9 Historical Figures Who Predicted Their Own Deaths

For some historical figures, their final act is the most impressive. These are the famous people who predicted their own deaths, whether by means of a fortuneteller, a comet, or a dream. To know how it will all end is a feat unto itself, and it represents a deep sensitivity to the current of life, something that exists outside of fleeting celebrity altogether.

As with stories of mysterious doubles and shapeshifters, strange disappearances, or weird coincidences throughout history, premonitions of death are undeniably creepy. There is a nobility in knowing, in questioning the parameters, but the joke is always on the seeker.

Arnold Schoenberg couldn't hide behind the number 13. Abraham de Moivre couldn't escape his own theorem, the one that calculated his lifespan. Mark Twain saw a mirroring of his own life in the passage of Halley's Comet. William Thomas Stead, the "father of the modern tabloid," wrote fiction about ocean liners under attack from the elements, only to sink to the bottom of the sea aboard the Titanic. Frank Pastore made light of his own imminent death on his national Christian radio show, complaining about traffic just hours before a fatal motorcycle accident. Bob Marley wrote lyrics about his macabre visions, and Jim Hellwig made a prophetic speech.

Photo: unattributed; based on the depiction from a mechanical glass slide by T. M. McAllister of New York, c1865-75/Restored by Adam Cuerden / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain