Photo by Brenda Chase/Newsmakers
That’s actor James Dean in his Porsche 550 Spyder, the “Little Bastard,” nine days before he crashed it on US Route 46 in California. Dean took up racing shortly before his death, and in a 1955 interview just months before, Dean struck a cautionary note about America’s highways.
“People say racing is dangerous,” he said. “But I’ll take my chances on the track any day than on a highway.” While driving on the highway on Sept. 30, 1955, a man named — ahem — Donald Turnupseed randomly turned left in an intersection and caused Dean to crash his Porsche. At the end of the 1955 interview, Dean said, “Take it easy on the highway, the life you save may be mine.”
Martin Luther King
Dr. Martin Luther King arrived in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968, and gave his famous last speech, which was titled, “I’ve been to the mountain top.” The speech showcases King’s priorities, such as equal rights for all mankind, and social justice, but it was his last few lines that proved to be prophetic.
“Like anybody,” King said. “I would like to live a long life … But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.” He went on to say, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.” He was right, as the next morning on April 4, 1968, he was assassinated by a sniper’s bullet in front of his hotel.
It’s difficult to say whether the author and satirist Mark Twain predicted his death, or made it happen out of sheer force of willpower. Twain was born on Nov. 30, 1835, which was the same day that Halley’s comet passed by earth, which it does every 75 or 76 years.
“I came in with Halley’s comet,” Twain said in 1909. “It is coming again next year. The Almighty has said, no doubt, ‘Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” His prediction turned out to be true, as on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s comet passed earth, Twain died of a heart attack.
Ronnie Van Zandt
Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zandt had predicted his death several times, commenting that he would “die with [his] boots on,” and that he “wouldn’t live to see 30.” Van Zandt would prove his predictions correct, as he died less than three months before his 30th birthday.
What’s more is that three days before the plane crash that killed him, and three other bandmates, the band released an album that seemed to show them engulfed in flames. He had just released a song too, called “That Smell,” which had lyrics such as, “Angel of darkness upon you,” and, “The smell of death surrounds you.”
Exactly 103 years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Abraham Lincoln had a dream that “strangely annoyed” him. He saw a catafalque, which is a type of wood framework that supports a coffin, in the East Wing of the White House, and a Union soldier was standing guard.
Lincoln walked up to the man and asked, “Who is dead in the White House?” To which the soldier replied, “The president. He was killed by an assassin.” Lincoln couldn’t shake the dream, and a week later he told a friend about it. Three days after that, he was killed by an assassin’s bullet, and his body was later put on display in the East Room of the White House.
Frank Pastore was a successful pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, and Texas Rangers from 1979 to 1986. He later went on to host his own radio talk show very creatively titled The Frank Pastore Show. On Nov. 19, 2012, he asked his listeners, “You know I like motorcycles, right?” Are you sensing the impending doom for Pastore?
“At any moment,” he explained. “Especially with the idiot people who cross the diamond lane into my lane, without any blinkers – not that I’m angry about it – at any minute, I could be spread all over [Interstate] 210.” Just hours after he made this comment he was riding his motorcycle on Interstate 210, when a Hyundai Sonata drifted into his lane. He later died from his injuries.
The Doors frontman Jim Morrison had a close relationship with death, and sang about it often, such as in his song, “The End.” Morrison is known for his predictions, such as when in 1969 he predicted the advent of Electronic Dance Music (EDM).
On Sept. 18, 1970 rock legend Jimi Hendrix died. On October 4th, Morrison’s close friend Janis Joplin died. The “27 Club” was born. Days later Morrison was out with friends at Barney’s Beanery in LA, where it was said that he commented, “You’re drinking with number three. That’s right, number three.” Morrison would die of a drug overdose in Paris less than nine months later.
‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich
NBA legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich had a 10-year NBA career (cut short by injuries), and to this day still holds the all-time NCAA men’s basketball scoring record for a season (1967). Retirement from basketball didn’t take well with him, and eventually, he became a born again Christian.
In 1974, a 26-year-old Maravich gave an interview for the Beaver County Times in Pennsylvania, and reportedly said, “I don’t want to play 10 years and then die of a heart attack at the age of 40.” Well, the first part was already true, and on Jan. 5, 1988, six months into his 40th year, Maravich died of a heart attack while playing a pickup game.
Much has been made in Tupac’s choice for his alter ego: Makaveli. Loosely based on the Italian thinker Machiavelli, it is said that Machiavelli faked his own death to escape the clutches of his enemies. Whether that was Tupac’s intention, we don’t know, but we do know that he prophesied his death on a couple of occasions.
