I still cannot return to regular posting. Give me another week or so.
Right now, I'm going to make a confession. I'm going to put a troubling matter "on the record." I do so with some hesitation, since the business under discussion could ruin whatever small reputation I may have gained.
The question of the day comes down to this: Do you believe in ESP?
I grew up immersed in Fox Mulder-ish lore (Tom Delay wasn't kidding when he said that sites like mine belonged to the "X-Files" wing of the Democratic party), but over the years, my attitude slid into skepticism. I've met a lot of people who claimed
to have had preternatural experiences or abilities. These claimants invariably turned out to be irritating and unreliable.
Magic? UFOs? Ghosts? Visions of the Virgin Mary? The internet and your local library abound with many a wild story, but proof remains unobtainable. Even the best-attested incidents become less impressive upon close examination.
I thus segued into cynicism and curmudgeon-hood.
(Yes, my ladyfriend and I have a tradition of dining out at "haunted" restaurants on Halloween, but we do so out of a sense of romance and fun. We don't expect to see
Curmudgeon that I became (and remain), I still tended to place ESP in the "maybe" category, if only because Dr. J.B. Rhine
and other scientists have claimed to validate the existence of the phenomenon in the laboratory. (By the by: Did you know that Sir Richard Burton coined the term "ESP"?) On the other hand, scientists such as Dr. Susan Blackmore have persuasively disputed the existence of the phenomenon. (See here
; if you'll click the latter link, you'll discover that the hard-headed Dr. Blackmore sports a rather surprising look these days.)
As I said: I came to view ESP as a maybe
. Not a likelihood, but a possibility.
And then I met a woman (no, not
my current ladyfriend) who transformed that "maybe" into an "almost certainly." Here's the catch: While this woman was able to prove her ability to me
, she could not do so in a way that allows me to prove it to you
That's the hell of it. By her own account, whatever ability she once possessed always manifested itself in spurts -- rare
spurts. She could never turn on the spigot at will.
Remember the old Chuck Jones cartoon starring "Michigan J. Frog"? The amphibian who could sing "Hello, my baby" -- but only
to an audience of one? The moment an audience showed up, the magic stopped.
Hate to admit it, but this
story is one of those
I hope I haven't yet alienated all of my readers. Because in this case, the singing frog predicted World War III.
The wake-up call
In July of 1999, the woman with whom I was romantically involved at that time -- call her Gabrielle -- woke up, woke me
up, and announced that she had just had an exceptionally vivid dream. A prophetic dream.
A dream in which airplanes flew into the World Trade Center -- "or buildings like the World Trade Center."
I had met Gabrielle over the internet; she was visiting me from out of state. As mentioned earlier, she claimed to have had psychic experiences, especially when younger, although those experiences had tapered off in recent years. The stories she told me about the earlier days were weird and fascinating -- and, of course, unprovable. I made no secret of my stance on ESP: I had become a cynic, but even so...maybe
. She understood that, for the most part, I was now much more of a Scully than a Mulder.
And that's why I immediately looked for a conventional explanation for her nightmarish vision of disaster striking the World Trade Center.
I immediately presumed that her dreaming mind had merely processed images from a half-forgotten news account. "Maybe you're thinking about the time a jet crashed near LAX," I suggested, referring to an incident from the 1980s.
: For purposes of readability, this account will include snatches of dialogue. The quotes are as exact as memory allows. Obviously, I didn't have a tape recorder running.)
No, she answered. Not low
buildings. "That happens later. It won't be what they say it is."
The main vision, she insisted, involved skyscrapers. "Like the World Trade Center."
She saw people jumping. Then the buildings would tumble to the ground.
Gabrielle spoke to me for about twenty minutes or so. Her voice and her eyes were odd. She seemed hypnotized. I never saw her act quite that way on any other occasion.
To be honest, I must specify that, throughout this conversation, she almost always referred to buildings "like" the World Trade Center; she confessed that she could not even be sure that the event would take place in New York City, although she did describe a cloud of smoke over the water. "I think it is
the World Trade Center," she said at one point.
Naturally, I wanted to know who would commit such an act. "It won't be who they say it is," she answered.
She mentioned that there would be a war in Iraq as a result, even though Iraq would not be responsible. (She also mentioned Saudi Arabia, but the reference was quite vague. I could not discern how that country figured into this scenario.)
