My father was a skeptic. He was trained as both a scientist and a cop and to him, if you couldn't measure it, weigh it and reproduce it in a lab, it was probably baloney.
When I was a kid, the whole family was at a neighborhood party and my friend's dad was talking about the amazing Jeane Dixon. She was a well-known psychic from the '50s and '60s who purportedly predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
My father listened patiently, puffing his pipe, as our neighbor expressed his absolute belief in such extrasensory powers. The more he raved about the miraculous Dixon, the faster my old man puffed until the pipe bowl was a bright red.
Dad then calmly set the Kaywoodie down, looked the guy right in the eye and pronounced Jeane Dixon a charlatan and a fraud. He went on to say that her predictions were so broad and so numerous that she was bound to be right a percentage of the time. He said that she probably couldn't predict the weather. The room went silent. We were never invited back.
What brought back this childhood memory was a chance encounter with a Web site about renowned psychics, seers and clairvoyants. As I surfed around the site, there was old Jeane, smiling an all-knowing smile. It must have been hell trying to throw a surprise party for her. Here are some of the predictions she made back in the day:
There will be a cure for cancer in 1967.
The Soviets will beat the Americans to the Moon.
World War III will begin in 1958.
There will be peace on earth in the year 2000.
Since Dixon passed away in 1997, she never realized that her grandest prognostication of peace on earth would be wrong.
I inherited much of my dad's skeptical view of this sort of thing. I was once asked to leave a seance in Lily Dale because the spirits sensed I was a non-believer. I suspect the guy who took my 10 bucks caught me rolling my eyes when he claimed to be channeling directly from the spirit world by "automatic writing" on an imaginary chalkboard in front of him.
With cell phones, faxes and e-mail, how come the dearly departed are still using a finger writing in the air as their preferred method of communication?
I try to keep an open mind, though. Perhaps human beings do indeed have the power to read minds, predict the future and talk to the dead.
But I'm not interested in what is in most other people's minds. I don't want to know when I'm going to lose my hair and, most importantly, talking to dead people would be awfully creepy.
On the other hand, predicting your future would be a lot of fun. So, here are my predictions for my fellow Western New Yorkers:
Thruway tolls will never be removed.
The waterfront will never reach its full potential.
Big industry won't be returning.
Tony Masiello will land a cushy job when he leaves office.
Joel Giambra will never again be elected to anything, ever.
The Bills will win the Super Bowl. (But will move to Nevada, first).
Phil Rumore will continue to get on your nerves.
Oh, and taxes will go up, politicians will lie, all of you will eventually die and there will continue to be wars and natural disasters.
Robert E. O'Connor, of Hamburg, is skeptical of those who say they can read minds and talk to the dead.