Not only did Tupac rap about how his death was going to happen in a song released just a few months before his death (‘I been shot and murdered, can tell you how it happened word for word…’), but he also accidentally predicted his death in a 1994 interview. When asked where he’d be in 15 years he replied, “Best case [scenario]? In a cemetery.”
The curse of the Hemingway family is a very real thing, and it didn’t start with Ernest Hemingway, nor did it end with him. It’s a painful fact that suicide has claimed the lives of at least four generations of Hemingway’s, including Ernest’s father, Clarence.
In 1928, Clarence was suffering from heart disease, diabetes, lost wealth, and perhaps even insanity. Ernest was shaken when he learned that Clarence shot himself, as he wrote: “I was very fond of him and feel like hell about it.” But he also wrote, “I’ll probably go the same way.” On July 2, 1961, suffering from poor health and insanity, Ernest fulfilled that prophecy.
Singer, songwriter, and all-around rockstar Warren Zevon had latrophobia, which is a fear of going to the doctor, and as you can imagine, this had severe consequences. Somehow, he wasn’t afraid of going to the dentist, however, and when Zevon developed a persistent cough it was his dentist that encouraged him to see a physician.
In 2002, he was diagnosed with a form of mesothelioma, which was odd, because it was a disease associated with exposure to asbestos. Instead of an explanation, we’re only given these lyrics to his 1987 song, “The Factory.” “Johnny, I’ve been working in the factory/Kickin’ asbestos in the factory/Punchin’ out Chryslers in the factory/Breathin’ that plastic in the factory.”
Our fears have a naughty way of manifesting themselves into reality, and frontman for the English glam rock group T-Rex, Marc Bolan, certainly learned this lesson too late. Despite the fact that he owned many vehicles, and even sang about cars often, Bolan never bothered getting his driver’s license, as he was afraid of an untimely death.
On the night of Sept. 16, 1977, Bolan, then 29 years old, was the passenger in a zippy Mini 1275GT. He was coming home from “Morton’s Drinking Club and Restaurant” in London when his girlfriend, Gloria Jones, veered off the road and struck a fence post.
Mikey Welsh was the bass guitarist for the rock band Weezer until 2001 when he had a falling out with the band. Drug problems and mental illness plagued Welsh, but he managed to produce visual art, and eventually buried the hatchet with his former bandmates.
On Sept. 26 2011, Welsh took to twitter to share a dream he had: “Dreamt I died in Chicago the weekend after next (heart attack in my sleep). Need to write my will today.” On the eve of Weezer’s Riot Show on Oct. 9, 2011, Welsh was found dead on the floor of a Chicago hotel room, apparently dying from a heart attack caused by a drug overdose.
Kurt Cobain was an innovative musician and kick ass rock star just as much as he was a tortured soul. This is a difficult story to verify, but according to multiple sources, Cobain predicted his own demise when he was just 14 years old, which was 13 years shy of his induction into the “27 club.”
Cobain is said to have actually made three predictions that came true. He said to a classmate that he was going to get rich and famous from being a rock star and that he’d die in a blaze of glory like Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix didn’t go out like that, and Cobain’s suicide on April 5, 1994, was anything but glorious.
While Cobain may have gone by way of the gun, Jimi Hendrix certainly did not, but the two did end up joining the same frightful “27 Club.” In 1965, before anyone outside of Seattle knew who Hendrix was, he recorded “Ballad of Jimi,” whose lyrics predicted when he would die.
“Many things he would try/For he knew soon he’d die/Now Jimi’s gone, he’s not alone/His memory still lives on/FIVE YEARS, this he said/He’s not gone, he’s just dead.” On Sept. 18, 1970, almost five years to the month of this recording, Hendrix was found dead in a London Hotel room, apparently dying of asphyxia caused by a drug overdose.
Reggae legend Bob Marley was said to be something of a clairvoyant by the people who knew him best. Given his ability to shine a ray of sunlight on even the worst parts of reality, it’s not too much of a stretch in believing he possessed these abilities.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Marley was cryptic about his death and revealed details to certain friends. One such friend claims that Marley predicted he’d die the same age as Jesus, which was 36 years old. On May 11, 1981, two months after he turned 36, Marley died of brain and lung cancer, stemming from a melanoma on his big toe.
The Ultimate Warrior
James Hellwig, a. k. a. The Ultimate Warrior, was on a hiatus from professional wrestling, after a falling out with just about everyone involved in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Then, on April 5, 2014, he made amends with his former comrades and appeared on WrestleMania XXX to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
During his induction, he gave a great speech where he poked fate and said, “Every man’s heart beats its final beat. The Spirit of the Ultimate Warrior will run forever.” Less than three days later, without warning or any indication that he was suffering from health problems, the Ultimate Warrior died of a massive heart attack.