Then I brought up an unpleasant matter that had dominated a previous
series of allegedly prophetic dreams.
What comes next
Before continuing, I should fill in some more backstory.
In the mid-1990s, before she met me, Gabrielle had had a series of troubling dreams depicting a "small" nuclear explosion in Chicago. In each dream, she viewed the event from a closer perspective. In one dream, she saw it from the point of view of a reporter flying in a commercial airliner not far from the event.
I was not the only person to whom Gabrielle described these dreams, which she considered visionary and predictive. She and I had discussed these dreams at some length (via IRC) well before we ever met. (I may
have a log of the chat on a disc somewhere, although I have yet to find it.) I believe she discussed these forecasts with members of her family, although the person with whom she confided at greatest length passed away recently.
She stopped having those dreams a year or two before she met me, and presumed (for whatever reason) that she would never again have a major psychic experience.
That presumption seems to have been premature. Here she was, in a trance-like state after having awakened from a vivid dream of the the World Trade Center's collapse.
Naturally, I wanted to know if the New York event was connected with the nuclear event in Chicago. Yes, she said. In a way. But the explosion in Chicago would happen later.
(Incidentally, Gabrielle spent her life in a small town in the Pacific northwest, and had not traveled to either New York or Chicago -- in fact, she almost never left her home state. Oddly enough, I've never visited either of those two cities myself, although I've seen many other parts of the country.)
Would the same people be responsible for both events, I asked?
Not really, she answered, although the events are linked. In both cases, she emphasized, "it won't be who they say it is."
"Yes and no. It's like people from the government are involved. Or at least they know about it."
She said that the public would be told that Iran was responsible for the Chicago event. "After that, it's World War Three."
She intimated that things would not play out the way "they" planned, and that the war would spin out of all control.
I asked for more details about the "small" nuclear event in Chicago. She mentioned the Sears tower.
Water played a role in the scenario she envisioned; the device would be transported via boat. I reminded her that Chicago is on one of the Great Lakes. (For some reason, I couldn't remember which one!) She said that the boat would not
be on a lake. "You know those movable bridges?" she asked. One of those bridges had something to do with the event.
"You know that picture of the farmer and his wife?" she asked. I took this as a reference to Grant Wood's American Gothic
, which I once saw on loan in San Francisco. (Incidentally, the woman in the painting is actually the man's sister.) I vaguely recalled that the work's "home" is in Chicago. She felt that the painting would be destroyed by the blast, and that we would subsequently see the image reproduced ad infinitum
in news accounts.
(One doesn't need ESP to foresee how the lost work would take on symbolic, even propagandistic, value.)
Since her unusual trance-like state might never occur again, I attempted to pinpoint a date for these events. She could give neither year nor month, although she insisted that the Chicago event would occur after the fall of the skyscrapers in New York City. (She did not intimate how long
after; for some reason, I came under the impression that the two events would occur within fairly quick order.)
"Who is the president when the bomb goes off in Chicago?" I asked.
A long pause. Then she asked: "Is there someone named Kerry?"
I told her that there were two guys with that name in the senate, and that she was probably thinking of Bob Kerrey, who had run against Bill Clinton in the 1992 primaries. But I also told her that a new Kerrey run was damn near impossible, since Gore would surely have the nomination sewed up.
Keep in mind: This conversation took place in late July of 1999. I thought entirely in terms of the 2000 election.
I decided to try to get at the chronology from another angle. "Who's the president when the planes hit buildings in New York?"
"Bush," she said. That answer made sense. I didn't like
it, but it made sense.
I asked if she foresaw a match-up between Bob Kerrey and George W. Bush in 2000. She seemed puzzled, and said no. That path of inquiry seemed exhausted, so I dropped it.
"When the bomb goes off in Chicago, do you see snow?" She didn't. It won't happen in the winter.
She said there may be still another
event on the west coast -- perhaps in Los Angeles, perhaps elsewhere. This event would also involve another tall building. But she had no other details this incident, and felt less certain of this business than of the disasters in New York and Chicago.
Then she fell back asleep! And I mean fell.
She plopped back down on the bed, and was unconscious within seconds.
When she awoke, she had little recollection of the dream or of the subsequent conversation.
