The Radford Files
I Must Be Psychic
Benjamin Radford’s 2008 predictions
I’ve spent much of the past decade searching in vain for solid evidence of psychic powers, investigating claims of “psychic detectives” who profess to have solved cases and found missing persons. I’ve tested psychics who allege they know the future and communicate with the dead. So far, the evidence has fallen far short of the claims.
So it’s not easy for me to admit this, but I’m pretty sure I have psychic powers. On Dec. 20, 2007, I wrote a list of 22 predictions for 2008 and mailed them to the Alibi. As 2008 comes to a close, I printed out the predictions to see how I fared. My ability to accurately predict events in 2008 is, with all due modesty, little short of amazing. (The postmarked, unopened prediction letter is available at the Alibi offices for anyone who wants to see it.)
It’s true that my psychic powers weren’t perfect; I didn’t get them all right. Even professional psychics don’t claim 100 percent accuracy. But about 90 percent of my predictions came true. And as you can tell, most of them were quite specific, not just vague, generic, untestable predictions like “next year will be difficult for some people.” (In fact, I invite readers to compare the accuracy of my predictions to those of the Albuquerque psychics quoted in the Alibi last year. See “Predictions in Retrospect” with this week’s feature.) Judge for yourself. Here is my verbatim, 22-item list of 2008 predictions written in 2007, followed by short commentary.
1) Scandals will continue to plague the Bush White House.
RIGHT. The White House endured several scandals in 2008, including Bush's given-then-retracted pardon of a con man who gave big money to the Republican Party, and of course the Bush-endorsed Wall Street de-regulation that led to the 2008 recession.
2) One of the 2008 presidential contenders will be forced to drop out of the race for health reasons.
WRONG. None of the 2008 presidential candidates dropped out for health reasons.
3) U.S. troops will be reduced, but won’t fully withdraw, from Iraq.
RIGHT. Following the surge, overall numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq decreased during 2008.
4) Tensions with Iran will remain high.
RIGHT. Tensions between America and Iran got worse, not better, in 2008. According to USA Today (Feb. 2), “The struggle between the two nations could explode into open warfare over a single misstep, analysts and U.S. military officials warn.”
5) The period August through November may be marked by major conflicts in a world power struggle.
RIGHT. August through November saw many conflicts in world struggle, including the attacks by Russia in the Republic of Georgia in August, the al Qaeda attack on the Yemeni U.S. embassy in September and the Nov. 27 terrorism in Mumbai, India, that left nearly 200 dead.
6) 2008 will see more female leaders of foreign countries than in recent years.
My ability to accurately predict events in 2008 is, with all due modesty, little short of amazing.
RIGHT. In 2008, there were 12 female leaders of foreign countries (Chile, New Zealand, Mozambique, Finland, Liberia, the Philippines, India, Argentina, Ukraine, Ireland, Netherland Antilles and Germany), more than in 2007.
7) A country in the Caribbean will have a major political change.
RIGHT. In 2008, the most powerful country in the Caribbean, Cuba, had a major political change as Communist icon Fidel Castro stepped down after decades in power.
8) Tensions between the major religions will get worse, not better, in 2008.
RIGHT. Religious violence flared often in 2008, including in India, Afghanistan and Iraq.
9) Large oil reserves will be recovered in North America but won't help reduce American thirst for oil.
RIGHT. Vast amounts of oil were extracted from Alberta, Canada, producing 1.2 million barrels a day, though U.S. dependence on oil remains high.
10) The U.S. housing market will continue to drag the economy down, resulting in a recession (though, for political reasons, an official recession may not be declared).
RIGHT. 2008 saw the worst housing crisis in modern history, contributing to the economic recession, which was officially declared by the National Bureau of Economic Research on Dec. 1, 2008.
11) There will be a school shooting in April or early May; several may die.
RIGHT. On April 29 at the Excel Institute school in Washington, D.C., gunman Wesley Johnson shot two students.
