In 1555, Nostradamus published a book containing 942 quatrains that were supposed to predict future events. Observers soon came across a handful of predictions that seemed to be fulfilled and Nostradamus quickly became a celebrity. In reality, most of his prophecies are worded vaguely enough to trigger wild bouts of apophenia.
When King Henry II was accidentally killed in a jousting tournament by a young noble in 1559, Nostradamus was seen as a prophet. In their final pass, the young noble’s lance tilted up, burst through the king’s poorly-secured visor and splintered.
The young lion will overcome the older one,
On the field of combat in a single battle;
He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage,
Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death.
Believers in Nostradamus are convinced this quatrain predicted the rise of Hitler who was born in Austria to middle-class – not poor – parents:
From the depths of the West of Europe,
A young child will be born of poor people,
He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop;
His fame will increase towards the realm of the East.
And they are convinced this prophecy was fulfilled by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
Near the gates and within two cities
There will be scourges the like of which was never seen,
Famine within plague, people put out by steel,
Crying to the great immortal God for relief.
And of course this was interpreted to predict the assassination of JFK and his brother Bobby.
The great man will be struck down in the day by a thunderbolt,
An evil deed foretold by the bearer of a petition.
According to the prediction, another falls at night time.
Conflict at Reims, London and a pestilence in Tuscany.
Strangely, no one was bothered by the fact that even the most extreme mental gymnastics were insufficient to make sense of “An evil deed foretold by the bearer of a petition” and “Conflict at Reims, London and a pestilence in Tuscany.”
True believers conclude that “those lines are part of a different prediction.”