That night, I took her to see downtown Los Angeles, to see if any of the buildings in that area "resonated." None of the sights there seemed to coalesce with her vague forebodings of a West Coast event, although she did spend a long time drinking in the cityscape visible from the overpass leading to the Bonaventure. (That sight must have made quite an impression on a small-town girl.)
Later, we visited San Francisco. While dining on Fisherman's Wharf, she told me that the west coast event would happen in that city, if it happened at all. The Transamerica building and the Bank of America building both seemed to unsettle her, particularly the latter. Perhaps her reaction can be ascribed to the unusual architecture. I should emphasize that she is not
a "sensitive" person who becomes unsettled easily.
Our relationship ended shortly afterward.
The fault was entirely mine. If my readers knew just how badly I treated her, those who bear some affection for my writings would form a new opinion. That's one reason I've always hesitated to discuss Gabrielle's forecast: Anyone attempting to contact her for verification purposes would hear quite an earful about what a bastard I was. My behavior at that time was inexcusable; the world need know nothing more.
Before the break-up occurred, the thought occurred to me that I should describe her "prophecy" (if I may use that word) online before the event, just in case something really did happen to the World Trade Center or the Sears building. But at the time, her description seemed too vague, too contradictory. The fact that she had mentioned both Kerry/Kerrey and Bush as presidents had led me to dismiss the likelihood of all that she had told me. I simply did not consider the possibility that the two "main events" might be widely separated in time.
Here's where we encounter the "Michigan J. Frog" effect.
I mentioned the prediction of a strike against the World Trade Center to only one friend before the event. Alas, he does not now recall my having done so. Of course, after September 11, 2001, I told a number of people about Gabrielle's prediction, and I described her forecast of a "small" nuclear bomb taking out the Sears Tower.
Gabrielle married a man much better than I am. He's a rational-minded "Skeptical Inquirer" type, a member of the local atheists' society, and rather opposed to all talk of ESP and similar matters (or so I gather). Consequently, Gabrielle does not now like to discuss her previous claims of psychic experiences.
Some months ago, I contacted her via email, and wrote up a lengthy description of the conversation described above. In one reply, she said she had only vague recollection of a dream involving the World Trade Center. In a second response, she denied that she had ever had such a predictive dream, and she does not remember any part of the conversation that followed.
Her message was rather testy. Lord knows I gave her good reason to feel that way.
(At least she still admits that she once had a series of dreams involving the Chicago event. Of course, she has discussed those dreams with several people.)
Perhaps the prankster gods of fate have decreed that "proof" of ESP always comes in an individualized fashion. Gabrielle convinced me that the ability exists. But I cannot convince you
. If you have not experienced anything like the incident related above, you should be extremely skeptical of this story.
So why did I write this column?
Certainly not because I plan to turn this blog into a forum for discussion of ESP! Frankly, I hope never to mention the topic again.
Nevertheless...ever since the "jets flying into skyscrapers" forecast came true, I've believed that the Chicago event would also come to pass. Perhaps the "West coast" event will take place as well, although Gabrielle seemed far less certain of that prediction.
Although I've made fleeting references to the Chicago event in previous posts, I've never described in detail why I believe a bomb will go off in that area.
Today, of course, we have an administration which has sent unmistakable signals of its intention to conquer Iran. Cheney has pretty much confessed that there are plans afoot to have Israel launch a strike against a putative Iranian nuclear facility. If -- when -- such an airstrike occurs, most Americans will naturally presume that Iranians deserve the blame for any subsequent terror strike within America's borders.
Progressives will no doubt frame the debate in a shortsighted fashion. They will claim that Bush/Israeli adventurism created the nuclear counterstrike. But if Gabrielle's vision really does prove to be predictive, then the matter will go far deeper.
Throughout her conversation with me, Gabrielle insisted on one important detail: The media and the administration will not
tell the American people the truth about the individuals responsible for setting off a "small" nuclear device in Chicago. Fingers will point to the wrong party.
I hope this event never comes to pass.
I hope ESP does not exist. I hope that Gabrielle's 1999 dream about planes flying into "buildings like the World Trade Center" was mere coincidence. I hope that, years from now, this column will be viewed as the product of a paranoid person living in a paranoid era.
By all means, laugh at what I've just written. I hope one day to laugh along with you.