A few days ago, I predicted that I would write a column about predictions and psychics. Now I am in the process of doing it. Uncanny isn't it? Perhaps, as a journalist, I am a victim of my own hype, something called the "Jeanne Dixon Effect", named after the psychic who supposedly predicted John F Kennedy's assassination.
According to The Skeptics Dictionary, the "Jean Dixon Effect", which might actually be a defect, refers to "the tendency of the mass media to hype or exaggerate a few correct predictions by a psychic, guaranteeing that they will be remembered, while forgetting or ignoring the much more numerous incorrect predictions."
Parade magazine in 1956 quoted Mrs Dixon as predicting, "As for the 1960 election Mrs Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labour and won by a Democrat. But he will be assassinated or die in office though not necessarily in his first term.''
What was not said is that Mrs Dixon actually predicted that John F Kennedy would fail to win the presidency and that Richard Nixon would be victorious. She predicted that a cure for cancer would be found in 1967 and foresaw peace on earth by the year 2000. Mark Twain, the author and humorist, was born in 1835 when Halley's comet was visible and is reputed to have said that he came in with Halley and would go out with Halley. He died in 1910 when the comet was next sighted. However, he was sceptical of prophets and said, "A man who goes around with a prophecy-gun ought never to get discouraged. If he will keep his heart and fire at everything he sees he is bound to hit something by and by."
Interestingly, Jeanne Dixon never predicted her own death. Regarding his own death, Twain remarked, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always 20 years behind the times.'' Using that logic, I most likely will end my days in a Catholic Church.
Sceptics ask, "How come you never see a newspaper headline that says, 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?" Comedian Michael Aronin quips, "I called the Psychic Friends hotline. We spoke for six hours and she didn't realise that I wasn't going to pay my bill." This belief in psychic phenomena may be behind a recent story out of New York which claims that Hillary Clinton visited a fortune teller, possibly Renier, who peering into a crystal ball in a darkened room delivered grave news. "There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.''
Visibly shaken, Hillary stared at the woman's lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself. She simply had to know. She met the fortune teller's gaze, steadied her voice, and asked her question. "Will I be acquitted?''
These days almost every psychic is trying to take credit for predicting last year's financial crisis. However, in reviewing the major predictions for 2008, I did not find many that were accurate.
What I found instead were predictions like a swarm of locusts would destroy wheat crops (Elizabeth Anglin, a "gifted" psychic) and a major super-volcano is poised to erupt, sending ash all over the Earth, affecting worldwide political and economic systems (Michael R Smith, a "psychic medium"). The latter especially turned out to be a lot of hot air. Smith made an ash of himself.
Talking about psychic mediums there are two interesting puns that I predict you will find funny. Queen Nyteshade had two claims to fame. She could tell fortunes and she was a midget. The local authorities frowned on her because they thought that fortune telling was fraudulent. They had Queen Nyteshade arrested. She was placed in a holding cell. Since she was so small she was able to squeeze between the bars of her cell and escape. The local newspaper wrote a front page article about Nyteshade's escape with the headline, "Small Medium at Large". Then there was the man walked into a fortune teller's tent. When the fortune teller saw him, she started laughing, so he hit her. Why? He was striking a happy medium.
Is there such a creature? There might be if some of the 2009 predictions come true. Sylvia Brown predicts, "The president elected sometime after 2008 will die in office from a heart attack." Elizabeth Joyce, who sees Obama as a one-term president, foretells, "I am feeling major health issues for John McCain in December 2008, and the passing of Ted Kennedy by the end of January 2009...Sarah Palin will run for the Senate in Alaska in September 2009, and wins. She may be a major contender with Hillary for the Presidential spot in 2012." Christopher Reburn sees some questionable business dealings around Michelle Obama. Michael Cohen says that the Catholic Church will grow in strength, boosted by a miracle in South America (possibly because of my prediction regarding my final resting place).
Right or wrong, these psychics are as sincere as the seer whose middle-aged female client disclosed that two men were madly in love with her and asked, "Who will be the lucky one?" The wise man answered, "Morris will marry you and Irving will be the lucky one."
• Tony Deyal who has psychic amnesia (he knows in advance what he'll forget) was last seen quoting Stephen Wright's line, "I once had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met."