WUvians, perhaps you can help me solve a mystery which has been perplexing me for the past few days — what is the "New York Center For The Strange"?
Here's the info I've gathered so far:
In 1972, an organization by this name began an annual tradition of issuing predictions for the following year. It claimed to have obtained these predictions by conducting a survey of American witches.
Year after year, around Halloween, these predictions have appeared in papers. (For instance: 1977
Sometimes the predictions sounded serious, such as when, in November 1974, the NYCFTS predicted that "Henry Kissinger will resign as secretary of state before next July" (wrong!). But more often the predictions were just bizarre and seemingly tongue-in-cheek. For instance, in 1974 the witches also predicted "a nationwide shortage of Scotch whiskey, shoe polish and lighter fluid." And in 1978 they predicted "a nationwide shortage of Beluga caviar, earmuffs, bagels and automobile dipsticks."
Throughout the 1980s and 90s the witches' predictions continued to appear in papers. In the 21st Century they become harder to find, but as recently as 2013 the NYCFTS issued predictions
, though I can't find any predictions issued in 2014 or 2015.
In all this time, no one seems to have questioned what exactly is this organization. Is it real, or is it someone's long-running joke? Is there really a "Center For The Strange" with offices in New York City?
Various NYCFTS spokespeople have told reporters that the organization's mission is to help correct "the widely-held image of witches as evil, gnarled hags who fly across rooftops astride brooms." This makes it sound like it might actually be a genuine society of witches.
But on the other hand, the NYCFTS officially describes itself as "a non-profit organization involved, basically, in research." This, to me, sounds like a joke.
In 2013, someone created a website for the organization, at www.nycenterforthestrange.org. But they only kept it active for a year. (It's preserved in the wayback machine.
On this website, an address was listed: 555 Fifth Avenue, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10017. Currently, this address seems to be occupied by one Himanshu Rajan Sharma, Corporate Lawyer
I strongly suspect that the syndicated humor columnist Don Maclean was somehow involved in the NYCFTS, since in the early 1970s he wrote about it frequently (such as here
). He even claimed to have visited its headquarters and knew its officers. Perhaps the organization was his satirical creation and he issued press releases every year on its behalf, to amuse himself.
However, Maclean died in 2005
, so obviously someone else has been keeping the joke alive — if it is, in fact, a joke.
And that's all I know about the New York Center For The Strange. I'm hoping someone out there might have more info about it.