The Quick 10: 10 Famous Soothsayers

iStock/undefined undefined
iStock/undefined undefined

Oh, _flossers, beware the Ides of March!! If only Caesar had heeded the similar warning he received the day he was assassinated (more on that in a second). You don't have to go back to the days of Caesar to find yourself a soothsayer, though "“ there have been many prophets throughout history (some self-proclaimed). Here are a few of them, starting with the Ides of March man himself.

1. Caesar's Soothsayer. Caesar was warned the Ides of March would be an exceptionally bad day for him by an unnamed seer. The Ides came and were nearly gone when Caesar ran into the seer on his way to the Theatre of Pompey. He basically said to the seer, "So, the Ides are here and nothing has happened, don't you feel stupid?" and the seer responded, "They have come, but they are not gone." The seer was right, of course "“ Caesar was murdered almost as soon as he arrived, stabbed 23 times.

2. Joan Quigley. After Ronald Reagan nearly followed in Caesar's assassinated footsteps in 1981, Nancy Reagan sought the advice of psychic Joan Quigley, whom she had met on The Merv Griffin Show several years earlier. According to Time, no Presidential appearance was made without first consulting Quigley to see if stars aligned or not. For instance, "For the Reagan-Gorbachev Washington summit, she cast the charts of both men and determined that 2 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1987, was the most propitious moment for them to sign the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. At Nancy's behest, the entire summit was built around that hour." When the news broke that the Reagans were using a psychic, the activity was quickly hushed up.

3. The Brahan Seer. This prophet may not have existed at all, but his alleged predictions are legendary in Scotland. Employed by the third Earl of Seaforth, the Seer predicted some pretty bizarre and specific incidents, including that "The day will come when the MacKenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions; their castle will become uninhabited and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of the tower." He also supposedly predicted that the Bonar Bridge would be "swept away under a flock of sheep," and it was washed away in an 1892 flood (the frothy foam-current was said to look like sheep). Another infamous prediction was that when five bridges stretched over the River Ness in Inverness, there would be worldwide chaos. That one was true, too "“ there were five bridges over the river when Hitler invaded Poland. Sadly, one of the Brahan Seer's visions ended up being his undoing. He predicted that his employer, the Earl of Seaforth, was cheating on his wife with numerous women in Paris. Hearing none of it, Lady Seaforth had the Seer burned to death in a spiked tar barrel. Apparently she had never heard of the phrase "Don't shoot the messenger."

4. Nostradamus. No list of soothsayers would be complete without this guy. His prophecies pop up on a fairly regular basis and freak people out when they are able to apply his predictions to current events. Nostradamus himself would probably object to this behavior because he didn't see himself as a prophet and mentioned many times that he didn't guarantee the results of his predictions. One thing he did allegedly get right on the money, though? His death. On July 1, 1566, he is said to have told his secretary, "You will not find me alive at sunrise." He was right "“ the next morning, Nostradamus was found on the floor next to his bed, dead from edema (accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in body cavities). His predictions are far too numerous to mention here, plus, the interpretations and accuracy of each one have been much debated for years. Snopes has a good example of how his predictions get skewed, though.

5. Cassandra. Cassandra is a tragic tale (although most Greek myths are) "“ not only did she have to endure horrific visions of future events, she had to deal with the fact that no one would believe her, even when her visions came true. Word on the street is that when Apollo fell in love with her but discovered she didn't love him back, he exacted his revenge by cursing her with the burden of no one believing her warnings. Those warnings included the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death and her own death.

6. Pythia. Pythia was any priestess who manned the oracle at Delphi (you may have seen her brief, nude appearance in 300). Collectively, the Pythia made more than 500 predictions and statements that leaders would believe to the letter. For example, in the ninth century B.C., Pythia stated that "Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta." As a result, Lycurgus banned silver and gold money and made Spartans lug around coins made of heavy iron instead. And in 67 A.D., she said to Nero, "The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall." Apparently not liking to hear of his inevitable defeat, Nero had Pythia buried alive. He always thought he would die at the age of 73, but actually ended up committing suicide at the age of 30"¦ after a revolt by Galba, who was 73 years old at the time.

7. Edgar Cayce. Cayce was a renowned seer who made his predictions by lying down and entering a trance-like state. While he was in his trance, people would be invited to ask him questions about their future, specifically about their health. Cayce theorized that the unconscious mind had access to all kinds of information the conscious mind didn't. He made more than 20,000 predictions during the period that he was en vogue, from the early 20th century to his death in 1944. His predictions included things that happened (the Great Depression and Hitler) and things that have yet to happen (California crumbling into the ocean; the discovery of Atlantis).

