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Rumor Mill....Get the truth

News of the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon swept across the Internet at light-speed, as did gossip and hearsay, those shabby, irresponsible cousins of the news. Here, plucked fresh from the digital grapevine, is a sampling of current rumors associated with the tragedy:

Hijacked airliner was purposely shot down
RUMOR: "I heard on the radio that the plane in Pennsylvania was shot down because it wasn't responding to radio calls, but can't get c/d on any of the TV stations."
STATUS: Unsubstantiated; denied by the Pentagon. Jetliner Crashes in PA, Bergen Record'Black Box' from Pennslyvania Crash Found, CNN

More than four planes were hijacked
RUMOR: "Up to eight airplanes are said to have been hijacked."
STATUS: False. The total was four and has not been revised by authorities. (This rumor was widely trumpeted as fact in British newspapers.)

  • Chronology of Terror, CNN
  • World Trade Center occupants received advance warning
    RUMOR: "I know someone in the world trade center and they called on cell phone... They were warned 45 minutes before first hit to leave building."
    STATUS: Unsubstantiated; not reported in media.

    Britain was also attacked
    RUMOR: "I heard from someone in a chat group who claimed to be from london that Westminster Abbey was hit by hijacked plane too. Trying to verify, but BBC.com is clogged."
    STATUS: False.

    Gasoline shortage/price increase predicted
    RUMOR: "Due to the events of this morning all ports have been closed. This means no shipping is coming into the United States. This means no oil. Fill your tanks and any portable cans that you have. Do it now before the rush begins."
    STATUS: False, though the rumor itself sparked sudden price increases and waiting lines at gas stations in some U.S. cities Tuesday. According to oil industry spokesmen, the U.S. has a "substantial" gasoline supply and some individual stations were simply gouging fearful consumers.

  • Gasoline Prices Skyrocket in Some Parts of the Country, CNN
  • Authorities Threaten Gas Gougers, Associated Press
  • Gas Station Owner Apologizes for $7-a-gallon Price, Associated Press

    World Trade Center wreckage offered for sale on eBay
    RUMOR: "There are actually people on eBay selling bits and pieces of the WTC. Please email eBay and demand that these auctions be stopped. This is absolutely disgusting!!!"
    STATUS: Was true, but eBay took immediate steps to monitor and remove all such auctions as soon as they were posted. Searching the eBay listings on Tuesday, we found one auction billed as follows: "WORLD TRADE CENTER !!!! METAL FROM THE BLAST!"  The content had already been deleted.

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The Truth About the Nostradamus predictions floating around the Net

I have no doubt that some will seriously claim that the 16th-century prophet Nostradamus predicted the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in his writings such claims follow virtually every modern disaster but various "quatrains" already being circulated under Nostradamus' name are demonstrably bogus.

First example:

"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
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"

- Nostradamus 1654


Unfortunately, Nostradamus died in 1566, so it's rather unlikely he wrote this passage in 1654. The quatrain is not to be found in his published oeuvre. It's a hoax.

The text apparently originated on a Web page entitled "A Critical Analysis of Nostradamus," written several years ago by a student named Neil Marshall. Marshall made up the quatrain to demonstrate quite ironically, in light of how it is now being misused that the writings of Nostradamus are so cryptic that they can be interpreted to mean almost anything.

Two metal birds?

An interesting variant of the faux prophecy was posted in the newsgroup soc.culture.palestine under the heading "They followed his prediction":

In the City of God there will be a great thunder, 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'- Nostradamus 1654 ...on the 11 day of the 9 month that...two metal birds would crash into two tall statues...in the new city..and the world will end soon after"  "From the book of Nostradamus"


Again, this text cannot be found in Nostradamus' writings. It's a hoax.

Third variant, circulating by email:

Subject: Re: Nostradamus

Century 6, Quatrain 97

Two steel birds will fall from the sky on the
Metropolis. The sky will burn at forty-five degrees
latitude. Fire approaches the great new city

[New York City lies between 40-45 degrees] Immediately
a huge, scattered flame leaps up. Within months,
rivers will flow with blood. The undead will roam
earth for little time.


This is a revision of an actual verse by Nostradamus. The original is typically translated this way:

The sky will burn at forty-five degrees latitude,
Fire approaches the great new city
Immediately a huge, scattered flame leaps up
When they want to have verification from the Normans.

Nostradamus never mentioned "two steel birds," nor did he write that "the undead will roam the earth."  New York City lies at exactly 40 degrees, 42 minutes, 51 seconds north latitude. While it isn't false to say it lies "between 40-45 degrees," it's imprecise, misleading and an obvious ploy to make the prophecy seem relevant.

A third big war?

Variant #4, circulating by email:

Nostradamus' prediction on WW3:

"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"

- NOSTRADAMUS

He said this will be bigger than the previous two. 2001 is the first year of the new century and this is the 9th month. New York is located at the 41st degree Latitude.


In this case, a very few words actually written by Nostradamus have been creatively enhanced by person(s) unknown. Notice the addition of a reference to a "third big war" to the passage already circulating. Pure bunk.