Claim: Nostradamus predicted the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Examples: [Collected via e-mail, September 2001]
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures,
the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"
Origins: The turmoil of the events of 9/11 had us all scrambling, some to look for solace and meaning, others for the terrorists responsible, and yet others for signs that what happened could have been prevented or at least foreseen. The
For some, that realization was an eye-opener, unsettling but necessary, in that a child's blissful unawareness had been replaced (at great cost) with an adult's more clear-eyed view of the world and its sometimes horrifying ways. For others, it spelled the beginning of the end as they equated an illusion of safety with its reality and felt their world was ending. It was the fears of that second group that were given voice in the Nostradamus prediction circulated on the Internet even before the dust had settled in
The French physician and astrologer Nostradamus
Those looking for the certainty of a Nostradamus prophecy come true have been known to sledgehammer the results to force a fit by inventing fanciful translations from the original French, bending over backwards to assert one named term is really another, and (as in this case) outright fabricating part or all of a prediction.
Nostradamus did not write the quatrain that was widely attributed to him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. (One wonders how a guy who died in 1566 could have written an item identified as being penned in 1654 anyway.) It originated with a student at Brock University in Canada in 1997, appearing in a web-published essay on Nostradamus. That particular quatrain was offered by the page's author, Neil Marshall, as a fabricated example to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy could be crafted through the use of abstract imagery. He pointed out how the terms he used were so deliberately vague they could be interpreted to fit any number of cataclysmic events.
Someone mistook Marshall's illustrative example for an actual Nostradamus prophecy and, not content to let well enough alone, added "The third big war will begin when the big city is burning." A fabrication was thus further fabricated. But that wasn't the end of it. More fakery was piled on in later versions that included all of the text quoted in the "Example" section above and tacked the following conclusion onto it:
two metal birds will crash into two tall statues
in the new city,
and the world will end soon after.
In the year of the new century and nine months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror.
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city.
In the city of york there will be a great collapse,
2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos
While the fortress falls; the great leader will succumb;
Third big war will begin when the big city is burning.
Barbara "la cosa nostradamus" Mikkelson
Last updated: 21 September 2001
Brown, Janelle. "Nostradamus Called It!" Salon. 17 September 2001. Coetsee, Rowena. "Nostradamus Prediction Has No Link to Terrorism." Contra Costa Times. 21 September 2001. Lynch, Stephen. "Non-Prophets" Orange County Register. 21 September 2001.