8. The Amazing Criswell. The Amazing Criswell was"¦ well, maybe he was amazing, but not for the accuracy of his predictions. He ran around with Ed Wood and Vampira; the movie Ed Wood suggests Criswell never believed he was psychic and only made his wild predictions because of the fame they brought him. But at least one source who knew him in real life said Criswell once stated, "I had the gift, but lost it when I started taking money for it." His crazy predictions included a ray from outer space that would cause metal to turn to rubber and cause terrible disasters in amusement parks; that by the time the world came to an end in 1999 we would all have resorted to cannibalism; that Mae West would become President of the United States and take a rocket to the moon; and that JFK wouldn't run for re-election in 1964 because something was going to happen to him. Oh wait"¦

9. The Nechung Oracle. The Nechung Oracle is one of a handful of Oracles still regularly used today. He's the State Oracle of Tibet, in fact, and lives with the Dalai Lama. Perhaps the most famous of the Oracle's predictions dates back to 1947, when he accurately predicted that Tibet was headed for times of trouble. He also predicted that the Dalai Lama would have to flee Tibet in upcoming years, and in 1959, exactly that happened.

10. Madam Marie. Madam Marie made her living telling fortunes on the Asbury Park Boardwalk for more than 70 years. The strongest evidence for her prediction accuracy is that she declared fellow Boardwalk busker Bruce Springsteen would become famous. He returned the favor by immortalizing her in song: in "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," he sings, "Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do." Thanks to Bruce, Madam Marie gained somewhat of a celebrity following and told fortunes for Judy Garland, Diane Keaton, Ray Charles, Elton John and Woody Allen, among others.

Did I leave out your favorite? Psychic Sylvia Browne? Miss Cleo? Or is it all a bunch of crap? Let us know what you think in the comments.

q10

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

10 Words and Phrases That Came From TV Shows

Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Image: iStock.
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Image: iStock.

Television can be a hotbed of creativity (or mediocrity, depending on who you ask). But it's not just characters and storylines writers are coming up with—they also coin words. Here are 10 surprising words that were invented thanks to TV.

1. Poindexter

While this term for a studious nerd might seem very 1980s, it actually comes from a cartoon character introduced on TV in 1959. In the series Felix the Cat, Poindexter is the feline’s bespectacled, genius nephew, supposedly named for Emmet Poindexter, the series creator’s lawyer.

2. Eye Candy

This phrase meaning a thing or person that offers visual appeal but not much substance originally referred to such a feature of a TV program. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it first appeared in 1978 issue of a Louisiana newspaper called The Hammond Daily Star: “Sex … is more blatant ... ‘Eye candy,' as one network executive calls it.” Ear candy is slightly earlier, from the title of a 1977 album by Helen Reddy, while arm candy is later, from 1992.

3. Ribbit

Think frogs have always been known to say “ribbit”? Think again: According to the OED, this onomatopoeia might have originated on a TV show in the late-1960s. While we can’t say for sure that absolutely no one was making this frog sound before then, the earliest recorded usage found so far (according to linguist Ben Zimmer) is from a 1965 episode of Gilligan’s Island, in which Mel Blanc voiced a character called Ribbit the Frog. This predates the OED’s earliest entry, which is from a 1968 episode of the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour: “That’s right. Ribit! .. I am a frog.”

4. Sorry About That

You've probably used this expression of regret more than once in your life, but did you know it was popularized by Get Smart? It's one of the many catchphrases from the late 1960s TV show. Others include “missed it by that much” and “the old (so-and-so) trick.”

5. Cromulent

Cromulent is a perfectly cromulent word, as far as the OED is concerned. This adjective invented on The Simpsons means “acceptable, adequate, satisfactory.” Other OED words the denizens of Springfield popularized are meh (perhaps influenced by the Yiddish “me,” meaning “be it as it may, so-so,” from 1928 or earlier), d’oh (the earliest recorded usage is from a 1945 British radio show), and embiggen, which first appeared in an 1884 publication by English publisher George Bell: “Are there not, however, barbarous verbs in all languages? … The people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly.”

6. Five-O

The OED’s earliest citation of this slang term for the police is from a 1983 article in The New York Times, although it was probably in use long before that. The moniker comes from Hawaii Five-O, which premiered in 1968. In the show, five-o refers to a particular police unit and apparently was named in honor of Hawaii being the 50th state.

7. Gomer

While the word gomer has been around since the year 1000 (referring to a Hebrew unit of measure), the sense of someone stupid or inept comes from the inept titular character in the 1960s show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. It’s also a derogatory name among medical professionals for a difficult patient, especially an elderly one.

8. Cowabunga

Sure, the 1960s surfing slang might have regained popularity in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s due to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series, but it originated way before then. Chief Thunderthud, a character on the 1950s children’s show Howdy Doody would use it as faux Native American language. After that, it somehow made its way into surfer slang, hence becoming a catchphrase of Michelangelo, the hard-partying, surfing ninja turtle.

9. Har De Har

The next time you want to laugh in a sarcastic, old-timey way, thank Jackie Gleason for popularizing har de har via his iconic 1950s show, The Honeymooners.

10. Spam

So how in the world did spam, originally the name of a canned ham, come to mean junk email or to inundate with junk emails or postings? Chalk it up to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The food Spam (which stands for either “spiced ham” or “shoulder of pork and ham”) was invented during the Great Depression in the late 1930s. Fast-forward 40-some-odd years and the British sketch comics were singing incessantly about it. This apparently was the inspiration for the computer slang that came about in the early 1990s.