• Hit or Miss: Spiritman’s Success as a Prophet

    Joseph Tittel, aka Spiritman, sees the headlines of the future long before the news happens, according to himself and his band of believers.  Having taken a long look at how his predictions for 2012 and 2014 worked out, I am skeptical; yet, the introduction to his blog confidently claims some specific and rather impressive hits from past years:

    Joseph Tittel was the only Psychic in the world to specifically predict the March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami, earthquake & nuclear disasters. This is just one of hundreds of specific predictions that have made Joseph Tittel’s predictions the most listened too and most Goggled predictions on the net, aside from the late Nostradamus. Some of Joseph’s other predictions have included the outbreak of the swine flu, the gulf oil disaster, the cruise ship disaster in Italy along with the deaths of Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela, Heath Ledger and hundreds of other specific predictions that have come to pass. [Note: I got sick of inserting “sic”, and did not even try to correct Tittel’s English.]

    Now, my opinion is that Tittel and his ilk could not predict their way out of a paper bag.  The only reasons I would bother to deconstruct the claims above are (1) they nicely illustrate how wide of the mark a prediction can be, and still be counted as a hit, and (2) they may cast a little light on how such predictions are made.  So here are the claimed hits, paired with what Tittel actually predicted, plus a bit of snide commentary from the peanut gallery, which is me.

    1. The 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, Japan

    The Hit: “Joseph Tittel was the only Psychic in the world to specifically predict the March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami, earthquake & nuclear disasters.”

    What he really said:

    Earthquakes in Japan and China, three major, cause more devastation than ever before….You know we never really heard, at least I haven’t, of places being hit by tsunamis until the past few years. Well over the next few years you will unfortunately begin to hear a whole lot more about them . Three major ones occur over the next 12 to 14 months bringing complete devastation to the areas. One may hit Japan, China and Mexico while I believe one place that was already hit will be hit again or one will occur within 100 miles of the last tsunami….

    A major accident occurs at a chemical or nuclear plant causing an explosion, fire and chemical leak out and into the air. These chemicals are deadly and at first the people are told it is ok and non-toxic until they realize they were wrong and hundreds of people rush into the emergency rooms due to illness and burn-like rashes covering their skin. I’m not sure where this is going to occur but once again this particular prediction could occur in Russia. I do not think it will be in the U.S. but can not tell. I also see people wearing heavy duty gas masks….

    A large fire I keep seeing which may possibly be connected to Japan. This fire is of a large building structure. Looks to me like it will take place in a huge hotel or complex. I feel this may kill hundreds and it may actually be set by an arsonist. If so the arsonist will be identified. This may be done as a terrorist type of attack or may be related to a persons anger toward someone connected to this building.

    None of this looks at all like a specific reference to the tragedy of March 2011.  Tittel and his commenters have blithely conflated references to earthquakes and tsunamis in China, Japan, and Mexico (safe and meaningless predictions), a separate accident at a chemical or nuclear plant in Russia, and a separate arson/terrorist attack on a Japanese hotel or complex.  Note the vagueness, bet-hedging, and weasel words abounding in all the “predictions.”


    Health Care

    1. Swine flu outbreak, 2009

    What he really said:

    I see face masks in my meditation and feel that it would be related to some type of air born disease. This will be in a foreign country which may end be closed off from the rest of the world. It could also be related a some type of disaster that leaves dead bodies rotting in turn causing disease and of course a horrible odor.

    Again, Tittel gives no specific details, does not even mention the flu, and hedges his bets; the prediction says only that somewhere in the world, for some reason, some people will be wearing face masks.  Any disaster from an epidemic to an earthquake, flood, or hurricane with casualties would serve equally well to fulfill the “prophecy.”


