In ”Life or Something Like It” (opening April 26), Angelina Jolie plays Lanie Kerrigan, a reporter who lands one hell of a story: A homeless seer (Tony Shalhoub) predicts the date of the next hail storm, an upcoming Seattle Seahawks win, and Lanie’s death, scheduled for the following Thursday. It’s a nifty plot twist, but can psychics really see our internal expiration dates?
Only if we really want them to, says Bill Burns, a psychic whose customers include Hollywood’s A-list. Not only is it considered bad manners among psychics to tell clients when they’re going to die, people don’t make it easy for them. ”They unknowingly block out the information they aren’t ready to handle, so that determines what I can see,” he says. When Burns has predicted death, it’s usually been for ailing clients. ”They have to have a sincere reason for wanting to know, and in those cases knowing gives them a sense of relief.”
Even then, the best psychic may be off when it comes to predicting check-out times. ”The truth is, people often have more psychic awareness of their own deaths than a stranger would,” says astrologer-tarot card reader Darrilyn Butler, recalling people who’ve put their affairs in order just prior to their otherwise unexpected passings.
In ”Life,” Jolie’s character turns her existence upside down to sidestep the Grim Reaper. But psychics say that in real life, shaking things up doesn’t necessarily deter fate. ”It’s complex, because even though we have free will, there are some deaths that seem predestined, like a person who shows up at the World Trade Center five minutes early on Sept. 11,” says Butler.
Still, no matter what Miss Cleo may tell you, all predictions, good or bad, should be taken with a grain of salt. ”One time I saw my client standing next to a handsome, dark-haired Mediterranean man dressed in white, and sensed he was a musician,” recalls Butler, who hoped her client would soon stumble across a new love interest. ”It turned out later she found herself standing next to a cardboard cut-out of Yanni.”