PSYCHICS FAIL ONCE AGAIN If you thought 1994 has already featured some amazing events, wai
PSYCHICS FAIL ONCE AGAIN
If you thought 1994 has already featured some amazing events, wait until you
see what's in store for the final days of the year.
Hillary Clinton will plead guilty to shoplifting lipstick, an
will turn Florida into an island, and Madonna will marry Boy George.
In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General will announce that TV watching
makes men impotent, and Princess Diana will reveal that an appliance
repairman and a postal worker fathered her two sons.
Who says? The world's top psychics.
Those are just a few of the events that were supposed to come true
before the end of 1994, according to the forecasts of the self-appointed
whose predictions are published in supermarket tabloids like the National
Enquirer, The Star, The Sun, and the Weekly World News.
Because none of the extraordinary predictions have come true yet,
RweUre either going to see a lot of amazing news over the next few days or it
will become clear, once again, that the nation's psychics aren't as skilled at
predicting the future as some people think, according to Gene Emery, a
science writer and frequent contributor to the Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine
that takes a scientific look at claims of supernatural abilities and events
beginning with the Jan./Feb. 1995 issue, will be published bimonthly in a
larger, standard magazine format.
If the forecasts don't come true, it won't surprise Emery, who has been
collecting predictions in the tabloids since the 1970s. "When it comes to
forecasting unexpected events, psychics historically have had an abysmal track
record," said Emery.
According to these top prognosticators, 1994 was destined to be the
-- Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere became "the proud parents of
triplets" (as predicted by Judy Hevenly in the National Enquirer).
-- Charles Manson got a sex change operation and was set free from prison
(Peter Meers, Weekly World News).
-- Scientists "perfected a small four-cylinder car that can run
on tap water" (Leah Lusher, Enquirer).
-- Jay Leno quit 'The Tonight Show' (Barbara Donchess, Enquirer).
-- Madonna married a Middle Eastern sheik and became "a totally traditional
wife, complete with long robes and veil" (Mystic Meg, Globe).
-- Frank Sinatra was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Italy (Micki Dahne,
-- Whoopi Goldberg gave up acting to join a convent (John Monti, Enquirer).
-- Pope John Paul II decreed that married couples can only have sex on the
first Friday of each month (Maria Graciette, Enquirer).
-- Office workers fled from the Sears Tower in Chicago after it began to lean
like the Tower of Pisa (Maria Graciette, Enquirer).
"As always," said Emery, "the tabloid psychics missed all the truly
unexpected news of 1994, such as the O.J. Simpson case, the Nancy Kerrigan-
Tonya Harding affair, the baseball and hockey strikes, and the takeover of
Congress by the Republican Party."
"Instead, we had psychics predicting that the Dow-Jones would rise to
5,000, that a national lottery would cut taxes in half, and that a teenager
build (and accidentally detonate) a nuclear bomb in Pageland, South
For 1995, the psychics have already predicted that O.J. Simpson will be
acquitted, singer Whitney Houston and boxer Mike Tyson will marry, a plant
that grows in northern Florida will cure AIDS, and volcanic eruptions in
August will create a new land mass joining Cuba with America.
Will it happen? Emery advises: "Don't hold your breath."
Psychology behind psychic predictions
One group of scientists and scholars in Buffalo, New York, the
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
(CSICOP), has been publishing the year-end tally of psychic predictions for the
past several years in its quarterly journal (now bimonthly), the Skeptical
Inquirer. According to CSICOP, psychics don't appear to be improving upon
their "hit rate" with the passage of time, and currently CSICOP has yet to find
any convincing evidence that psychics possess extraordinary talent for seeing
the future, finding missing people, or helping solve crimes.
When psychics are tested under conditions that eliminate luck or
fraud, their powers evaporate.
Emery said some people argue that the forecasts in the supermarket
tabloids are too outrageous to be taken seriously. "But extraordinary things do
happen," he said. "If I predicted a year ago that Michael Jackson would marry
Lisa Marie Presley, that would seem pretty outlandish. Yet I would have been
What did the tabloid psychics actually say about Jackson? "They
predicted that he would marry Oprah Winfrey, become a traveling evangelist,
or have a sex-change operation," according to Emery.
The science writer said that scientists who have researched psychics
and probed the psychology behind their predictions have discovered that
prognosticators use a variety of techniques to make the public
think they're giving accurate forecasts.
Jeane Dixon, for example, likes to be vague. One of her predictions for
1994 was that "Mike Tyson may soon marry behind prison bars and could
become the father of a child in the near future" (emphasis added).
"Other times they predict things we'll probably never hear
about," said Emery. One of Monti's predictions was that Sally Jessy Raphael
and Rush Limbaugh "will become secret sweethearts."
"If it's a secret, the prediction becomes impossible to prove wrong,"
In hopes of finding one psychic who can actually predict the future,
Emery accepts written forecasts from psychics "as long as they involve
unexpected events guaranteed to make headlines. Don't expect me to be
impressed if you tell me there will be a scandal in Washington or an
earthquake in California."
Emery's address: Providence Journal Newsroom, 75 Fountain St.,
Providence , RI 02902.
(Gene Emery can be reached for media interviews afternoons at 401-
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank