How Stuff Works
SYSK - 2015-01-22
Nostradamus: Predictor of the Future? Not So Much
Josh: Josh Clark
Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant
Vo: Voiceover Speaker
Chuck: You know Squarespace recently launched the latest version of their platform, Squarespace 7, which has a completely redesigned interface, integrations with Getty Images and Google Apps, new templates and an incredible feature called Cover Pages. Try the new Squarespace at Squrespace.com and enter our offer code STUFF at checkout to get 10% off.
Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.
Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, there's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, there's Jeri.
Chuck: I predict this will be the best podcast of the New Year.
Josh: Man, I don't know about that one. I don't think that prediction is coming true.
Chuck: And the first month when gray filled the sky, the recorders of gobbledygook hit a high watermark.
Josh: That's a little on the nose for Nostradamus.
Chuck: Actually I should have been even more vague.
Josh: Like, way vaguer.
Chuck: That was explicit for him.
Josh: Because Nostradamus used to like to just basically take concepts and words and put them together and pretend like they were going to happen.
Chuck: Yeah. Nostradamus. Snort a little nutmeg.
Josh: When I was a younger person, I realized from this and ESP, I was into some pretty cool occult stuff. Read lots of books about ghosts and things like that.
Chuck: Sure. Me too, a little bit.
Josh: And now, as an older person-I wanted to go to Duke University to study parapsychology.
Chuck: Oh, really.
Josh: I was into like that kind of thing.
Josh: And then now as an older person, I'm like, "Man, some of the things I used to believe." Just do a face palm here, there. Like for example-
Chuck: We got into real science, and that's usually what happens.
Chuck: So the pseudosciences kind of fade away once you start educating yourself.
Josh: Well, we shouldn't say parapsychology is necessarily a pseudoscience. It's not-
Chuck: Fringe science, how about that?
Josh: We're here to pooh-pooh Nostradamus, not ESP or parapsychology in general.
Chuck: But for instance, you were-
Josh: I remember not only believing, but frequently saying, "Dude, Nostradamus, he had to be exhumed once, at the church he was buried at, they were expanding and they had to exhume his grave and they opened his casket and he was holding a tablet that had the day they exhumed him."
Josh: I thought that was real. I thought that really happened when I was a slightly younger man.
Chuck: That's awesome.
Chuck: When you were in your late twenties?
Chuck: Yeah, I remember, I didn't read up on stuff like this but I was a big fan of like Leonard Nimoy's In Search of...
Josh: Yeah, great show.
Chuck: And all those TV shows that kind of dabbled in the fringe sciences.
Josh: What's wrong with that? Nothing. There's nothing wrong with enjoying that kind of thing, liking it, even wondering if possibly some of it could be real.
Chuck: No, there's nothing wrong with exploration.
Josh: Right. But, the key to keeping egg off your face as much as possible is to doing research. Especially when a claim is very extraordinary.
Josh: Really look into it.
Josh: Had I looked around, had the internet been invented yet and I had looked around, I probably would have found, somewhere, some entry saying, like, that is absolutely not true.
Chuck: Well, that's one of the-the internet is one of the big reasons, I think, because before that was around, you know, you'd have to go search out a book that was written pooh-poohing Nostradamus.
Chuck: In the card catalogue, and it was just a lot harder back then, you know?
Josh: Yeah. But the internet is a double-edged fiber optic line. I mean, there's a lot of sites out there that, I mean Nostradamus has gotten probably even more popular and even more play since the internet was invented.
Chuck: Oh sure.
Josh: You know?
Josh: So let's talk about this guy. Let's try to separate the man from the myth and really get into who Nostradamus was, because he was a lot more than a crackpot writer of vague predictions.
Chuck: That's true. He was-one of the tough parts is that there's so many disagreements about his biography, even.
Josh: Yeah. I didn't find that necessarily.
Chuck: Ah yeah, I saw one guy wrote a book at him that said he wasn't even a doctor.
Josh: Oh, okay. That is a disagreement.
Chuck: Yeah. Well, let's go ahead and go there then.
Josh: Okay. So he was supposedly born in 1503.
Chuck: No, not true. I'm just kidding.
Josh: In France. He was born Michel de Nostredame. He became Nostradamus because he Latinized his name after he graduated from medical school, which apparently was custom at the time.
Chuck: That's right.
Josh: But when he was born he was Michel de Nostredame.
Chuck: Yeah. And his family was educated and they believed in education, so he was, from an early age, an academic in a traditional sense.
Chuck: Nothing wacky, right out of the gate.
Josh: Well, his grandfather instructed him when he was a younger man. Taught him languages and kind of sparked his interest in all sorts of different topics.
Chuck: In all things learning?
Josh: Yeah, and, do you remember when we did the Inquisition episode?
Josh: Where there were a lot of Jewish people who converted but just converted in name only?
Chuck: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: Apparently Nostradamus's family was one of those.
Chuck: Oh, so that wasn't a genuine conversion.
Josh: Supposedly not.
Josh: Again, it could be myth. It could be whatever, because he was on good terms with the local inquisition and the local church officials for most of his life. So, I guess either they didn't suspect him or he had a pass. I don't know.
Chuck: Well, that's interesting. That makes sense. He studied astrology, which was, at the time, respected-well respected as a science.
Josh: Yeah. And supposedly his fellow astrologers thought he was full of it.
Chuck: Oh really?
Josh: His contemporary astrologer pals.
Chuck: Well, one of the things that he did was he studied-and this would play out throughout his, well, I'll say his career as a predictor, but he really just wrote the book, The Centuries book, which we'll get to, but he studied astronomical patterns that coincided with historical events.
Josh: That's astrology.
Chuck: Well, yeah, but he would basically use those to predict the future events. By some accounts he didn't even say he was a prophet. He said, "I study history and basically history repeats itself, and so I'm going to use the stars, and when these things line up pattern-wise, in this certain year in the future, this may happen again."
Josh: Yeah. That's like real astrology. We should do an episode on that.
Chuck: Yeah, I've been thinking about that one for a while.
Josh: This one, well, the article we have almost like spits in the middle. It's so one-sided and skeptical.
Chuck: There's just a picture of a big loog.
Josh: Right, but I looked into it. It's fascinating what they used to believe and all of the holes you can punch in it. But, it's a pretty-we should do that sometime.
Chuck: Yeah, I had my chart done one time, like for real, by my friend's mom.
Chuck: I remember looking at it and thinking like wow, that's a lot like me.
Chuck: It's pretty accurate.
Josh: But, and, even, even remove that last part.
Josh: The amount of thought and effort and what it's based on in the ancient tradition of it and everything. That, in and of itself, is fascinating.
Chuck: Yeah. I totally agree.
Josh: And then you get into-we're totally doing astrology at some point.
Chuck: All right.
Josh: So, what he was doing with astrology, apparently where he ran afoul of his fellow astrologers was to make predictions of how something would come about, rather than the next time Venus is in the seventh house of Mars and a cat catches fire, there's going to be an earthquake.
Chuck: There'll be a great war. Sure.
Josh: Something like that. He went further and made predictions about what was going to set this off and where the people involved were going to come from, and then he was very, very vague.
Josh: So all of that added to astrologers' disdain for him.
Chuck: Because he gave them a bad name.
Josh: Pretty much.
Chuck: Because they were all right.
Chuck: So he left home, supposedly, in 1522, to study medicine, legit medicine, and became a physician. Most people agree that he became a professor and a physician in Southern France. Apparently he was a pretty good doctor, at treating plague victims.
Josh: Yeah, he was very ahead of his time.
Chuck: Yeah, even though he lost his wife and son-I'm sorry, his children, to the plague.
Josh: And his wife.
Chuck: Yeah, and that had a big effect on his life, obviously. It basically sent him on the road for a decade, which is where he, kind of, came up with this plan to write this book.
Josh: He was a progressive doctor in that he prescribed sanitation practices. He prescribed fresh air. He also apparently came up with a rose hip lozenge, to help cure plague, mild cases of plague. That actually makes sense because rose hips are packed with vitamin C.
Josh: He was a pretty good doctor and had a good record, and from that, he lived in this village with his wife and children and had a patron who basically supported the family, and then once his wife and children died, he couldn't cure them, his star really fell in this village. He also had a pretty good sense of humor. About the same time, they were raising a statue of the Virgin Mary in the local church and he thought it was the ugliest thing he had ever seen. He was making a comment on the artists' abilities, not the Virgin Mary, but he said, "These guys are casting demons." Like basically saying, "That's a really ugly Virgin Mary." Well, the artist didn't like this and turned him into the Inquisition. That's about the time when he ended up on the road.
Chuck: Yeah, and he went all over Europe, just basically he was described as wandering, but he did meet another woman and get remarried on his wanderings. I think toward the tail end of his wanderings, about eight years later, and moved to Salon in France, and then he started getting his act together in a real way to publish. He said, "You know what? I'm gonna put together this book of prophecies."
Josh: "I've been messing around. I've been kicking the idea around. I'm just gonna do it." So we'll talk about what came out of that, right after this.
Chuck: Josh, my friend, we have said it before-trips to the post office are never, never convenient.
Josh: Oh man.
Chuck: It's just something on the to-do list that you've got to do. But no more. Because you can get postage right from your desk with Stamps.com. It even gives you special postage discounts you're not going to get at the post office, including First-Class, Priority Mail, Express, International and more. You're never going to pay full price for postage again, buddy.
Josh: That's right. And here's how Stamps.com works. You use your own computer, your own printer, and you buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package. Then you just hand it to your friendly mail carrier or drop it in a mailbox, if you don't like interacting with people. It's that easy. It's no wonder that over 500,000 small businesses are already using Stamps.com.
Chuck: And right now, for our listeners we have a special promotional offer. Use our promo code STUFF to get this special deal. It is a no-risk trial, plus a $110.00 bonus offer, including a digital scale and up to $55.00 in free postage.
Josh: That's right. So don't wait. Go to Stamps.com before you do anything else. Click on the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in STUFF. That's Stamps.com, enter STUFF.
Josh: So Chuck, Nostradamus is settling down in Salon-Salon.
Josh: Selectives. And he is deciding to put his awesome thoughts down into quatrains.
Chuck: That's right, into a book called The Centuries.
Josh: But at the time he just called it The Prophecies.
Chuck: Yeah, The Prophecies of Michel Nostradamus, I think. When did they rename it?
Josh: I think after his death.
Chuck: Yeah and apparently The Centuries had nothing to do with time but it was in the structure, the organized structure of the book itself, because there were a thousand quatrains, or four-line verses.
Josh: In hundreds.
Josh: For some reason.
Chuck: So that's The Centuries.
Josh: And it wasn't chronological or anything like that.
Chuck: No, and it became a huge sensation due to a few things. One, simply enough, was that the printing press was a recent invention and books were a big deal now, you know, like widespread books; there was now something could literally be a bestseller for the first time, so it aligned in that way. Another is that he just sort of fit the dark times. It was a book for and of its time, with all his dire predictions. It was, you know, when the Catholics and Protestants were warring and there were all kinds of people saying the end of the world was coming, and it was just, basically, put out right at the right time, and widespread because of the printing press. And then Queen Catherine de' Medici, of France was a really superstitious queen and he predicted her husband, Henry II's death.
Josh: Pretty specifically, for once.
Chuck: Yeah, but we'll poke holes in that, too. It happened a few years later, and so she invited him to the court, which was like the most popular court in Europe at the time and so he got a lot of attention there. So, he was sort of a big writing superstar, of his day, because of all these things aligning.
Josh: Yeah, I mean, he wasn't one of these like posthumously honored authors; he was celebrated during his time. Supposedly he met some monks on the road once and correctly said that one of them was going to be the next pope. Bam.
Chuck: No way.
Josh: Case solved. Nostradamus is the real deal, because that supposedly happened. So, he had like a whole jam going, where he would retire in the evenings.
Josh: And he would concentrate on maybe a fire, the flames of a fire.
Chuck: He'd meditate on it.
Josh: Yeah. Or he would take a bowl with some herbs or something in it, and just zone out on those. Try to read the herbs. Like you said, I don't know if he was doing lines of nutmeg, but he was ingesting nutmeg most likely.
Chuck: Yeah, which could be hallucinogenic.
Josh: Right. And he had to have been rich to just be doing nutmeg, you know, because they had just discovered that.
Josh: And he would just kind of zone out. He would apparently, he got help from an angelic figure?
Chuck: That's what says, said.
Josh: And then he would just see the future. It would come to him. The thing is Nostradamus, these prophecies didn't come to him all convoluted and kooky and however he put them. He understood exactly what was going to happen.
Chuck: Well, yeah.
Josh: He supposedly convoluted them on purpose to avoid persecution during his lifetime.
Chuck: Yeah, that is supposedly what he told his son, from his second marriage, is this-
Josh: Cesar. He went, "Psst."
Chuck: "I'm doing all this on purpose because they will string me up as a heretic because I'm so eerily accurate."
Chuck: "They will find out."
Josh: Which I mean, at the time, it was a genuine concern. It's not like this is just a preposterous claim on Nostradamus's part, it's just that for skeptics of Nostradamus it's just one more convenient little thing. Because if you read the quatrains, they make almost no sense and all sense, simultaneously. Depending on whether you're reading them on their own or whether you're trying to look at them in context.
Chuck: Well, yeah. We might as well go ahead and talk about that. That's one of the big reasons you can poke holes in it, is because there were, even experts say it's hard to find two copies of this book that are the same.
Josh: Oh yeah.
Chuck: Yeah, because it was translated, you know, hundreds of times. The early printing presses weren't super accurate and if the printer maybe didn't know exactly what he meant, they would say, "Well, I think he meant to actually have an apostrophe here." And in middle French, that apostrophe could completely change the meaning of the word. So beyond that confusion and the translation confusions, there are, like you said, there are many different ways to interpret something and if something didn't come true, you could probably find a version out there of it that supports whatever you think he predicted. You know?
Josh: Yeah. There's a pretty good example that people give of a translation problem. After 9/11-which we'll talk more about in a second-some quatrain of, or I guess an assemblage of Nostradamus's quatrains were kind of bandied about as proof that he predicted it. One of them was that there'll be smoke in the New City. Well, in his actual text, in The Centuries, he wrote "Villeneuve," which means in French "the new city," but it was also a city in France, at the time, that he was probably talking about.
Josh: So, there's a lot of translation and interpretation that can come together and really lead to a misunderstanding, if there is even such a thing at all with Nostradamus. Can you misunderstand him? I don't think it's possible.
Chuck: Can you misunderstand what's not understandable, in other words?
Josh: Right. Yeah.
Chuck: Well, since we are talking about interpreting, we might as well go onto the famous Hitler prediction. [ECHO EFFECT] "Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers. The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister. Into a cage of iron will the great one be drawn. When the child of Germany observes nothing."
Chuck: I hope we added some effect to that, Jeri? Yes. Vocal effects?
Chuck: Something menacing maybe. Or maybe we should do like clown music. [LAUGHTER] So Hister, this was, has long been looked at as the prediction of the rise of Hitler.
Josh: Yeah, he says Germany in there.
Josh: It's clearly-
Chuck: He says Germany and Hister.
Chuck: But Hister was actually the Lower Danube River, and so most people, or skeptics would say, "Well, he didn't say Hitler, he said Hister. Since that was a place, that's probably what he meant. Or he would have said Hitler."
Josh: That's kind of a miss right there. Some people say, "Well, Hitler was born around the Danube, so he still meant Hitler."
Chuck: That's exactly the point [LAUGHS]. So people will find a way to interpret it if they choose to. But the Nazis still used this to their advantage; they actually dropped pamphlets containing this prediction onto France from planes, because they wanted to scare them. Like, "Hey, even Nostradamus said we're coming, and we're coming."
Josh: And it worked.
Chuck: I guess it did for a while.
Josh: So there's basically, if you're a skeptic of Nostradamus, you say, "Okay, first of all he is not really saying anything."
Chuck: Right. Or anything concrete.
Josh: Right, and a believer of Nostradamus would say, "Well, he even said that you're not supposed to get it unless your one of the enlightened few, who get it in the future, and I happen to be one of them."
Chuck Yeah, he's like, "It's not for this time, it's for people far from now to understand."
