WORMWOOD FILES "Dark Prophecies of Doom"

Investigation by Dr. Abner Mality

Recently, the Good Doctor was embroiled in an involved and intriguing electronic conversation regarding the nature of prophecy. At the end of the discussion, all parties involved were agreed on one thing: none of us really wanted to know what the future holds.

Prophecy is a "gift" that rarely benefits those who possess it. In both fact and fiction, those who can see the future see things they would rather not know. It's a hoary cliche in supernatural fiction that unlucky seers always foretell their own deaths, even if they don't realize what they are looking at. Such morbid characters are found from ancient Greek tragedy right up to episodes of "The Twilight Zone". And historical prophets have also suffered terribly for their visions. You can find a disturbing example right here in the Wormwood Files with the story of "The Brahan Seer", Kenneth Odhar, who was boiled in tar for bluntly telling people things they didn't want to hear. Nostradamus had to constantly cloak his prophecies in cryptic verse to avoid being burned at the stake.

There are very few happy prophets. In looking up other remarkable tales of those who could see the future, I found the names of Robert Nixon and Jacques Cazotte. Both of these men made some of the most astoundingly accurate predictions ever recorded...of events far beyond their own lifetimes...and both came to a grisly end.
Let's take a look at their macabre stories.

It would be hard to imagine anyone being born with less fanfare than Robert Nixon of Cheshire. He was born in 1467 England, the mentally handicapped son of a desperately poor farmer. It was bad enough that Robert was born into such a low station, one that few people could hope to escape in those days, but to have mental disabilities was an even more crippling blow. Yet it would become apparent later that nature had perhaps gifted Robert in a different way than simple intelligence.

Nixon's prophetic powers did not manifest themselves for a long time. The gangling, unattractive youth worked as little more than a beast of burden on his father's farm, barely speaking or interacting with anyone. He was considered a simple-minded but strong oaf and was expected to remain that way for the rest of his days.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise when one day, dull-witted Robert Nixon suddenly began to speak in a clear, steady voice quite unlike his usual mumble and announce that the neighbor's prize steer would be dead before another day passed. Those who heard Robert's pronouncement laughed it off as the babblings of a half wit. But they were astounded when that strong, healthy beast suddenly dropped dead while pulling a plow the next day.

That was the first stirring of Nixon's power. The local liege took notice of his power and tried to bring forth more prophecy from the awkward youth. He even tried to teach him reading and writing to promote the gift, but Nixon dumbly refused all teaching. He was seemingly content to be a plowboy for the rest of his life.

But Nixon's visions were almost like epileptic fits...he had little control over when or where they would strike. He was once again pulling a plow behind a field horse when the next major attack hit. In the middle of chores, Nixon suddenly stopped and stared into the sky. His father struck him with a strap but the boy gave no notice of it. For many minutes, the simple serf stared into the heavens, as if following some unseen drama only he could see. Finally, he turned to his father and spoke in the same clear voice he had used before:  "I have seen things I cannot tell you of and which no man has ever seen."

What had Robert Nixon seen? Days later, he lumbered into a local Cheshire tavern and sat quietly drinking an ale. Suddenly, he stood and began to speak in that clear voice so totally unlike his ordinary tone. " I shall tell you the history of the future of this land," he said and for the next two hours, the amazed farmers and local workers listened to the "Plowboy Prophet" reveal over three hundred years of future British history, including the rise of Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War, the reign of future kings such as George III and William of Orange, and the revolutions in both America...a land yet unknown...and France.

Most regarded Robert's prophecies as either gibberish or witchcraft, but fortunately one visitor to the alehouse took detailed notes of his ramblings. Nixon's prophecy regarding the reign of James II was very precise:  "When a raven builds its nest in the mouth of a gargoyle in a Cheshire church, the King of England shall be driven from his kingdom to return nevermore. As proof of my words, a wall of Lord Cholmondeley shall crumble to Earth!"

