Titanic disaster forshadowed in 'Futility' {What did the author think of the sinking?}

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O.K, here's one for all you die-hard history buffs. As I've recently learned, a fellow by the name of Morgan Robertson wrote a book in the late 1800's called "Futility", a fictional account of a huge ship called the "Titan" that hit an iceberg and sank, etc. Most people who have heard this story probably have though, "ummm, how ironic", because MANY of the events in the fictional story were VERY similar to the real disaster. My question is this: does anyone know what Robertson himself thought or said when learning of the circumstances of the Titanic? Did he give any interviews at that time? If so, what did he say?

-- Michael Klimek (foo@bar.com), April 28, 1998


Mr Robertson said, upon hearing of the Titanic's demise:

"Well, Ah'll be buggered"

-- jim smith (jimt@hotmail.com), May 20, 2003.

He said: that was my idea

-- alan breen (aloon@yahoo.com), May 22, 2003.

I don't know what he said, but the comparison between his book and what really happened wasn't lost on him. The book was republished in 1912 (with a few changes to make it seem even more similar to what actually happened).

Never read the original, but I heard that despite the obvious similarities between his book and what actually happened, the differences which are rarely mentioned are much greater than the similarities

Morgan Robertson only died a few years after the April 1912 disaster. He died in 1915.

Some also like to look at another of his writings for its seemingly predictive power. Robertson later wrote a book called "Beyond the Spectrum". In this book, he described a futuristic war fought with aircraft that carried what he called "sun bombs". These bombs were so powerful that with one brilliant flash of blinding light, one single bomb could destroy an entire city (much like a nuclear bomb). Robertson's future war begins in the month of December (much like the actual WW II, which began in December) when the Japanese stage a sneak attack on Hawaii. It seems like he wrote this a year before his death.

There is another author who many credit with "predicting the Titanic disaster" in his fiction writings. William Thomas Stead was a somewhat famous editor and writer (and spiritualist which was very big back in the turn of the last century).

In the 1880's Stead was editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and published an article about two passenger liners that collided and sank in mid-ocean resulting in many deaths because of the lack of lifeboats. He stated, "This is exactly what might take place, and what will take place, if liners are sent to sea short of boats." He then published an article in the Review of Reviews in 1897 about the sinking of the fictional liner Ann and Jane after her collision with an iceberg. The sole survivor is then rescued by the White Star Liner Majestic, under the command of Captain Smith.

WT Stead died in April 1912. Yes, he died on the Titanic.

He had claimed to have a communicator spirit named "Julia". Well I guess Julia forgot to tell him something. It is claimed though that more than one of his spiritualist friends had warned him in one way or the other about his final fate.

It is claimed that the sensitive Count Harmon told W. T. Stead in 1911 that sole danger to his life was water "and from nothing else." On 21 June 1911, he advised Stead "travel would be dangerous to him in the month of April, 1912."

Also it is claimed that sensitive Mr. W. de Kerlor was another who ad met with Stead in 1911. In September, supposedly Kerlor predicted that Stead would go to America, although at the time Stead had no intention of doing so. Other things Kerlor described included seeing a large, black ship, "where the name of the ship should be written there is a wreath of immortelles." Kerlor also noted that ship's construction was not yet complete, and when the ship was complete, then Stead would go on his journey. Some time after this, Kerlor had a dream that applied to Stead and the black ship. He dreamt that there was some kind of disaster at sea, and there were more than a thousand people struggling in the water and Stead was among them and could hear their cries for help. Kerlor then told Stead the black ship meant "limitations, difficulties, and death." To this, Stead merely replied, "Oh, yes; well, well, you are a very gloomy prophet."

Of course all these tales we hear after the fact. So we really don't know what kind of warnings Stead did or didn't receive before his fateful trip. We do know that he did write those articles though. But despite the similarities, the differences are enough for me to conclude that they were without any true predictive power at least in the supernatural sense. Stead obviously did logically see the lack of lifeboats on liners as a real problem that would someday result in tragedy. So in that sense he "predicted" it. It does surprise me that with his concerns he still got abroad the Titanic, but given that the only way to get from England to New York was by liners then I perhaps shouldn't be so surprised. Had he let his concerns overwhelmed him he would have never been able do the speaking engagements and live the influential lifestyle he choose for himself.

It is easy to give the writings of Robinson and Stead some kind of supernatural precognitive origin. Like many of the writings of H.G. Wells the similarities between these people fictional writings on the future and what actually happened, looking back can appear remarkable. But we must keep in mind first that looking back we might interpret their vision of the future through associating them with how things actually happened when that might not have been what they were envisioning at all. Also, we must understand that what many of these authors did was take contemporary concerns and science and just project them a bit to anticipate what could happen if things continue the way they did. And of course, we almost always fail to remember the losers. We tend to forget the less successful “predictions” We don’t fly transatlantic on blimps (as many futuristic “visionaries” had envisioned us as doing) nor has a blimp been yet used on a terrorist attack (a 1970s movie which even if it did happen might be considered self-fulfilling as the terrorist might have gotten the idea from the movie).

-- Gene Frederickson (Fa2@csw.com), September 19, 2004.

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