Josh: Right. And so the skeptic that's arguing will sigh and then say, "Okay, here's the thing, though." Even if he is saying something, like even if there's something clear, he's making a prediction and it does seem to come true, if you look at events in human history as numbers on a graph, eventually, statistically speaking, one of Nostradamus's very vague predictions about the rise of a power, a war, an earthquake, something like that is going to happen. And maybe, something will have even have a couple of predictions that will fit one event.
Chuck: Yeah, like the date might align somehow, or something.
Josh: Because every once in a while he used dates, but for the most part he didn't. But if you look at it statistically, yes, even Nostradamus's predictions are going to come true over a long enough period of time. Again, if you read the predictions, it's hard to say his predictions come true because he is not really predicting anything. It's not like he sat back and said, "Sometime in the 20th century a guy with a terrible moustache is going to come to power and there's going to be a horrific war as a result." Nothing even approaching that. I mean you read what the Hitler prediction was like. It could be anything.
Josh: But even if he had predicted something, if you take his predictions as predictions, if you put them over the arc of time, eventually you're going to get hits. So that's one argument, a skeptical argument against Nostradamus.
Chuck: Yeah. Especially if you believe, like most people do, that history repeats itself in some fashion, over a long enough timeline. When he himself said that that's the model he used, was using the stars to look at past historical events to predict future events.
Chuck: So it kind of makes sense. And also, some people say that these aren't even predictions because a prediction is something that you realize before the fact. Despite the fact that thousands of scholars have studied Nostradamus and millions of people have read him, no one has ever pointed out something before it happened. It's always afterwards that they go back and say, "Look, see here, he said this was gonna happen and it happened." Because we interpret it that way. But no one's ever said-stopped anything in its tracks because Nostradamus predicted it.
Josh: That is an excellent point. It also raises another argument against Nostradamus in that the people who follow Nostradamus, like you said, the interpretation is always after the fact, and allegations of shoehorning occur, where basically you make something fit. You shoehorn it in to the context, and in doing so you cherry-pick stuff that makes sense and you ignore stuff that doesn't make sense.
Chuck: Yeah, in fact, I think this article, this one line says it best: "Imprecise language lends itself well to subjective interpretation."
Chuck: I mean if you throw something super vague out there, you could come up with a hundred different interpretations of it, you know. That's what poetry is.
Josh: Exactly. And you know, despite all of these very great arguments, there's still plenty of people out there who believe in Nostradamus. It almost seems like there should be a phase in life where you do go through believing that Nostradamus was real because it does kind of lend some sort of something to life.
Chuck: It also coincides with being really into Pink Floyd.
Josh: Yeah, it's true. So we'll talk a little more about some of people who argue for and against Nostradamus, specifically centered around 9/11, right after this.
Josh: Hey, everyone, we have two words for you: free snacks. Dig on that.
Chuck: Man, those words sound great together, my friend. We are going to give you a chance to get free snacks, because you can drop the candy and the potato chips, because they're not good for you anyway. You need to do what we do and get delicious wholesome snacks at NatureBox.com.
Josh: Yep, NatureBox has hundreds of snacks and delicious snacks. Plus you don't have to feel guilty about them, because they are better for you. They have zero artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, zero grams trans fat and no high fructose corn syrup.
Chuck: Yeah, buddy, and you're even going to find snacks with no added sugar, which is a big bonus for me because I love those Peanut Butter Nom Noms.
Josh: Yeah, or the dark cocoa almonds, one of my all-time faves.
Chuck: So good and so much better for you than the other snack options out there. And we want to give you guys a chance to try NatureBox for free. You'll get a trial box featuring five of their most popular snacks.
Josh: For free, like Chuck said. To start your free trial go to NatureBox.com/stuff. Stay full, stay strong. Do what we do and snack smarter. Go to NatureBox.com/stuff to get a free trial box of delicious snacks,
Josh: Okay Chuck, 9/11 happened, and almost immediately people said Nostradamus predicted this.
Chuck: Yeah, his sales went through the roof, apparently, and supposedly his name was googled more than Osama bin Laden or George Bush after 9/11.
Chuck: That's what they say. That sounds like something someone just writes on the internet.
