARVN's 22nd Infantry Division, which was initially named the 4th Infantry Division but renamed to avoid this trope. It ended up being one of the last South Vietnamese units to surrender.
  • Dice in East Asia, aside from arranging the pips differently, use red pips for the numbers 1 and 4 to ward off bad luck (as opposed to the standard black).
  • The Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas avoids the digit "4" in all floor numbers and room numbers. The floor just above the 39th is the 50th, for example.
  • As West (西) is another near-homophone for death, one Chinese metaphor for death is "to return to the west" (歸西/归西), in a similar fashion to the way a broken piece of machinery is said in English-speaking countries to have "gone south".
  • Richmond Hill, Ontario's city council has banned new street numbers with the number 4. The area is known to have a large Chinese-Canadian community.
  • Mexicans had their own version of this trope: Until much later in history, the number 41 was considered unlucky, but not for being associated with death, but with homosexuality instead. This was because an infamous incident in 1901 named the Dance of the Forty-One (or the Dance of the Forty-One Fags) after a famous police raid carried out against a party attended by many members of Mexico's high society of the time, (rumored to be 41 people, albeit officially, they were 19 people instead) when many of the attendees were dressed as women. Since homosexuality was illegal in Mexico at the time, they were arrested and forced to do street-cleaning while still dressed as women, much for the public scorn against them. The scandal was so big, the number 41 was for many years associated with homosexuality, to the grade the number was excluded for use in the army, police, house numbering, payroll, etc. This has become a Dead Horse Trope though.
  • The Sega Master System, Sega's third home console, was originally known as the Mark III. The internal name for the Sega Mega Drive, the Master System's successor, while it was in development? Mark V.
  • The Fourth Day of Christmas traditionally commemorates the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod the Great and is generally more somber than the other Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • On IRS Form 1099-R (used to report distributions from pension funds, annuities, IRAs, etc.), the distribution code 4 indicates that the money was distributed due to the account-holder's death.
  • Oddly enough, the maximum possible score for video game reviews in the Japanese video game magazine Famitsu is 40. So far, twenty-seven games have received perfect scores from Famitsu, three of them were developed by western studios: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto V and Ghost of Tsushima.
  • In a bit of a horrible coincidence, the time it took for Little Boy to fall from the Enola Gay's bomb bay to its preset detonation altitude above Hiroshima was exactly 44.4 seconds.


Video Example(s):


The Dark Masters

The Dark Masters are the fourth major antagonistic force in the series, consisting of four powerful mega Digimon: Piedmon, Machinedramon, Puppetmon and MetalSeadramon.

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5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FourIsDeath

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