You knew Amy Winehouse would die young but did you actually guess the date? Nearly 100,000 people did, on the site, whenwillamywinehousedie.com.
“Amy is on her way out and as the world is profiting from this decline we thought it only fair that you should profit from it too,” reads the site. “Guess her final breath and be crowned Mr. Or Mrs. Death. Winner will be rewarded with a iPod Touch.” The site features a form for users to enter their name, email and guess, along with a space for pre-condolences and photos of Amy looking deranged and drugged. Four people actually guessed her death date correctly. The one who guessed it correctly first—a guess placed on December 21, 2007—received the iPod.
Sites that allow you to guess the day you’ll die have been around the web for years. The idea is you type in some very basic information about yourself and the site calculates exactly how long you have to live. “This mysterious tool will give you the answer to the most important question of your life – when will your time come,” reads a line on the homepage of Deathdate.info. The site asks for birth date, sex, height, weight and which stimulants you regularly use. A clock’s second hand ticks away the entire time. Additionally, you can ask a “crystal ball” a specific question, determine from a “love oracle” whether or not your relationship will survive or learn what you’ll be reincarnated as in your next life. “After death your soul can be reborn in another flesh,” says the site. “It can transmigrate to a body of a new born child or even a plant, but most probably it will settle in an animal.”
The site’s “celebrities” page shows when a host of Hollywood’s most famous stars are set to die. Orlando Bloom has until August 6, 2034 and has lived 72.6 percent of his life. Angelina Jolie has until just January 12, 2031 and Brad Pitt, 12 years older than Angelina, has until only July 2, 2022. But the sites oracular powers may be in question. Michael Jackson is due to die on March 2, 2035.
Deathclock.com uses just three indicators to give its predictions; birth date, sex and body mass index. Many users remain skeptical, questioning how a death clock calculator could exist without some question about tobacco, drug or alcohol consumption. “I do not go into details because I wanted the Death Clock to be simple,” replies the sites creator. “If you smoke, just take off a few million seconds.” Other complaints are more critical. “Why do you like to mock God?” says one. “You are a sick sad person…this whole site is just some nonsense trash that you and your little demon friends decided to put together one day probably because your girlfriend realized how sick you were and left you.” Again, the site’s creator defends himself: “I believe in God, very strongly, but I don’t believe that talking about Death would offend the big cheese.”
The idea of predicting death goes back to the Greeks, who believed in an array of Gods, each of which had their own oracle, a shrine-like place where that particular God could be asked a question. Answers were sometimes revealed by obscure and difficult to decipher gestures, such as rustling the leaves of a sacred tree, casting lots, the movement of objects tossed into a spring, or marking the entrails of victims sacrificed upon an altar. Some Gods spoke through an intermediary who used stimulants to attain a state of reverie. At Delphi, the Pythian priestess of Apollo drank sacred spring water and chewed laurel leaves before hearing pilgrims deliver their questions. Her responses were babble but a temple priest translated them into a known tongue. At Epidaurus, the intermediary slept in the shrine and received the answer via a vision.
Some profits and soothsayers established themselves separately of the location dependent oracles. The soothsayer Tiresias was one of the most famous prophets in ancient Greece. He was blind and had spent seven years transformed as a woman. And then there is Cassandra, who predicted the death of Agamemnon at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra and forever lent her name to doomsday prophesying.