Chuck: But I believe it.
Josh: Well, here's why his star rose again, was because this quatrain emerged where it was like, yeah, that's pretty close to what happened.
Chuck: Yeah, I remember hearing it and thinking, "Oh my gosh."
Josh: So you want to read this one? You're pretty good at reading. Can we get the sound effect again, please?
Chuck: Yeah, cue the clown music. [ECHO EFFECT] "In the City of God there will be a great thunder. Two brothers torn apart by Chaos. While the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb. The third big war will begin when the big city is burning." That's super specific.
Josh: The only thing I don't know if most people would agree on is calling New York the City of God.
Chuck: Or George Bush the great leader.
Josh: Yeah. But the two brothers, clearly, those are the two towers. The fortress endures, the Pentagon. The great leader, Bush, yeah, some people said. And then the third war will begin when the big city is burning-well, at least one more war. I don't know if it was World War III, but a pretty huge couple of wars started up as a result. So people are saying, "Here it is, finally, evidence that shows, almost incontrovertibly, that Nostradamus was the real deal." What's the argument against it, Chuck?
Chuck: Well, it was made up.
Josh: Yeah, Nostradamus didn't write that.
Chuck: No, it was apparently written, several years ago, by a guy named Neil Marshall, who was a student in Canada and said he was actually using that as a demonstration of what bunk Nostradamus was, like, "I could write something like this and people would think he predicted 9/11," and somehow it became something that Nostradamus wrote.
Josh: He actually proved it by writing that in 1997 and then it getting picked up in 2001.
Chuck: Yeah, so what he set out to do worked like a charm.
Josh: Worked perfectly. He didn't even have to wait more than four years. So he basically showed just how-man, I hate to use this word, but gullible people can be when they're reading Nostradamus's work.
Chuck: Because no one checks anything, dude. They see it and they click on it and they post it to social media, and then it's done.
Josh: And here's another good example of that. A little while ago-this still cracks me up, ClickHole, you know The Onion's like BuzzFeed-like site?
Chuck: Oh is that Onion?
Chuck: I didn't know that.
Josh: I believe so. Yeah, I'm almost positive.
Chuck: I know ClickHole, though, yeah.
Josh: Okay, so ClickHole, satirical site, of like BuzzFeedy sites. They released something called "5 Tragedies Weirdly Predicted by Adam Sandler." And dude, they are-so can I read a couple?
Chuck: Oh yeah. Read all five.
Josh: In the wake of the 1993 tragedy, apparently people went back and saw that Adam Sandler, during his early stand-up career, would mutter, "Something's coming to Waco, something dark." Like during his stand-up show.
Chuck: Is that true?
Josh: None of this is true.
Chuck: Oh. Okay. I thought they just picked apart real things and-
Josh: So the 1997 car crash that killed Princess Diana? Apparently if you go back and watch Happy Gilmore, which was made in 1996, Sandler looks directly in the camera and says "Our Queen's eldest, the beautiful flower, will wilt under a Parisian bridge."
Josh: Can I keep going?
Chuck: Oh yeah.
Josh: So the BP oil spill that happened in 2010 in the Gulf? Apparently Adam Sandler was on Conan O'Brien in 2005 and he was just wearing a t-shirt that said, "BP oil spill in five years."
Josh: The 2010 Haitian earthquake.
Josh: The U.N. estimates that 222,570 people were killed. Apparently in Adam Sandler's Funny People, he estimated 220,000 on the nose.
Josh: And then lastly, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Adam Sandler, when he was Opera Man, there was a 1993 Opera Man sketch where he says, "A missing plane-ah, it's from Malaysia, make me insane-ah, this will all make sense in due time."
Chuck: [LAUGHING] That's good, man.
Josh: Here's the thing, man-people believed that.
Chuck: Oh shut up. Really?
Josh: It went viral. I'm not kidding you. It went viral that, like, somehow Adam Sandler had made all these crazy predictions and this was a real thing. Because apparently they didn't announce that, when clickbait came out that it was a satirical site.
Chuck: That BP oil spill on the t-shirt is pretty good.
