Nineteen ninety-six was an interesting year. Rush Limbaugh became the
Republican nominee for President; Roseanne killed off her popular TV
character; cures for baldness, arthritis, and AIDS were announced; and
Michael Jackson had a sex-change operation.
If you don't remember those headlines, you're not alone. They didn't happen.
But those are some of the events that were supposed to occur in
1996 according to the top psychics who reported their predictions a year ago
in the supermarket tabloids such as the National Enquirer, the Sun, and the
ever-wacky Weekly World News.
As in previous years, their batting record for forecasting major unexpected
news events for the coming year was abysmal.
Here's a tabloid-by-tabloid rundown of the year that should have been,
according to some of the world's best "psychics."
The National Enquirer:
Jay Leno will lose his Tonight Show job to Johnny Carson.
O. J. Simpson will become a minister after confessing during testimony
in a civil suit that he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Good Morning America hostess Joan Lunden will become
engaged to Shaquille O'Neal.
O.J. attorney Johnnie Cochran will be hailed as "the new Bill Cosby"
when he plays a defense attorney in a TV comedy that becomes "a smash"
Barbara Walters will be kidnapped by Middle East terrorists, "but will
be freed after ABC agrees to let the terrorists air their views on a
three-hour broadcast hosted by Barbara."
O. J. prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden will marry; meanwhile
Simpson will join a monastery.
Susan Lucci finally wins an Emmy but breaks a toe when she drops it on
Angela Lansbury will devise "a dramatic departure from Murder, She Wrote
by casting herself as the show's final victim."
The National Examiner:
Michael Jackson will undergo a "complete sex change and insist that
everyone call him Michelle. . . . His wife, Lisa Marie, will stick by
him and they'll develop an even closer relationship."
Rush Limbaugh will quit his career as a conservative political spokesman
to star "in a remake of the series Jake and the Fat Man."
Comic actor Jim Carrey will get an Oscar after his face freezes in a
Nuclear missiles will be used to break up a giant asteroid found to be
hurtling toward Earth.
An American astronaut "will give birth to a healthy baby girl during a
six-month mission aboard the Russian space station Mir."
Rush Limbaugh will be the Republican nominee against Bill Clinton,
picking Sonny Bono as his running mate.
The South Pacific island nation of Tonga will land and then
strand people on the moon. The U.S. will rescue them.
The American and National leagues will be disbanded after another
baseball strike and NFL owners will sell their teams to the players.
On the medical front, 1996 was supposed to be the year that Star
Trek star Patrick Stewart discovered an herbal cure for baldness, actor
James Garner discovered a cure for arthritis that people could make in their
own kitchens, and a miracle cure for AIDS was found.
The prize for the most embarrassing prediction goes to Mystic Meg, a psychic
for the Globe. In the January 2, 1996, issue she said, "Jerry
Lewis and Dean Martin reunite for an emotional reunion on TV." Martin died
in December of 1995, around the time the prediction hit the newsstands.
The psychics' horrible batting average isn't surprising. They've gotten very
few hits since I began saving their predictions around 1980. What continues to
be surprising is that the tabloids keep carrying the predictions of the same
psychics year after year. Any professional ball player who missed as often as
these folks would have been sent to the showers.
A year ago, in response to a similar analysis, National Enquirer
executive editor Steve Coz told a reporter from the Dallas Morning
News that the list of predictions "isn't something to be
critiqued" because "it's a fun read, and it's meant to be taken as
Okay. But in the same interview, Coz said the predictions are published to
tell readers, "Here's what you can look forward to."
In short, the Enquirer tries to have it both ways by trying to
build up the credibility of their psychics when they publish the predictions,
yet billing the predictions as entertainment when the editors are forced to
confront the fact that they keep quoting psychics whose predictions, year after
year, have failed.
So what's in store for 1997?
According to the tabloid psychics, it will be the year plastic surgeons
discover a way to give dogs the faces of movie stars, Tammy Faye (wife of
disgraced tele-evangelist Jim Bakker) is appointed ambassador to Israel,
Americans get a $1,000 tax deduction for every career criminal they kill,
scientists discover how to communicate with the dead, time travel becomes as
affordable as a Disney World vacation, and Madonna makes a successful run for
About the Author
Gene Emery writes the Skeptical Inquirer's Media Watch column.