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Failed Psychic Predictions 1999

Psychic Predictions

Gene Emery

December 31, 1999

AMHERST, N.Y.— Remember the ‘90s? It was the decade when scientists discovered an anti-aging drug that stretched the normal lifespan to 150 years, Madonna gave birth to quintuplets, earthquakes transformed both San Diego and Los Angeles into islands, and a Super Bowl had to be canceled because so many players were suspended for drug use, that both coaches couldn’t field a team.

At least that’s what should have occurred if the world’s top psychics had been correct. People may be celebrating the new millennium, but the world’s top psychics shouldn’t be raising a glass of champagne to celebrate their successes for the 1990s, according to Gene Emery, a contributor to the magazine The Skeptical Inquirer, who has been tracking the hits and misses of the tabloid psychics for two decades.

And, Emery says, the folks who claim to be able to see the future also didn’t do very well in their forecasts for 1999. The psychics said 1999 would be the year that:

“It’s always hard to find evidence that a psychic predicted an unexpected event BEFORE the fact,” said Emery, a science writer based in Providence, R.I. For example, the forecasts published with great fanfare in the supermarket tabloids failed to mention such surprising events as the massive earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan, the nuclear accident in Japan, or the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law.

Instead, said Emery, Anthony Carr, billed as “the world’s most documented psychic” by the National Examiner, is documented as predicting that Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy would give birth to healthy twins. And Sanjiv Mishra of India, described by the tabloid Sun as one of the ten ‘‘greatest psychics on Earth,” made the not-so-great forecast that JFK Jr. would fly “on a space shuttle mission in August,” with John Glenn as his co-pilot.

Tracking the psychics is fun, but it has a serious side, said Emery. ‘‘Every time the media hypes psychics, it encourages consumers to waste large amounts of money calling psychic hotlines. Most can ill afford it. It also encourages some police departments to listen to psychics who claim to be able to solve crimes. Not only do ‘psychic detectives’ waste valuable police resources, the psychics sometimes implicate people who later turn out to be innocent.”

Emery said psychics give the illusion of being accurate when people forget the bad predictions or don’t realize how equivocal the forecasts are. Psychic Sylvia Browne, for example, predicted that in 1999 “the Pope will become ill and could die.” Said Emery: “That means she can claim success if the Pope suffers anything from a head cold to a fatal heart attack.” (Browne’s notable predictions for 1999 included forecasts of cures for breast cancer and sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS]. She also said that “The world will not end anytime soon.”) Some of the unambiguous forecasts the psychics were making for the 1990s:

Gene Emery

Gene Emery manages the Massachusetts bureau of the Providence Journal, reviews computer software and video games, and frequently writes about science, medicine and technology. He'll be accepting predictions through Jan. 15 from professional psychics, although they must be for unexpected events guaranteed to make the headlines in 2005.