Those present at the tavern would not be alive to see Nixon's prophecies of the future come true. But a strong stone wall of the local Lord Cholmondeley's estate did indeed fall apart just a few days after Robert's declaration, despite being solid in construction. And almost 200 hundred years later, it was seen that a raven...a bird rarely seen in that part of England and always considered a bird of ill omen...built a nest inside the mouth of a stone lion atop the biggest church in Cheshire. One day after this ominous event, James II was forced to abdicate his throne in disgrace and was exiled to France, where he later died. Robert Nixon's strange barroom prediction had come true in every detail.

After his tavern outburst, Nixon returned to his usual dull-witted behavior. It was almost as if a different mind was using Nixon's body while he was seeing the future. The next major outburst came in summer 1485 and it was the most peculiar yet. Robert was again plowing a field with another group of workers when he once again stopped in the middle of the field. This time, he yelled and jumped about as if we were part of a stage play. "There, Richard, there! Now! Up and over the ditch, Henry! Up and over the ditch and the battle is won!" he roared while stabbing the air as if he held a sword. The other farmers stood dumbfounded watching Nixon, but enough stories of his antics had spread...they paid close attention to what he said and did.

Finally, Nixon smiled and told the men, "Victory! The battle is over! Henry has won!". The men scratched their heads as Nixon began plowing the field again as if nothing had happened. Two days later, riders arrived in Cheshire with exciting news...King Richard III had been killed at the Battle of Bosworth by the Earl of Richmond, who now proclaimed himself King Henry VII. At the exact moment that Robert Nixon had been engaged in his strange pantomine, Henry had personally slain Richard. Somehow the simple plowboy had experienced a battle waged hundreds of miles away.

By now, the whole kingdom had heard of "The Plowboy Prophet", including the just crowned King Henry VII. Henry was eager to meet the strange man who could foretell the future and sent his servants to bring Nixon to his palace. But Robert's reaction was one of panic. He begged villagers to hide him from the royal soldiers.
The baffled peasants asked why he feared them so much.

"The king's men will take me to the royal palace, but if I go there, I will die of thirst and starvation!" the terrified simpleton replied. But Robert could not avoid his fate. He was taken to London and placed before the king.

Henry regarded Nixon with kindness and when he learned of what the plowboy said, he ordered that he should be given whatever food he wanted for the length of his stay in the royal court. He also ordered that a scribe accompany Robert at all times in case he should have one of his "prophecy fits"...he wanted the prophecies to be immediately recorded for posterity.

Nixon made few prophecies while in royal court, but he soon took full advantage of his good standing with the king, gorging himself on food and drink and generally making a pest of himself with his requests for more. Occasionally, he would stop and make declarations about the future. In one strange pronouncement, he declared that England would be invaded by means of an underground tunnel by helmeted soldiers covered in white dust. Such an invasion has yet to occur in our time...unless perhaps Robert saw the building of the "Chunnel" uniting England and France. Perhaps he perceived helmeted workers covered in dust from construction as soldiers.

In time, King Henry left for a lengthy hunting trip, leaving Nixon behind. Apparently Robert annoyed cooks with incessant demands for food so much that they got the idea to lock the simple-minded peasant in a large chest and leave him until he really got hungry. Well, Robert was indeed tricked into the chest, but no one came to open it. Was he simply forgotten about in the chaos of the royal court...or perhaps did enemies of the king dispose of a prophet who could help his reign? It was never learned, but when Henry returned after his trip, the starved and dead body of Robert Nixon, the Plowboy Prophet, was found inside a locked chest. The boy's prophecy of his own doom had been fulfilled in every detail.

Robert Nixon was unique in prophetic circles as he was obviously mentally handicapped and did not seem to be in control of his gift. It was almost as if another force was using this poor serf as a mouth through which to speak. But Robert did share one quality in common with many other prophets...his visions brought him nothing but doom.

Jacques Cazotte was as different from Robert Nixon as could be imagined. A French citizen of the 18th century, he was a well-educated man of letters and a prolific writer. He wrote a series of stories about a fabulous submarine over a century before Jules Verne composed "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and some of his more chilling stories echoed the later works of Edgar Allan Poe. Cazotte was also independtly wealthy. Yet one thing he had in common with the illiterate medieval plowboy Robert Nixon...he could see the future.

