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Imagine how different Life magazine's "Year in Pictures" would have looked if the psychics' predictions had come true.

Instead of a Princess Diana memorial portrait on the cover, it would have shown her running in Africa, training for the Summer Olympics of 2000. The inside pages would have been graced with photos of Pamela Anderson Lee and Howard Stern, co-starring in the rock musical version of "Gone With the Wind," Mick Jagger in his new post as a member of Parliament and a pregnant Hillary Clinton.

How often do the the psychics get it right?

Let's put it this way: It's about as likely that "aliens from an oil-hungry planet will descend on earth and siphon our oil reserves into huge tanker spacecrafts" -- another '97 forecast -- as a psychic will divine the next Depression or a miracle cure for hemorrhoids.

Since 1979, Eugene Emery, a reporter at the Providence Journal, has kept tab on the tabloids' predictions. His findings are reported in the current issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Like history repeating itself, the psychics got it wrong again this year.

"I've been surprised at how bad they've been," Emery said. "There have been so many predictions, and so many strange things do happen. I've been astonished that they don't get more hits just by chance."

Considering what the psychics had in store for '97, it may be time to upgrade those crystal balls:

Scientists were supposed to trap an abominable snowman whose first recorded words, in a language resembling English, would be "Wha' dant meddle wi' me."

Following a heart-to-heart conversation with Barbra Streisand, Rush Limbaugh would become a Democrat.

Alarmed at the quality of children's television programs, Madonna would buy the rights to the "Mickey Mouse Club," resurrect the show and star in it.

After a five-week disappearance, Kathie Lee Gifford would be discovered in the Colorado wilderness, suffering from amnesia after being abducted by space aliens.

And if you want to know what won't happen next year, Emery has started collecting psychic outlooks for '98:

After being overthrown, Fidel Castro will move into a Beverly Hills mansion.

A beverage that makes your skin glow bright green in the dark will become the hot drink among nighttime bicyclists and joggers.

To cope with rising insurance costs, the National Football League will eliminate tackle football in favor of two-hand touch.

Then again, anything's possible. And if, on the last day of '97, Sarah Ferguson marries Calvin Klein, O.J. Simpson hosts a television show that investigates unsolved murders in France, and Conan O'Brien enters a monastery, the tabloids can say they told us so.

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