12) In February or March, a missing woman who was assumed abducted will resurface, unharmed. The kidnapping will turn out to have been faked.
RIGHT. On March 13, Christine Gage of Genesee County, Mich., went missing but was later found, claiming two men had abducted her. She later admitted she had faked the kidnapping.
13) U.S. weather will be more severe than usual in the Northeast and Southwest.
RIGHT. Due in part to global warming, the Northeast and the Southwest were drier and hotter than normal in 2008.
14) In early summer or late fall, two airplanes will collide at a major airport; few if any people will be killed, but the incident will lead to calls for government oversight.
HALF RIGHT: On Oct. 22, 2008, two planes collided over Grand Junction, Colo.; as predicted, no one was killed. (This prediction was correct on the time of year and the severity of the accident, but not correct on the location, which was not at a major airport.)
15) The end of 2008 will see a renewed hope for the future after a difficult year.
RIGHT: According to a Nov. 7-9 USA Today/Gallup poll, “Americans are quite optimistic in the Obama administration's potential to achieve most of its goals.”
16) Look for medical breakthroughs in the areas of Alzheimer’s, anorexia and cancer.
RIGHT: In July, a breakthrough experimental drug called Remember showed promise for treating Alzheimer’s by breaking up proteins that clog victims’ brains; in March, doctors at the Huntercombe Hospital in Scotland devised a series of tests which they believe could “revolutionize” the diagnosis and treatment of anorexia; and in December, the medical journal Nature reported that scientists for the first time sequenced the human cancer genome, opening the door to understanding the genetic basis for cancer.
17) Autism causes will continue to rise, and there will be a breakthrough in diagnosis or treatment.
RIGHT: Autism diagnoses continued climbing in 2008 (the odds are now 1 in 150), and in July, Harvard researchers discovered a set of six genes that are strongly linked to autism in children. The “breakthrough” research suggests that targeting those genes with drugs or other therapies could correct autism in its early stages.
18) A famous athlete or performer will be embarrassed by private information or photos made public, but will survive the scandal and bounce back.
RIGHT: In 2008, married Red Sox star pitcher Roger Clemens was revealed to have had an affair with a 15-year-old girl. Clemens survived the embarrassing revelation and remains in the major leagues as a free agent.
19) A contestant on a reality TV show or game show will have a health scare while on camera. The person will survive, and the show's ratings will surge.
RIGHT: On April 1, “American Idol” contestant David Cook suffered heart palpitations, lightheadedness and a spike in blood pressure during his performance on the hit reality TV show. He was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital and released; ratings jumped.
20) A beloved entertainer will die in November or December, not from an accident, but a health problem located in the chest area.
RIGHT: Actually, there were at least two: beloved actress, Grammy-winning South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba died on Nov. 10 of a heart attack; and Bettie Page, sexual icon and most famous pinup girl of all time—whose photos circulated worldwide in the ’50s and ’60s—died on Dec. 11 of pneumonia.
21) A self-help book by a previously little-known author will reach the best seller lists.
RIGHT: Actually, many books fill this prediction, including Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman and My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor.
22) A well-known comedian or comic actor will commit suicide, shocking fans across the country.
WRONG. If I had said that a well-known entertainer (and not specified a comic) would commit suicide, I would have been right. In December, mixed martial arts fighter Justin Levens killed himself. Many psychics would say “close enough,” and call that a success, but I hold myself to a higher standard.
So out of 22 predictions, I got two wrong, 19 right and one half-right. That’s about a 90 percent accuracy rate. Not bad, eh? I am hereby launching a new career as the Skeptical Psychic, available for private psychic readings and parties for a reasonable fee.
Benjamin Radford has investigated mysterious and unexplained phenomena for more than a decade. He is a columnist for LiveScience.com and managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. His latest book is Lake Monster Mysteries , available at his website: RadfordBooks.com.
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