The strange hinterland of the long-dead Baba Vanga and her annual psychic predictions Mark Horne The Skeptic

While we can’t know what 2024 has in store, there’s one group for whom the new year isn’t a time for extended hangovers, dry January, or counting the pennies after a festive splurge: it’s time for psychics to predict the future.

We’ve all heard of Nostradamus, whose predictions are wheeled out every year to fill space and attract eyeballs and clicks, alongside a slew of other psychics, tarot card readers, numerologists and astrologers, whose predictions tend to be more miss than hit at the end of the year, if only anyone was counting.

Nostradamus isn’t the only long-dead soothsayer in town. Many news outlets prefer to feature the late Bulgarian mystic commonly known as Baba Vanga – “Grandmother Vanga.” Although Baba Vanga died 27 years ago, she purportedly predicted events right up to the end of the world in 5079. However, there are three big problems with her predictions, two of which will be familiar to anyone who follows psychics’ annual predictions, and one which is very novel and specific to Baba Vanga.

Baba Vanga, born Vangeliya Pandeva Gushterova in 1911, lost her sight in her early teens before developing a reputation for soothsaying during the Second World War. Such was her fame that she was – apparently – even consulted by Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Reports of her alarming predictions for 2024 include a massive economic crisis, biological weapons, increased terrorist attacks in Europe, an assassination attempt on Putin, cyber attacks, alien visitations, and terrifying weather events. On the plus side, apparently there will be new treatments for dementia and cancer.

The first problem with her predictions is obvious from the above list: in the past fifty years terrorist attacks have become so common that the Wikipedia page listing them now has a separate page for each year since 1970. Whether 2024 sees an increase – and let’s hope it does not – will be down to how you count, so that could be a win either way. Cyber attacks and extreme weather cause regular disruption, and – despite what alt-med folk tell us – there are significant developments in cancer treatment every year these days, so all such predictions are essentially guaranteed hits.

What of the more specific predictions? While we can’t say until the end of 2024 whether there will be developments in nation-state use of biological weapons, or proof of extraterrestrial visitation, we can look back at previous years. This leads us to the second problem: the more specific and unlikely the predictions, the less accurate they get. Baba Vanga’s predictions for 2023 included a change in the world’s orbit, a bioweapon atrocity, that babies will be born in laboratories to parents’ designs, and that there would be a major nuclear disaster. None of these things happened.

The only prediction for 2023 that’s regularly touted as a hit is that a major solar storm would cause a catastrophe. While there was a significant amount of solar activity and flares in late 2023, they didn’t cause chaos and were nothing like as big as the Carrington Event of the 19th Century. In fact, 2023’s biggest flare was only the biggest in six years, and solar storms run in an 11-year cycle, so predicting an increase in solar storms is about as impressive as predicting a year ending in a zero once a decade.

The third, unique problem with Baba Vanga may already have become evident to any readers who follow the links in this article to her predictions. The authors of these articles pepper their copy with phrases like “apparently” and “it is said that”, because, as Gergana Krasteva notes in this Metro article, Baba Vanga was only semi-literate, and so “she did not record her prophecies, her followers wrote them down”.

Obviously if a psychic has genuine powers then it doesn’t matter whether they can read or write. What does matter is that there does not appear to be any authoritative document from which the predictions can be drawn. As The Independent’s Ariana Baio noted in 2022:

Many of Baba Vanga’s prophecies are hearsay because she did not write down anything. Nearly all of her predictions from… 2000-onward cannot be corroborated.

Where, then, are newspapers taking these predictions from? Jeff Yates, writing as ‘The Viral Inspector’ in the now-defunct Montreal Métro, expressed his suspicions about the effects of the lack of an authoritative source document in 2016:

This makes it easy for those who want to attribute all kinds of predictions to [Vanga]. Since there is no written proof of her predictions, we can make Ms. Vanga say whatever we want.

Translated from the original French using Google Translate

This, of course, would explain why Baba Vanga can both predict that Europe will cease to exist in 2016, and yet Europe will be the target for increased terror attacks in 2024, and why World War 3 can have started in 2010, and yet also have started in 2023. Whether it is one person or many behind the predictions that Yates describes as an “internet urban legend” doesn’t really matter: Baba Vanga can say mutually contradictory things, because it is certainly questionable as to whether Baba Vanga ever said any of them at all, and new predictions can be created fresh, as the situation requires.

Antoineta Maskruchka, writing in 2010 in Bulgarian newspaper 24 Chasa, tracked down Baba Vanga’s former associates and neighbours to see what they thought of their old friend’s apocalyptic predictions. They were all firm believers in her powers – and also quite confident that she had never made such predictions. Boyka Kostadinova, who was a friend of Baba Vanga for five decades, said:

…we have not heard her talk about the end of the world. Let anyone who has heard, tell them. But now it’s easy, Vanga is gone… They put all kinds of nonsense in her mouth.

Translated from original Bulgarian using Google Translate

Others who knew Baba Vanga mention that she rarely spoke of politics, which is the theme of many of her supposed predictions.

Eli Goreva, who knew Vanga for nearly 30 years, noted that Vanga’s supposedly accurate predictions about 9/11, the Kursk submarine disaster, and the election of Barack Obama all appeared after her death, and that the promulgators of these predictions never made clear when Vanga gave them these prophecies.

Vanga’s friend, Peter Bakov, added a direct contradiction to the widely circulating claims of World War 3 that are attributed to Vanga:

“I asked her, but she kept telling me: “Don’t be afraid, son, it’s okay. There will be no Third World War.”

Translated from original Bulgarian using Google Translate

Maskruchka suggests that the spread online was instigated in 2008 by “cousins” (possibly cousins of Baba Vanga, though the limitations of auto-translation begin to tell here) who circulated a list of her predictions on Russian websites, which were subsequently picked up in Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian and American media.

Language barriers present a brick wall to me at this point, but I’ve not found any more comprehensive lists online of her predictions than ones like this, which do not feature the multiple predictions per year that would be needed to pad out this genre of news article. Multiple predictions whose provenance remain lost in mystery, but which seem unlikely to have originated from a certain Bulgarian prophet, before she died back in 1996. Indeed as far as I can establish, it seems entirely plausible that Baba Vanga made no yearly predictions at all.

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Every year, the media cover the amazing predictions made by Bulgarian psychic Baba Vanga – the only problem is, there’s no evidence she ever actually made them
The post The strange hinterland of the long-dead Baba Vanga and her annual psychic predictions appeared first on The Skeptic.