Chuck: Let's get into some of these then. First of all, to further the 9/11 thing, there were a couple of other quatrains which had been cobbled together to try and support the 9/11 thing, but like I said, they weren't as he wrote them. They would combine things.
Chuck: Which is just silly because that goes against everything what he was saying, that each quatrain is its own thing. One of them Century 10, Quatrain 72: "The year 1999, seven months. From the sky will come the great King of Terror. To resuscitate the great king of the Mongols. Before and after Mars reigns by good luck."
Josh: That last part sounds like it's from a fortune cookie.
Chuck: Before 9/11, back in 1999, some people thought he was foretelling that the end of the world would be on July 24th, 1999. And I remember this happening and I remember it being a big deal. There was genuine concern from some people, like some stores in France had closeout sales. There was this one French designer who canceled his big-he was a big believer, and he canceled his big show, and of course, it didn't happen. And then it was recalculated, and everyone said, "No, no, no, no, it wasn't supposed to be July 24th. If you read it this way, it means August 11th." Then of course, the world didn't end then, either.
Josh: How do you get August 11th from seven months into 1999?
Chuck: Well, again, there were some different translations that maybe were different enough to recalculate it.
Josh: Oh, gotcha. Yeah, I gotcha.
Chuck: But then that one was also used for 9/11, was repurposed for 9/11.
Josh: Right, they were like, "He was just close, he was just a couple years off."
Chuck: Yeah exactly.
Josh: Well, they combined that one with Century 6, Quatrain 97, which says, "At 45 degrees, the sky will burn. Fire to approach the great New City. In an instant a great, scattered flame will leap up. When one will want to demand proof of the Normans." What is that last thing?
Chuck: I'm not sure. That's the thing, like you can't just pick part of it and then discount the rest and say that he was wrong on that.
Josh: But that's exactly what people did.
Chuck: Well, they did because several quatrains refer to an antichrist figure called Mabus, and if you rearrange the letters it could be "Usam B."
Chuck: And so people used that as proof but they also didn't, they failed to mention that previous to that they used it as Saddam.
Josh: Like up to the day before 9/11.
Chuck: Yeah, they were saying that it was Saddam Hussein, was Mabus.
Josh: Because Mabus spelled backwards is "Subam."
Chuck: Kind of a reach, if you ask me.
Josh: In that 45 degrees part of the quatrain some people said that New York City is around 40 degrees, 5 minutes north latitude, so that's close. But, again, he said the New City will burn at 45 degrees. Villeneuve is at about 45 degrees latitude. So, it could just be interpretation. I don't know who's really at fault here. Is it Nostradamus? Is it the people who just blindly accept Nostradamus's predictions?
Chuck: It's them.
Josh: Is it, though? Because Nostradamus purposefully obfuscated his stuff, so I think he is a little bit responsible for this, too. I imagine, since he has that great sense of humor and made fun of that one guy's statue of the Virgin Mary, he is sitting in his coffin holding a plaque with some future date when he'll be exhumed just laughing and laughing.
Chuck: Yeah, maybe.
Josh: We mentioned Henry II, he predicted his death, this quatrain: "The young lion will overcome the old one. On the field of battle in single combat. He will put his eyes in a cage of gold. Two fleets one, then to die in a cruel death." So that means two injuries. This actually happened. King Henry was in a jousting competition. But it wasn't on the field of battle, it was in a friendly-it was a party basically. Captain Montgomery, who was younger, the younger lion, did joust, hit him in the eye and through the throat, so the two injuries supposedly from one.
Chuck: But that was all that his wife Queen di' Medici needed to know. She was like, "Holy crap, this has come true."
Chuck: And, he knows what he's doing. John F. Kennedy, the Challenger, the Great Fire of London-people have said that he has predicted all these things. We could sit here all day poking holes, not that we're poking holes, but other people have poked legitimate holes.
Josh: I think we poked a few holes.
Chuck: Well, yeah, but I mean it's all been from other people's stuff.
Josh: Oh, that's true.
Chuck: I didn't do my own hole-poking.
Josh: No. We should probably say we'd never begrudge anybody that, believing in something like that or enjoying the conspiracy behind it.
Chuck: I don't think it hurts anything, you know. If you go out and dump all your stocks and sell your worldly possessions.
