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Jeane Dixon & the Jeane Dixon effect
Jeane Dixon (1918-1997) was an astrologer and alleged psychic who did not predict the assassination of President Kennedy. Her reputation for having done so began when it was recalled after the assassination that the following had appeared in Parade magazine in 1956: "As for the 1960 election Mrs. Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labor and won by a Democrat. But he will be assassinated or die in office though not necessarily in his first term." Sounds good (except for the part about the election being dominated by labor), even if broad enough to be shoehorned to a variety of possible events.
The president, whose name is never mentioned, could be assassinated in his first or his second term. He could die during his first or second term. [He could have had] a serious illness during either his first or second term (Hines 2003: 71).
Unfortunately for the nation, the odds against Mrs. Dixon's prophecy's being fulfilled were not too great--7 to 3, based on twentieth-century experience (Christopher 1970: 81).
Any assassination attempts in either his first or second term might well have been seen as hits. But it is not that she didn't name Kennedy and didn't say for sure that he would be assassinated that I say she didn't predict the assassination. She later admitted that “During the 1960 election, I saw Richard Nixon as the winner.”* Worse than that, in 1960, apparently forgetting or overriding her earlier prediction, she predicted unequivocally that "John F. Kennedy would fail to win the presidency" (Hines 2003: 71; Tyler 1977). This is called hedging your bets in some quarters. The fact that after Kennedy was elected she had premonitions and saw dark clouds over Kennedy and many others is not very impressive. Her forte was war and peace, death and life. She saw the worst and promised the best. She had the formula down.
Dixon was featured every year in various publications that engage in the entertaining pursuit of making predictions for the new year. She predicted that the Soviets would beat the U.S. to the moon and that World War III would begin in 1958 (Montgomery 1965: x). She foresaw a holocaust for the 1980s and that Rome would then rise and
become the world's foremost center of culture, learning, and religion; and that the Middle Eastern child whose birth she "witnessed in the vision with Queen Nefertiti" on February 5, 1962, will unite all warring creeds and sects into one all-embracing faith (ibid.: 193).
She predicted there would be a cure for cancer in 1967.* She didn't foresee the rise of terrorism. She foresaw peace on earth by the year 2000. She predicted that Richard Nixon would serve his country well and that Barry Goldwater would be vindicated (ibid.:187). I guess those predictions are vague enough to count as prophetic for a government psychic.
Her defenders will note that I have been selective in my choice of predictions to list. I admit it. But, when one makes as many predictions as Dixon did, you are bound to be correct or sort of correct some of the time. Even a broken watch is correct twice a day.
In her obituary and in its final issue of 1997, The Sacramento Bee perpetuated the myth of Jeane Dixon's psychic powers by declaring her to have predicted the assassination of JFK. My impression is that the mass media has done little to belittle her reputation and much to enhance it.
The Jeane Dixon effect refers to the tendency of the mass media to hype or exaggerate a few correct predictions by a psychic, guaranteeing that they will be remembered, while forgetting or ignoring the much more numerous incorrect predictions. As such, a more proper appellation would be the Jeane Dixon defect.
See also clairvoyance.
books and articles
Tyler, J. 1977. "The Unsinkable Jeane Dixon." Humanist 38(3):6-9.
Did psychic Jeane Dixon predict JFK's assassination? - The Straight Dope