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ARCHIVE for Wednesday 3rd October 2001 - Premonitions of disaster

Last week's subject was Nostradamus and whether or not he predicted the terrorist outrage in New York. It all depends on how you interpret his sayings. But the disaster was apparently foreseen by a number of office-workers at the World Trade Center towers. Bad dreams and premonitions kept them at home on the fatal morning, so their lives were spared.

It has always been known that great dramas and tragedies 'cast their shadows before them'. That is why in ancient times every state had its prophetic oracle. Whenever the rulers planned to do something they asked its advice. If the oracle warned against the plan they abandoned it.

There are no such oracles today, but we still have premonitions – advance warnings of catastrophes. The loss of the Titanic in 1912 was so widely foreseen that several would-be passengers cancelled their tickets. Others had feelings of doom and dread, but they overcame their fears and were among the 1,502 who drowned. It was then discovered that the whole thing had been predicted fourteen years earlier. A strange, visionary author, Morgan Robertson of New York, saw in his imagination a great liner in mid-Atlantic. He also saw that there were not enough lifeboats for its nearly 3,000 passengers. It was said to be 'unsinkable'. He read its name – The Titan. It was a foggy night, and at full speed the ship ran into an iceberg. Robertson’s story was called The Wreck of the Titan. He wrote it in 1898, years before the Titanic was even thought of. Yet it described in almost every detail the great, doomed liner and what became of it.

If disasters can be foreseen they can be prevented. In 1957 that idea occured to a London psychiatrist, Dr John Barker. In the first year alone his British Premonitions Bureau managed to file over 1,000 cases of premonitions. He hoped to provide early warning against future catastrophes. It was a brave effort, but did not achieve much and was discontinued a few years later. It is difficult to sort out the true prophets from the mad ones – You can only go by your own feelings. I know an American lady who got off an airliner before take-off, because she felt it would crash – which it did. Should she have made a scene and warned the others? What would you have done?

One of the most reputable reports of premonition concerns the horrific disaster on October 21, 1966 in Aberfan, Wales. A coal tip collapsed and buried a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. After the disaster, there were a number of reports of premonitions. The mother of one of the children who died said that her ten-year-old told her of a dream the night before. The child told her mother, "I dreamed I went to school and there was no school there. Something black had come down all over it."

Have you or someone you know ever experienced a premonition?
If so, John Michell and Jonathan Cainer would like to hear your story. Email with subject heading: premonition
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Too right for his own good
The Great Fire of London in 1666 was foretold by Nostradamus, Yorkshire's Mother Shipton and other prophets. The astrologer William Lilly predicted it to the very day. He was arrested and charged with having caused it. He proved his innocence by showing that the fire was predicted by his astrological charts.

John Michell

If you have a favourite mystery subject - from spontaneous human combustion to ancient Celtic ritual sites, write to John, suggesting a theme. And if you have any answers or theories about the mysteries John will be highlighting, he would particularly like to hear from you.

Email with subject heading: John Michell
Please note, we regret that due to time restrictions personal replies may not be available.

John Michell is a prolific author. Below are just two of John's books which might interest you. We have arranged with our friends at The Daily Mirror for website visitors to order books mentioned on this site.

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Unexplained Phenomena, A Rough Guide Special
(co-author Bob Rickard, rrp £12.99) at the special Mirror Direct price of £9.99 + p&p.
Who Wrote Shakespeare?
(Thames & Hudson, rrp £8.95) for the Mirror Direct special price of £6.95 + p&p.
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