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. There were several different versions of these quatrains that got passed around, but the most popular set read as follows:
In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures,
the great leader will succumb.
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
On the 11th day of the 9 month,
two metal birds will crash into two tall statues
in the new city,
and the world will end soon after.
Although these lines sound as if they might be referring to a 9/11-type event, they do not appear in any of Nostradamus's writings. The final five lines appear to have been written after 9/11 by an anonymous prankster. More intriguing, however, are the first four lines. They were written before 9/11 by a college student named Neil Marshall. He included them in an article in which, ironically enough, he was debunking Nostradamus. He wanted to show that if you write something vague enough it can be interpreted to mean almost anything. An unknown hoaxer lifted the lines from Marshall's article and began to circulate them via email.
Numerous people were taken in by these phony Nostradamus quatrains, and interest in Nostradamus rose to an all-time high. For a brief time following 9/11, his name became the most popular search term on all the major internet search engines.