Christopher Wallace, a. k. a. Biggie Smalls, both rapped about his early demise, and later predicted that it was coming. Like most musicians, Smalls wrote lyrics about his death, and in 1994 he released a song titled “Suicidal Thoughts,” where he used more than a couple of expletives to say that “death was calling him.”
Smalls was gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997, by an unknown assassin. Less than three weeks later, what would be his final album was set to release. The title of the album was, “Life After Death,” and featured a photo of Smalls, taken six weeks before his death, leaning against a hearse with a license plate that read, “B. I. G.”
The event inspired the song, “Borrowed Time,” which was recorded shortly after. Less than six months later, on Dec. 8, 1980, Lennon was assassinated by a gunman in front of his apartment in New York. Among the lyrics in “Borrowed Time” are the words, “Living on borrowed time, without a thought for tomorrow.”
Jackie, Jackie, Jackie, in the case of this list we saved the worst for last. Jackie Wilson was a soul singer who rose to stardom at the age of 24 with his chart-topping single, “Lonely Teardrops.” When released on an album, it sold over a million records.
On Sept. 25, 1975, Wilson performed the song on Dick Clarke’s show, Good Ol’ Rock and Roll Revue, and while singing the lyric, “My lonely heart is crying,” he clutched his chest and collapsed to the floor, suffering a massive heart attack. He hung around for a few years but eventually succumbed to complications on Jan. 21, 1984.
Ritchie Valens had what’s called aerophobia, which is a fear of flying, and he had a darn good reason. When he was 15 years old he cut class to attend his grandfather’s funeral. While there, a plane fell from the sky in a fiery inferno and crashed on the playground of his schoolyard.
While Valens was on tour in Iowa two years and three days later, he won a coin toss that netted him a seat in a small aircraft that was taking off into a winter storm. He reportedly said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever won anything in my life.” Minutes later, on Feb. 3, 1959, the plane he was on with The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly, crashed into the frozen ground.
W. T. Stead
Author Williams Thomas Stead’s demise is another cautionary tale of the need to be careful what you say. In 1886, Stead wrote a story wherein an ocean liner collides with another ship, and many lives are lost because of a lack of lifeboats. He later said, “This is exactly what might take place and will take place if liners are sent to sea short of boats”
Stead liked to say that he’d die by either lynching or drowning. He even wrote another story where a ship collided with an iceberg. As luck would have it, Stead found himself aboard the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, when it struck an iceberg. Due to a lack of lifeboats, Stead drowned in the frigid waters.
The Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg was a decidedly tortured soul, with a phobia that cost him his life. Before you go looking up Triskaidekaphobia, we’ll tell you what it is: It’s fear of the number “13.” He was born on Sept. 13, 1874, and he was convinced that he would die on the 13th of some month.
Schoenberg even went through the trouble of changing the name of one of his opera’s to avoid having the letters add up to 13. He dreaded his 76th birthday (7 + 6 = 13) after an astrologer warned him of this mathematical omen. Schoenberg became depressed, and on Friday, July 13, 1951, he lay sick in bed all day, until 15 minutes before midnight, when his heart gave out.
We know about the death of Jesus Christ, and his prediction prior to it, from the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They all agree that he prophesied his death, but they disagree on how Jesus made this announcement. One thing is certain though: He knew trouble was coming when he entered Jerusalem for the final time.
Jesus predicted his demise with seemingly great accuracy, as in the book of Matthew he said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him.” He takes it further when he said, “They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.” That turned out to be exactly what happened.
Grigory Rasputin didn’t just predict his own death, but he predicted the fall of the Russian monarchy. In 1916 he was nice and cozy with the Romanov’s, who were the ruling family in Russia. The Tsarina, Alexandra, had become enthralled by Rasputin, the monk who was able to cure her son’s hemophilia with nothing more than a touch and mandate from God.
But Rasputin could feel his final days coming, and he wrote a letter to the Tsarina saying he would killed by New Years, and the Romanov’s would suffer the same fate within two years. Two days before New Years 1917, Rasputin was shot three times, poisoned, and drowned. The entire Romanov family was killed a year a half later.
Abraham de Moivre
The French mathematician Abraham de Moivre used a set of data to predict what day he would die. As Moivre grew older his energy waned, and he became largely lethargic and suffered from somnolence, which is basically the opposite of insomnia (hypersomnia).
Moivre was getting more tired, and he noticed that he was sleeping about 15 minutes longer everyday. He used this data to determine that eventually, he would sleep for an entire day, and that would be the day he died. He determined that his death would occur on Nov. 27, 1754, which is exactly what happened. His cause of death was reportedly listed as “somnolence.”