• The Pandemic Foretold? Pt.1

    Good old Sylvia Browne—looks like she called it. In a book published in 2008, she accurately predicted the coronavirus tsunami that is currently knocking the nations over like a row of beach huts. No less an authority than Kim Kardashian has confirmed it, so it seems like the late Ms. Browne had those magical psychic powers after all. Or did she?

    Here is what she wrote: “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and then disappear completely.” And that’s it.

    The short answer is no, she did not foretell the COVID-19 pandemic. Ben Radford, for example, has deconstructed her prediction in some detail, from the ambiguity of the date (“in around 2020”), to the inaccuracy of the description, and the weaselling nature of the second sentence. Therefore, I really don’t need to go into all that here, though it is entertaining to look at some of Browne’s other predictions in the same book. Apparently, the year 2010 was to see the common cold cured at long last; but it would also see the advent of a highly contagious flesh-eating disease transmitted by bird mites, cured eventually by applying electrical currents and lots of heat.  I think I’d remember that. I think I’d also remember a manned mission to Mars in 2012. And there would be other miracles of medicine:

    In about 2013 or 2014, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis (MS) and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) will be defeated through some highly specialized use of the human growth hormone…The year 2014 will see the introduction of a safe, healthy pill or capsule that will replace gastric bypass and Lapland surgeries and anorexia and bulimia will be eliminated by a newly discovered medication that targets the pituitary gland….In 2015 there will be virtually no invasive surgery….No later than 2020, thanks to the development of a synthetic material that perfectly duplicates the human eardrum, we’ll see a virtual end to deafness.

    No cigar for Ms. Browne. But what about other psychic prognosticators, of the sort that regale us annually with their forecasts for the coming year? In the past three months, COVID-19 has caused whole nations to shut down, while slicing and dicing the global economy—an event that has overwhelmed all other events, like that big rogue wave turning the S.S. Poseidon upside-down. Surely the psychic prophets had to see it coming. So I took a bit of a random walk through Google and YouTube to check it out.

    Two psychic mediums from Wisconsin, quoted by WISN 12 News, were hopeful for 2020. Spiritual Psychic Ann from New Berlin foretold “a year that is going to be filled with dignity and prosperous,” and a win for Trump after a very close race. Nothing about a pandemic. Psychic medium Toni Greene predicted 2020 would see a turn for the better, after the extreme challenges of 2019; indeed, “2020 has the potential to be very magical and miraculous for most people. If you’re on your path, if you’re doing the right thing, it’s just going to take off.” She didn’t mention a pandemic, either.

    Then there’s Canada’s own Psychic Nikki, resplendent in a fuzzy rainbow version of Genghis Khan’s fur hat, who made an astonishing 870 one-liner predictions for 2020. These ranged from the death of a trapeze artist and a town being invaded by kangaroos, up to the usual litany of earthquakes, storms, terrorist attacks, and celebrity scandals. There will apparently be a mercifully brief World War III, followed by peace. Trump will lose the election.  Nikki saw diseases in store for rabbits, cherry trees, Beatles, redwoods in California, and bison in Canada, but somehow she missed the pandemic.

    Linda G, The Comanche Psychic, is a folksy, mumsy lady who reads the Tarot and talks live to her spirit guides on YouTube, thanking them prettily for every insight. Trump will lose the election and be brought to justice; Putin will need to run for his life. Lots of flooding, no major volcanic eruptions. Panic in the stock market, though not as bad as 2008. Etc. In general, though, she thought 2020 would not present much in the way of bad things, and “no real huge heartache.” I think the Chinese and Italians, for example, would find that surprising. At any rate, no pandemic was mentioned.

    Grand Rapids psychic counsellor Mary Miller, who went on WZZM TV with her 2020 prognostications, sends light and prayers to President Trump every morning, even before she gets up. Her thoughts on 2020, however, were mostly rather giggly personal predictions for her three interviewers; on the wider front, she said only there would be lots of anger around the world, and not just in the US. What she failed to mention was lots of COVID-19 around the world.

    A website called Ask Astrology did predict China would have a health crisis—unfortunately, not the right kind. They predicted a bird flu that would affect mostly poultry and would not spread to humans, adding, “while this will create some inconveniences it won’t be the end of the world.”

    Nicolas Aujula of London, a past-life regression therapist and himself a reincarnation of an Egyptian queen and many other people and animals, predicted the 2020 downfall of Donald Trump, a baby for Paris Hilton, a football victory for Britain, possibly UEFA, and a global mass movement of people flooding into the streets in protest at something or other. Well, UEFA has been deferred, nobody will be congregating in the streets for some time, and he made no mention of a pandemic.

    From Australia we have the lovely Julie McKenzie, Spiritual Life Styler, who was rather more businesslike and less rambling than most of the YouTube psychics, and who made nice use of on-screen bullet points. Her keyword for 2020 was Sustainability – we were to reawaken mind, body and soul, and find balance and sustainability. Or something like that. On the disaster front, last year’s big fires would flip to 2020’s big floods; there would be lots of earthquakes, including a bad one near New Delhi and a big one in Canada; also volcanoes in Hawaii and Japan, big cold snaps in Russia and Canada (no shit), tornadoes in Iowa and Kansas, and other no-miss predictions of the bleeding obvious. There would be small wars, terrorism, hijacks, a sunken submarine, a major attack with global consequences comparable to 9/11, and several unnamed celebrities dying in interesting ways. Trump would win, then die. The stock market would drop midway through the year, then recover and be pretty balanced in general. Britain’s royal family would start hosting large open-house events to connect better with the common people. Overall, 2020 would be quite a good year, and apparently one lacking a pandemic.

    Tana Hoy of Ohio, who calls himself “The World’s Foremost Psychic,” claims a direct hit on the pandemic in his 2020 predictions. I think not. Embedded in such surprises as “a commercial airplane crash will cause the deaths of several people,” and “an earthquake will rock Mexico causing major damage,” and “major weather disasters will hit parts of Asia causing several lives to be lost,” is this gem: “A new virus will be discovered that has the potential to be deadly if not eradicated substitute” (sic). That is the whole basis for his claim, but predicting a new virus is not the same as predicting a devastating pandemic. Which brings up a critical point.

    Mr. Hoy is not the only psychic prognosticator to claim a direct hit on the basis of a vague, throwaway reference to a new virus, buried in a morass of other vague, throwaway predictions. In fact, in these days of Zika, swine flu, SARS, MERS, Ebola, and so forth, it’s as safe to prophesy a new virus as it is to prophesy an earthquake in Japan, a tornado in Kansas, or a snowstorm in Canada. New viruses pop up with the regularity of weeds in a garden. But what Mr. Hoy and his colleagues did not pick up on their psychic radar was an incoming catastrophe that—if they really had any powers—should have covered the whole damn screen.

    In Part 2, I’ll be taking a closer look at some popular psychics and their evolving views of the crisis.

    Category: FeaturedScienceSkepticism

    Article by: Rebecca Bradley