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A prophecy in question

As news about the collapsed World Trade Center towers spread across America, so did an e-mail saying Nostradamus had predicted the catastrophe.

Some of the e-mail read, ?In the year of the new century and nine months, from the sky will come a great King of Terror ? The sky will burn at 45 degrees. Fire approaches the new city.?

But according to a number of Web sites, the premonition is nothing more than a combination of Nostradamus? predictions at best. The Skeptic?s Dictionary and Urban Legends Web pages said a student at Brock University in Canada, Neil Marshall, wrote the prediction floating around the Internet in an attempt to demonstrate that the prophet?s writings are vague enough that the conditions could be applied to a number of situations.

?They are muddled and obscure before the predicted event, but become crystal clear after the event has occurred,? the Skeptic?s Dictionary Web site said.

Former USF student Kristina Sizemore said she received so many e-mails relating to the prophecy that she deleted many of them.

?It had some sense ? some grounds for belief,? Sizemore said. ?(But) I?m not big on prophecies that have been said thousands of years ago. I don?t follow it too closely.?

She said she thought a lot of the accuracy of the prediction was ?sheer luck.?

Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostradame on Dec. 14, 1503, in France; Nostradamus is the Latin interpretation of his name. He was initially discovered due to his treatment of the bubonic plague that swept across France in the 16th century. The cure was a result of the combination of cleanliness and Vitamin C.

A few years later, an additional plague struck the city, Agen, where he lived. Nostradamus? wife and two children died because of the sickness, and because of this, he wandered through Europe for the next six years. It is said that this is the time he discovered his so-called psychic abilities.

In 1550 A.D., Nostradamus published a collection of 12, four-line poems called ?quatrains? in his first book of prophecies. According to The New Revelations by John Hogue, Nostradamus then published a book each year for the rest of his life because of a positive response to the first almanac.

The e-mail circulating about the Nostradamus premonition says the prediction in question was published in 1654. Nostradamus died in July 1566.

Additionally, the prophecies are a combination of Nostradamus? predictions from separate references. The ?King of Terror? citation, from Century 10, Quatrain 72 of his writings, was previously used to predict a supposed arrival of a person or thing from the sky that would alter the state of the Earth in September 1999. Nothing pertinent occurred within the year.

Junior Rene Sanchez, who is majoring in psychology, said he believed the mass e-mail to be a ?self-fulfilling prophecy,? recalling that Adolf Hitler used the occults when planning his attacks.

?(People) ignore what they don?t understand and accept what they do,? he said.

The Urban Legends Reference Web site also claims the Nostradamus prophecies have been further twisted during the translation from French to English.

?The results (force) a fit by inventing fanciful translations from the original French, bend over backward to assert one named term is really another and (as in this case) outright fabricate part or all of the prediction,? the Web site said.

Nostradamus has been credited in the past with predicting such disasters as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Hale-Bopp comet in 1995 and the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. But according to the Urban Legends Web site, the same verse was used to predict both the Hale-Bopp comet and the TWA crash.

Contact Lindsay Fosterat