With Hurricane Ophelia headed in the direction of the U.K., it seems like an appropriate moment to remember the Great Storm of 1987. In particular, Oct 15, 1987, when TV weatherman Michael Fish opened his forecast with the remark, "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you're watching, don't worry, there isn't." A few hours later, the worst storm in 300 years hit Britain, killing 18 people. Though, in Fish's defense, it technically wasn't a hurricane.
In the UK, whenever anyone makes a really bad prediction, it's still known as a "Michael Fish moment."
Back in 1969, air-pollution researcher Alfred Hulstrunk had arrived at the pessimistic conclusion that pollution levels were getting so bad that within 10 to 15 years every man, woman, and child would need to wear a breathing helmet to survive outdoors. And within 20 years, he predicted, everyone would have to live in domed cities.
Part of the problem, Hulstrunk believed, was all the stuff that society produced, such as "plastic beer containers that can be burned instead of just discarded." When burned, the beer cans added to air pollution. He noted, "Aesthetically you improve your area so that you don't have beer cans along the road, but now you are breathing beer cans."
Therefore, Hulstrunk had prepared for the future by designing an air pollution survival suit "to prevent inhaling beer cans or any other matter."
The Central Premonitions Registry was established by Robert Nelson in New York in 1968 (following the establishment of a similar agency in the UK the year before). It provided a place where people could send in premonitions or predictions about the future. These would then be filed away for future reference, to see if they came true.
The Registry claimed to have a three-fold purpose: to identify people with genuine psychic gifts, to see how many premonitions actually came true, and also to serve as a warning system to prevent disaster in case they received "a flux of dreams that seem to refer to the same pending event."
As far as I know, the Registry never actually gave a heads-up about any looming disaster.
Frances Baskerville (1944-2009) of Dallas, Texas was involved in an accident in which an 18-wheel lumber truck backed into her car, while she was waiting outside a beauty parlor. The lumber crashed through the roof of the car, almost killing her. But it also caused her to have an out-of-body experience, and after that experience, she said, she had psychic abilities.
Being a country-and-western fan, she chose to sing her predictions. For instance, in 1997 she appeared on the Howard Stern show where she sang her premonition that Patrick McNeill, who had disappeared outside a Manhattan bar, would be found 100 yards from his home in Port Chester, NY. (His body was eventually found floating near in pier in Brooklyn.)
Frances Baskerville, the "World's Only Singing Psychic," who heads the Baskerville Foundation for Psychical Research in Dallas, Texas, claims to be a licensed private detective specializing in finding lost children. In a recent letter to the authors, she credits herself with having found over "five hundred persons," although she regretfully states that she "only has the right" to name three, due to the fact that she neglected to get "release forms" from the other four hundred and ninety-seven. She also claims to work with attorneys in several states helping to select juries.
Baskerville released an album, Songs From the Beyond. You can listen to the full album at the WFMU blog. One song from that album is below. And elsewhere on the web, you can listen to an interview with Baskerville from when she appeared on the Judy Joy Jones Show.
Back in 1964, Dr. Milton Berger called attention to the predictive power of a baby's burps. A baby with "strong and clear" burps will grow up to be a leader. However, the majority of people are "dithering" burpers. They'll become your run-of-the-mill member of the faceless masses.
Odd theory, but probably as good a predictor of future success as anything.
In 1966, Margaret Thorne, a member of the Junior Historian Club of Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley, West Virginia, published some predictions for the year 2016 in her local paper. Here's what she envisioned for the year we've now arrived at:
The growth of suburbia: "the only land untouched by suburbia will be the national and state parks and forests, that our ancestors were foresighted enough to conserve and a few farms of enormous size in the midwest."
Work: "the vast majority of the people will be seated in front of man's ingenious invention, the computer."
Food: "People will take a pill for breakfast that will supply them with needed nourishment. Algae, a very simple plant, which can be grown in great vats and will multiply rapidly, can be made into very appetizing morsels."
Fuel: "More sources of fuels must be found and methods for bringing the natural resources to the surface. Someone must find ways to captivate the sun's radiation and make it work for us. The sun will need to be our major fuel in the years to come."
Water: "Our water supply will need to be taken from the seas as our lands get drier and drier."
Not bad, all in all. The food-in-pills and ubiquitous spread of suburbia were misses. But she scored on the increasing importance of computers, and she kind of anticipated the development of fracking and growth of solar technology, as well as the water scarcity (which is certainly true here in California).
Christian minister Rebecca Greenwood has discovered that she has the gift of prophecy. Specifically, she has an uncanny ability to predict what's going to happen next in movies. When she watches movies with her husband, she's like, "‘This is gonna happen. This is gonna happen. This is gonna be the outcome.” And he's like, ‘Don’t tell me what’s gonna happen at the movie. If you understand before it’s happening, I don’t wanna know before it happens’.” More about Greenwood and her amazing powers of prognostication at rawstory.com
Many of the engineers' dreams are soon to become realities. Plans are now under way for twin 110-story towers in New York City which will dwarf the Empire State Building. The tunnel under the English Channel now seems assured. Covered, air-conditioned baseball stadiums are being built to do away with the need for rain checks. And the engineers soon hope to place a man on the moon, the first major step toward the exploration of our own galaxy and the galaxies beyond.
He got all this correct!
Fifty years from now some writer will look back and reflect that the in the 60's an engineer who dreamed of the weekend trip to Mars, the University of Space located on Jupiter, the completely automated home where housework consisted of pushing buttons, the aerial highways and helicars, and other commplace things in the year 2014 was considered a "screwball" by his fellow citizens.
An automated home is the closest to being a reality. The rest of it—not even close.
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.