Josh: Or you cancel your big fashion debut.
Chuck: Yeah, that's all-that just hurts you.
Josh: Yeah. Although that may have hurt the fashion world.
Chuck: Yeah, he probably had it the week after.
Josh: You want to hear something crazy? About the day before September 11th, this group called the Coup, they're a wrap group out of Oakland-they're pretty awesome.
Josh: They were releasing their album. Oh, I can't remember what it's called. I want to say, like, "Party Time" or "Party Fever"-party something.
Josh: Like the day before, and it had the guy Boots Riley, who is the MC for the group. It had him standing there pressing a button and the Twin Towers were coming down. Like blowing up. They were going to release it like the day before. It was scheduled to be released in September of 2001, and then 9/11 happened and they were like, "Well, let's change the cover."
Chuck: And that's why you've never heard of the Coup.
Josh: I wonder, actually, because they were getting kind of big right around that time. That album had good buzz around it and then they just went away. They're still around, though.
Chuck: Well, all the entertainment that was released around that time notoriously suffered. I can't remember what movies in particular but-
Josh: Yeah, exactly.
Chuck: There were a lot of things later on that people were like, "Well, we released it right before 9/11 so we were doomed." It was a movie, who cares? You know?
Josh: So, if you want to know more about Nostradamus, you can go look this up on HowStuffWorks.com by scanning the search bar. Or, you can just kind of look around the internet, because there is plenty of stuff about that dude on there. Enjoy yourself. And since I said enjoy yourself, it's time for listener mail.
Chuck: I'm going to call this trailer builder. "Hey guys, Chuck and Josh, or Josh and Chuck. Whichever you prefer." I prefer Josh and Chuck.
Josh: I think it goes either way.
Chuck: Yeah, well, that's what we kind of settled on, consistent branding.
Josh: No, it goes both ways.
Chuck: We go both ways?
Josh: Chuck and Josh, Josh and Chuck
Chuck: "Hey guys, I must admit that I tried very hard not to listen to you. I was told by several of my friends that I absolutely must subscribe to your show. However, as a stay-at-home dad by day, to a beautiful three-year-old and three-month-old boys, a very busy small business owner by night, I had trouble finding enough time to go poop, let alone indulge in any form of entertainment. Needless to say, I did listen in wonder and became instantly addicted. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed learning. In the two months since I first gave you guys a shot, I have been on a steady binge and I'm quickly running out of back episodes to listen to, which is a frightening prospect to me, considering your podcast is the fuel that powers my motivation engine while I work. My brother and I own and operate Oregon Trail'R, where the two of use build high-end, tiny, tear drop style camp trailers."
Chuck: You ever see one of those?
Chuck: Really cool. I want one of those.
Josh: Hint, hint.
Chuck: I doubt he is going to send me one. "I've found that while my hands are been autopilot, building trailers, my brain has been totally neglected listening to my requisite Pandora stations. But now that I'm listening to you fellas and receiving constant brain stimulation, I'm getting more done than ever and enjoying every second. My wife and sons thank you as well, as my general mood has improved, despite the potentially unhealthy lack of sleep. However, my lovely wife is still getting a little tired of the phrase 'so I was listening to Stuff You Should Know last night...' So I just want to say everything thanks for everything you guys do, have done, and will do in the future. Large amounts of platonic love." That is Sawyer Christianson, and I'm going to plug OregonTrailer.net just because those things are really cool.
Josh: Yeah. OregonTrail apostrophe -er?
Chuck: No, on the website it's trailer, OregonTrailer.net.
Josh: Good point.
Chuck: And, if you're in the market for one of those, check them out. Small business, handmade.
Chuck: Send me one, send Josh one.
Josh: That would be sweet.
Chuck: Yeah, their pretty neat.
Josh: Thanks a lot, Sawyer Christianson. Great name, by the way, and we appreciate the kudos. And if you out there, everybody else who isn't Sawyer Christianson, wants to get in touch with us to say anything at all, you can tweet to us at SYSKPodcast, you can join us on Facebook.com/StuffYouShouldKnow, you can send us an email to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com, and join us at our home on the web, StuffYouShouldKnow.com.
Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com.