As coronavirus plunges the U.S. into a panic, leaving grocery store shelves free of canned foods and toilet paper, it's hard not to search for meaning in this moment—to clamor for some answers. Instead, the internet is combing through books, movies, and TV shows of times past in search of any premonitions that could have foretold our current global pandemic.
Most recently, the Extremely Online discovered a connection between the suspension of the current NBA season—after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus—and the film Space Jam. Yes. Space Jam.
In the classic semi-animated motion picture starring celebrity basketball players and Looney Tunes characters, the NBA season is canceled after the villainous alien Monstars steal the athletic abilities of Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues. One scene shows basketball players refusing to enter their locker room because "after what happened to Barkley and Ewing, there's gotta be germs in there or something." When Coach Del Harris tries to ease players' concerns over the outbreak plaguing the basketball greats, saying those affected were thousands of miles away in New York, Anthony Miller points out that "bacteria like that can travel faster than the speed of light." The players then all put on gas masks to protect themselves.
Are you also covered in goosebumps? Whew! Who knew Space Jam was the Nostradamus of movies?
This is not the only example of amateur detectives unearthing prognostications of this pandemic. Somewhat freaked-out folks have pointed to a 2013 tweet from a Twitter user named @Marco_Acortes that simply reads "Corona virus….its coming." One reply to his tweet is a screenshot of another one of @Marcos_Acortes' tweets that reads "I'm convinced my mind and morals are from a different era...I DON'T BELONG HERE!!" This, the poster insinuates, is proof @Marcos_Acortes is a time traveler of some sort. Others also noted the spine-chilling quality of this foreknowing tweet. @Marcos_Acortes hasn't responded to any of his mentions (probably got shut down by the government, one reply assumes), and hasn't explained where this prediction came from. His last tweet, from December 2016: a smiley face.
Then on Wednesday, Kim Kardashian West tweeted a screenshot of a Facebook post that was sent to her by her sister Kourtney Kardashian. (If you needed any proof that these two are morphing into your typical Facebook mom, here it is.) The post, by someone named Biet Simkin Glass, shows an excerpt from late famed psychic Sylvia Browne's 2008 book End of Days, in which she predicted how society would bite the dust. The excerpt, which admittedly is eerily prescient to our current COVID-19 pandemic, reads:
"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 10 years later, and then disappear completely."
Gulp. Even though this prediction feels incredibly on-the-nose, it's important to remember that on more than one occasion Browne also told grieving parents that their missing children were dead when, in fact, they were not. When criticized for this, her publicist released a statement saying "She cannot possibly be 100% correct in each and every one of her predictions." So, you know, grain of salt.
A few weeks back, fans of The Simpsons pointed out a scene from a 1993 episode that seemed prophetic to the spread of coronavirus, showing an Asian worker stricken with the flu coughing into a box that is then sent to Homer and causes an outbreak in Springfield. And since it was announced that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive for the virus while in Australia, other Simpsons sleuths pointed to a scene in 2007's The Simpsons Movie where an animated Hanks says, "This is Tom Hanks saying if you see me in person, please, leave me be," during an advertisement for a new Grand Canyon. It's a stretch, for sure. But if you should find yourself in the proximity of Hanks and Wilson, you should probably keep your distance until they're in the clear.
Readers of the literary giant Dean Koontz have also found a staggering correlation between the coronavirus pandemic and his 1981 novel The Eyes of Darkness, in which a deadly global biological weapon called "Wuhan-400" ends up infecting millions—an uncanny inclusion of the Chinese city that's believed to be the where coronavirus originated.
Jokesters have also made unlikely heroes of those ahead of the curve when it comes to wearing respiratory masks; for instance, Bane, who as one person tweeted, wore a N95 mask and "ordered a quarantine of Manhattan over the objections of the public and whose primary foe was a man infected by a bat." They've also pointed to a video of Britney Spears dancing while wearing a face mask as proof she predicted the virus, and to Fifth Harmony's song "Work" as prescient to the work-from-home directive many have received in light of coronavirus. Wild if true!
Some of the predictions that are making their rounds are more grounded in actual scientific studies and understanding. A clip from Bill Gates' 2015 TED Talk shows the billionaire businessman and philanthropist explaining that "if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely it will be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but microbes." He points to a greater investment in nuclear deterrents and a lack of investment in "a system to stop an epidemic" as the cause of a future outbreak.
A good chunk of the population is stuck indoors in self-isolation as a cautionary measure, spending most of our days puttering around in sweatpants, working from home, and combing the web for entertainment. And the internet always provides—but it also offers all the more reasons to freak out. Regardless of whether anyone truly predicted the coronavirus outbreak, it's important to remember to wash your hands and stay clear of Tom Hanks. And if anything, this has all been as good a reason as any to rewatch Space Jam.