Time is running out.
Over the next few days, Osama bin Laden will die of kidney disease. Saddam Hussein will be shot to death. Fidel Castro will die. A live dinosaur thousands of years old will be captured. The Hoover Dam will collapse. And Rosie O'Donnell will adopt Siamese twin girls.
That's what the world's best psychics predicted for 2004. And with the year drawing to a close, the news is going to have to get pretty intense over the next few days if those forecasts are going to come true, according to Gene Emery, a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine, who has been tracking tabloid forecasts for 26 years.
Actually, the truly unusual predictions of major news events almost never come true, and this year has been no exception, said Emery, who has been using the predictions to search for a psychic -- any psychic -- who can really predict the future.
Not only did the psychic forecasts fail to foretell what would happen in 2004, the psychics continued their tradition of missing the major events that did make the headlines.
For example, this year they missed Janet Jackson's Superbowl breast flash (which caused one of the biggest stirs of 2004), the prison torture in Iraq (which most Americans found so surprising and profoundly disturbing) and the World Series win by the Boston Red Sox.
"But then, why should this year be any different?" said Emery. "Although the psychics were always predicting things for Princess Diana, they completely missed her death. The same was true for the Sept. 11 attacks. And the fact that the psychics, who claim to be able find everything from missing bodies to your missing car keys, have not helped us find Osama Bin Laden should tell you something."
"Given their track record, it's amazing that a psychic can tell you when the 10 O'Clock News is going to come on," he joked.
According to the psychic forecasts released in December of 2003, 2004 was supposed to be the year Americans developed a taste for pressed bricks of dried plankton, giant animal bones were discovered on Mars, and Colin Powell was elected president after switching parties and trouncing George Bush.
One psychic predicted that Saddam would be caught in 2004. It was published AFTER the dictator was captured in mid-December of 2003.
One of the few tabloids still listening to psychic forecasts is the "Sun," which said its 2004 predictions were from "the world's most brilliant psychics & seers."
For example, Terry and Linda Jamison, who are twins, said "Saddam Hussein will be killed by U.S. troops early in the year." They also predicted that "Pope John Paul II will pass away in June."
Anthony Carr, billed as "the world's most documented psychic," may have some well-documented failures this year. He said nuclear weapons would accidentally detonate in North Korea and kill thousands; Saddam would be shot to death and that a woman "will be involved;" and scientists would "successfully bring the first-ever male pregnancy to term." He even predicted the gender: a boy.
Other Carr predictions were about as firm as the filling in a Boston creme pie. Carr said Osama bin Laden would be brought to New York, but he couldn't decide if the terrorist would be alive or dead. He said the Martha Stewart trial "could" send the domestic diva to prison. And he said the Hollywood area "is due" for "a colossal earthquake early in 2004." If Tinsel Town had been destroyed, he would certainly take credit for the forecast. But because it didn't, nobody can technically say he was wrong, said Emery.
Colin Powell showed up in a couple of forecasts. Carr said Powell would accept the nomination for President after twice refusing it. "Psychic" Martha Henstridge said Powell would change political parties and "trounce" Bush in the November election.
Henstridge also said 2004 would be the year an anti-gravity engine was developed and patented, and although she didn't say whether Martha Stewart would be found guilty or innocent, she did inform us that Stewart "will take the fashion world by storm with a new line of prison-themed designer clothing."
Henstridge and other psychics have already made forecasts for 2005 in the Sun. But this year the tabloid has made sure they won't be embarrassed by any inaccurate forecasts, said Emery.
Not only are the psychics' names not attached to any of the predictions, but their forecasts have been mixed in with predictions from dead people like Edgar Cayce, Nostradamus, and Our Lady of Fatima.
"So a year from now," said Emery, "we won't be able to say who was responsible for predicting that a murder will take place on a shuttle flight to Mars, Osama Bin Laden will be crushed by a comet, a tidal wave will wipe out Tokyo and the Korean peninsula, and newly-discovered writings from St. Paul will reveal that eating with a fork is a sin."