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Astrology Hoaxes
Nostradamus Predicted 9/11
Soon after 9/11 an email began to circulate claiming that the sixteenth-century astrologer Nostradamus had predicted the terrorist attacks. Some "genuine Nostradamus quatrains" were offered as proof of this claim. More…
Enigmatical Prophecies
Poor Richard's Almanac was a yearly almanac that Benjamin Franklin began publishing in 1732. In 1737, five years into the life of the almanac, Franklin included three "enigmatical prophecies" in the almanac. He predicted that: A great storm would cause all the major cities of North America to be under water; A "great number of vessels fully laden will be taken out of the ports… by a Power with which we are not now at war;" and that an "army of 30,000 musketers will land… and sorely annoy the inhabitants." A year passed and none of the prophecies appeared to come true. But just when Franklin's readers were about to label him a... More…
The Death of Titan Leeds
Benjamin Franklin published a highly successful, yearly almanac from 1732 to 1758. He called it Poor Richard’s Almanac, adopting the literary persona of "Poor" Richard Saunders, who was supposedly a hen-pecked, poverty-stricken scholar. In the first year of its publication, Franklin included a prediction stating that rival almanac-writer Titan Leeds would die on "Oct. 17, 1733, 3:29 P.M., at the very instant of the conjunction of the Sun and Mercury." The prediction was intended as a joke. Nevertheless, Leeds took offense at it and chastised Saunders (Franklin) for it in his own almanac. Franklin responded by turning the death of... More…
The Predictions of Isaac Bickerstaff
An almanac released by Isaac Bickerstaff in February 1708 predicted that a rival astrologer, John Partridge, would die on March 29 of that year. On March 31st Bickerstaff released a follow-up pamphlet announcing that his prediction had come true. Partridge was dead. However, Partridge was actually still very much alive. He was woken on April 1st by a sexton outside his window announcing the news of his death. Isaac Bickerstaff was actually a pseudonym for Jonathan Swift, whose intention was to embarrass and discredit Partridge, because he was annoyed by the astrologer’s attacks upon the church. More…
The Boy with the Golden Tooth, 1593
Reports spread of a young Silesian boy who had miraculously grown a golden tooth. Professor Jakob Horst investigated and determined that the boy did indeed have a gold tooth and attributed its growth to astrological causes. But the daily pressure of chewing eventually wore down the gold, revealing it to be a thin layer of metal skillfully fitted over the tooth. Although a fraud, it was also the first documented case of a gold crown fitted for a tooth. More…
Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1555
Michel de Notredame, better known as Nostradamus, rose to prominence as an astrologer supported by the patronage of Queen Catherine de Médici. He wrote prophecies in an ancient form of French worded so ambiguously that it could be interpreted to mean almost anything a reader desired. This artful ambiguity has allowed his followers to credit him with predicting many events. Although his supposed predictions are only ever noticed after the events have occurred. More…
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