Culture

The Story of the Millionaire Psychic Who 'Predicted' Coronavirus

Kim Kardashian West tweeted about a book titled "End of Days" that appeared to prophesy COVID-19, so I bought it off Amazon and read it.
18 March 2020, 9:57am
Psychic with a crystal ball
Face mask image via Wiki; virus image via CC.0

As the family known for "realising things", it’s not surprising that the Kardashian sisters would try to shed light on our current health pandemic. “Kourtney just sent this to our group chat,” Kim K tweeted on 12th March, with a screengrab of a book someone had shared on Kourtney's Facebook feed. It was a forecast from a book titled End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World by the famous psychic Sylvia Browne, published in 2008. And it gestured towards the arrival of coronavirus in 2020:

“In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and then disappear completely.”

Kim's tweet inevitably brought on a huge influx of people buying the book and leaving five-star reviews on Amazon – firstly, because the first part of Browne's prediction appears right on the money, and secondly, we all have a lot of time on our hands at the moment.

Not everyone was pleased about the introduction of woo woo to the pandemic discourse. Someone on Twitter replied to Kim’s tweet saying, “This is irresponsible ma’am.” So, in the spirit of responsibility, I read End of Days. This is what I learned about the apocalypse and Browne herself.

End of Days opens with the words: “I’m tired of being scared, and I know you are too.” Apparently, even 12 years ago everyone was terrified of the modern world. Their impending sense of doom needed an answer. Browne writes that the ills of the world were many, including bad politicians and nonstop headlines. (It’s lucky she didn’t live to fully comprehend the reality of fake news and the 24-hour news cycle.)

Browne died in 2013 as a millionaire living in San Jose, California. The author of over 40 books about mediumship and spiritual matters, she frequently went on TV and radio to discuss her powers. As of 2008, the year End of Days was released, Browne was charging $750 for a 20 to 30 minute psychic reading session. Considering the going rate for a half hour session with a psychic is about $50 to 150, that's a serious fee.

Her actual psychic abilities were frequently discredited after many of her claims were found to be false, including tip-offs related to missing people’s cases. In fact, the predictions from End of Days with a specific sell-by date often haven't come to pass. The rest are so vague or obvious that it would be more shocking if they hadn't come true.

Browne claims that the common cold will be wiped out by 2010 "to the chagrin of countless pharmaceutical companies", and that blindness and deafness will be a thing of the past by 2020. Cancer, she says, will be cured, as will anorexia and bulimia. Stranger yet, Browne says that infertility in men and women will increase because the “end of days” is approaching and fewer spirits will choose to reincarnate and be around when the Earth ceases to exist. Also: the world will soon end, of course, as a result of global warming.

if there is any universal truth to gleaned from Browne’s work it is – as End of Days goes to some lengths to document – that for as long as humans have existed on the planet, they have been predicting the apocalypse.

Here are just a few examples of historical predictions from the book: astrologers predicted a massive global flood that would destroy the world in 1524 and then the second coming of Christ at noon on April 28th, 1583. On October 13th, 1736, many were prepared for a great global flood predicted by William Whitson, a British theologian and mathematician. On December 17th, 1919, according to seismologist and meteorologist Albert Porta, a specific conjunction of six planets would create a magnetic current so hefty that it would cause the sun to casually explode and engulf the earth. Then, of course, there was 2000, the year of the Y2K bug.

It’s a very human response to a rapidly changing and anxiety-provoking world to want to know what will happen to us. We know for certain each of us will die – but what if there’s something bigger to take it all away? We construct narratives of our lives that provide meaning and momentum. We expect endings to be neatly tied with a bow, even if what really happens is more vague, confusing and disappointing. “It’s an undeniable fact of human nature that we somehow feel more secure if we know the end of the story, especially when it’s our story,” Browne wrote.

On Larry King Live in 2003, the famous psychic predicted she would die at age 88. Browne died, in fact, in 2013, at age 77. None of us can truly see our great end, and for good and unromantic reasons. If we could ever know, it’d scare us to death.

@hannahrosewens