    1. The gulf oil disaster, 2010

    What he really said:

    Gas prices sore once again with the cost rising to more then six dollars a gallon out west. Part of the blame will be on some type of equipment failure which in turn limit’s the production of oil.  Update- If you listen to Joseph’s live radio show from New Years Day where he read his predictions live on the air he said “A large piece of oil equipment would fail in turn causing a major catastrophe. ” We all know by now of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is a major catastrophe which was initially casued due to the failure of a large piece of equipment.

    Can an entire offshore rig be characterized as “a large piece of oil equipment?”  Note also the signal failure of the first part of the prediction.



    1. Death of Nelson Mandela, 2013

    What he really said:

    The Deaths of three major influential past leaders die in 2013. One being Nelson Mandela and I believe George Bush. Not sure of the third.

    Well, a hit!  Sort of.  Mandela did die in 2013—at the age of 95, after a long illness, so the prediction was not a terribly risky one.  George Bush, of course, is still with us.  By my estimate, incidentally, at least a dozen “past leaders” die every year, mostly of factors related to old age.  Interestingly, however, both George Bush and Nelson Mandela were hospitalized in December 2012, Bush even spending the time around Christmas in intensive care.  That, of course, was also about the time that Tittel was compiling his predictions.  Just sayin’.



    1. Death of Heath Ledger, 2008

    What he really said:

    Headlines: Legend Dies. This could be in a plane crash or other accidental death and will involve some celebrity as big as Mic Jagger, Tom Cruise, Bradd Pitt or Rod Steward (Just examples). Update August 2008: As we are all aware earlier this year we lost actor Heath Ledger (Or Legend). It is very easy to see that I saw this in headlines and it was obviously Heath who now will go on as a legend.

    Poor Heath’s surname was a gift to the Tittel crowd, allowing them to play games with the word “legend.”  Clearly, though, any celebrity death at all, bar death by old age or disease, could have fulfilled this fuzzy prediction.  And what about that plane crash?  Further note: if one of the named stars had been so obliging as to kick the bucket in 2008, no matter what the cause of death, Tittel would surely have forgotten he was simply providing examples, and claimed a direct hit.


    1. Death of Michael Jackson, 2009

    What he really said:

    “Michael Jackson will also hit headlines again. This time because his health will take a major downfall leaving him hospitalized. He may even end up have a near death experience when something goes seriously wrong with his lungs. Michael may even have a lung collapse and will end up in surgery. He will also relocate back to the states to be closer to his family during his illness. He is going to look really bad by years end.”

    This one is very interesting.  Tittel’s 2008 predictions also predicted Jackson would have some nonspecific woes (“Michael Jackson will once again hit the headlines with some bad news”), which was as safe as predicting nowadays that Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber would engage in questionable behaviour.  The 2009 prediction talked about health problems, not death—and moreover, about health problems that had nothing to do with his death; I suppose it’s true, though, that Jackson looked really bad by year’s end, given that the poor chap had been dead for months by then.  The interesting fact is that tabloid rumours were rampant in December 2008, along the lines that Jackson had a serious lung condition rooted in a genetic disorder, and might need a lung transplant.  This leaves open the distinct possibility that Spiritman’s meditations relied more on tabloid headlines than headlines from the spirit world.


    Business & Finance

    1. Cruise ship disaster, 2012

    What he really said:

    “There will be several major cruise line issues including an overturned ship.”

    The cruise ship taken to fulfill this prophecy was the Costa Concordia, which came to grief in January 2012.  I talked about this one in a previous post, observing that the critical clause did not appear on Spiritman’s January 1st broadcast, but was added to the transcript published on his blog on January 21, a full week after the Costa Concordia disaster.  Again – just sayin’.

    One more thing to just say: a survey of the comment threads on Tittel’s blog and Facebook page make it clear that his fans are eager participants in finding “matches” for his scattershot predictions.  His self-proclaimed stellar success as a psychic prophet is not just a product of his own self-deception and folly—rather, it’s a clear folie à plusieurs.

    Category: FeaturedSecularismSkepticism & Science

    Article by: Rebecca Bradley