Cazotte dabbled in the occult and was said to be in possession of a crystal ball where he would see his prophetic visions. He had a knack for forseeing the personal futures of those he encountered...and his visions were seldom pleasant. But Cazotte was such an intriguing man that he was often invited to the parties of the French aristocracy to amuse and entertain them.

It was at one such party in 1788, during a time of approaching political unrest, that Cazotte spun some of his darkest and most unsettling prophecies for a crowd of distinguished guests. Despite protesting that his visions might not prove favorable, the guests begged Jacques to foretell their futures.

Cazotte gave in to their requests...and spared nothing with his brutal prophecies. He said that many in the room would not survive the upcoming revolution and would meet their end by guillotine and hangman's noose. An uncomfortable feeling of unease gripped the room as the distinguished writer slowly walked amongst the party-goers, singling some of them out for particularly detailed predictions.

He approached Nicholas Sebastian Chamfort, theater critic and writer. "You will slash your own wrists 22 times before dying a long and miserable death," he grimly told Chamfort, who recoiled. Chamfort was known as a happy, successful man, so the prediction seemed highly unlikely.

He next made his way to the Marquis de Condorcet,a brilliant social scientist and mathematician, perhaps the most respected man at the party. "You will die in prison by your own hand, taking poison to avoid the guillotine!" The crowd now was incredulous...it seemed inconceivable that the Marquis would ever be imprisoned.

More outrageous prophecy was forthcoming. Cazotte next spoke to Jean de la Harpe, a liberal social critic and well-known atheist. "The upcoming revolution will turn you into a faithful man of God," he told him. De la Harpe laughed in disbelief. "Now we know your prophecies are lies! Nothing will make me believe in God!"

The party dispersed but no one forgot the dark prophecies of Jacques Cazotte. In 1789, the French Revolution exploded into the open and the old aristocracy was swept away in a river of blood. Those of the upper classes who did not join the revolution or leave the country usually met their end at the hands of Madame Guillotine.

The humanitarian Nicholas Chamfort supported the revolution and was popular with the masses at first. But eventually he condemned the endless slaughter encouraged by the Jacobins and fell afoul of the most radical elements of the Revolution. He was imprisoned and sentenced to die by guillotine. Chamfort did not want his death to become a public spectacle, so he decided to cheat the executioner by slashing his wrists. After 22 agonizing failures with a dull blade, he finally succeeded, dying a slow, gruesome death in 1793.

The Marquis de Condorcet was an even more ardent supporter of the Revolution. He became a voice of moderation amongst the bloody revolutionaries and tried to set up a new, democratic country. He was a popular figure...until he strongly opposed the execution of King Louis XVI and his Girondin supporters. This brought the opposition of radicals and soon de Condorcet's fortunes began to wane. The Marquis fled Paris for the countryside and became a hunted fugitive. Finally he was arrested and thrown in prison to await execution. But just as Jacques Cazotte had foretold, de Condorcet took a fatal dose of poison to avoid the guillotine. The year was 1794.

De la Harpe at first supported the Revolution as well, but like Chamfort, he opposed indiscriminate killing. Unlike the others, though, he was thrown into the depths of one of Paris' worst prisons. There, he languished for five months before being released...a changed man. His experiences in prison had turned the staunch atheist into a devout Christian, which he remained for the rest of his days.

And what of Jacques Cazotte, the prophet of doom himself? Perhaps he was able to deliver his dire prophecies with impunity because he saw his own fate...death by guillotine in 1792, well before Chamfort and de Condorcet met their end.

If you ever wish to see the future, remember well the fate of Robert Nixon, Jacques Cazotte and others like them. A gift can sometimes be a curse. As for myself, I have no desire to know what lies ahead for me. Now you, perhaps? Let me grab my tarot cards...

This is Dr. Abner Mality, turning out the lights.