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SKEPTICAL EYE

Science/Medicine : Tabloid Psychics Failed to Predict '87 Would Be a Bad Year for Them

January 11, 1988|AL SECKEL | Seckel is active in Southern California Skeptics, a group that investigates scientific claims. and

Every year about this time, the supermarket tabloids headline the "startling and true" predictions for the coming year by "psychics" such as Jeane Dixon, Shawn Robbins, Marie Graciette and others reputed to have the "gift of prophecy."

Every year some of the predictions are indeed startling, but how many of them turn out to be true?

To find out, some colleagues in the Bay Area started collecting the predictions made each year by the tabloid "psychics."

How did they fare last year?

The most famous psychic probably is Jeane Dixon. She had approximately 100 predictions printed in the Star last year.

Supernatural Vision

About one-third of her predictions couldn't really be classified as "psychic" predictions because they didn't call for any supernatural vision. For example, she predicted that "the IRS and the public will be confused by the new tax laws."

The second third of her predictions were so vague that it is impossible to say if they came true or not. For example, her predictions that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev will "puzzle American policy-makers" and "this will be another difficult year for (rock singer) Boy George" are not clearly true or false.

The last third of her predictions can be classified as both startling and specific. Hence, these are the most interesting ones to look at.

On the love and marriage front, last year Dixon predicted--incorrectly--a second marriage for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass); a baby for the senator's niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and pregnancies for the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York.

She also forecast that the 1987 art market would go bust, but in fact, record prices were set at art auctions.

In addition, Dixon predicted many Americans would be kidnaped for ransom and a rescue mission would be attempted leading to the loss of life. She also prognosticated "another tragic airspace confrontation with the Soviet Union."

In the one-third of her predictions that most clearly call for "psychic" powers, the only correct one was that Elizabeth Taylor would not remarry again in 1987.

National Enquirer psychic Robbins gave four specific and startling predictions last year. These were that Prince Charles would appear on TV to psychically bend spoons like Uri Geller, that Monaco's Prince Albert would renounce his throne, that singer Michael Jackson "will give up rock singing to begin a career as a fire-and-brimstone TV evangelist" and that a "Kentucky hillbilly would become an overnight billionaire" after discovering the world's biggest oil field in his backyard. None were correct.

Los Angeles psychic Marie Graciette had several of her predictions published last year by the National Enquirer. Among them: Gorbachev would be wounded in an assassination attempt by a Soviet soldier during the May Day parade in Moscow. She also predicted that the mayor of a large American city would undergo a sex-change operation and win reelection as a woman.

It should be noted that not one of the tabloid psychics predicted any of the genuinely surprising news stories of 1987, including: the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 500 points in a single day, First Lady Nancy Reagan's surgery for breast cancer, the downing of a jetliner by a revengeful ex-employee believed to have shot the the flight crew, the Whittier earthquake or the unexpected withdrawal of Gary Hart from the presidential race over a sex scandal and his equally unexpected reentry into the race late into the year.

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