By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Of course, the question of confirmation is a tricky one. By what criteria do we measure the relationship between, say, a bout of vertigo and a seismic event hundreds, even thousands of miles away? Yet even by the most skeptical standards, King has come through with her share of predictions, including the eruption of Mount St. Helens, and the Whittier Narrows, Loma Prieta and Landers earthquakes; her call to the USGS on the Thursday before Northridge, in which she reported sensing something big in Southern California, is one of the few forecasts Linda Curtis says still lingers in her mind. King has also found what she considers to be direct correlations between her own sensitivity and those of animals, particularly whales, which, she believes, hear the same things she does and become confused, to the point of beaching themselves, "trying to escape the low-frequency sounds." There's a certain folk logic to such an argument, for animal sensitivity has long been a part of earthquake lore; in Haicheng, rats were photographed running down power lines while hundreds of snakes froze on the ground after coming out of hibernation prematurely, and history, not to mention Linda Curtis' file folders, is full of reports of cats and birds panicking and dogs running away in the days before a quake. "The whales," King says, "the whales were my teachers. I have a real affinity for the whales."
Listening to King, it's not hard to understand why, within the mainstream scientific community, she's regarded as a curiosity at best. At the same time, I can't help thinking that she may be on to something, if only a heightened sense of connection with the Earth. I have no trouble believing, for instance, that she may actually have some type of sensitivity, at least to low-end electromagnetic frequencies, and that this, in turn, could enable her to ã "hear" the subtle shifting of plates within the earth. Other predictors, after all, have made similar claims, and have the results to back them up. In 1989, a San Jose electronics salesman named Jack Coles forecast Loma Prieta with the help of a homemade radio rig that picked up what he believed were "long-wave, low-frequency radio waves produced by the grinding of tectonic plates preceding an earthquake"; he subsequently used the same system to call a 6.9 off the coast of Eureka in August 1991, as well as the Northridge quake, which, as Thurston Clarke reports in his book California Fault: Searching for the Spirit of a State Along the San Andreas, Coles warned the Associated Press about 24 hours before it happened. Kathy Gori, a Los Angeles sensitive, has in the last few years run off a string of 17 successful predictions -- with only three misses -- by relying on headaches that come and go a few hours prior to a quake. Although she's never been tested, Gori believes that her brain contains higher than average levels of magnetite, a mineral that may help homing pigeons and other animals orient themselves to the Earth's electromagnetic field; this allows her to function as a tectonic receiver, as it were. "I'm not a lunatic," she laughs. "I don't wear tinfoil underwear. It's a natural thing." This, it appears, might also explain King's peculiar talent, as if, in her case, being tuned in to earthquakes is really just an extra sense.
Still, the more King tells me, the more I notice how thin the membrane is between biology and a certain knife edge of obsession that keeps slicing through her words. This becomes apparent when she starts to catalog her ailments, the way each area of her body corresponds to a particular region of the world. With activity in Northern California, for instance, King experiences breathlessness, while severe stomach pain indicates West Yellowstone or the Sierras, and tilting of the body is always Washington state. For a more detailed accounting, $5 a month covers her daily e-mail update of symptoms and forecasts; at the bottom of each transmission is a list of that day's earthquakes, most of which are linked to a prediction, or some form of physical distress. As King goes on, I begin to see that what she's describing is less a prediction system than a personal iconography, a mythology of empowerment in which even the most random events may be interpreted through the fulcrum of the self. It makes sense when you consider her legally disabled status, the way her physical problems helped undermine an 18-year marriage and her relationships with three children she was too sick to care for most of the time. Yet it also plays into the hands of her detractors, giving them a pretext for dismissing everything about her out of hand. Sensitivity aside, there's something uncomfortably compulsive about her thoughts on the relationship between train accidents and earthquakes, or her belief that babies who die of crib death may, in fact, be infant sensitives.
Then, in a tone so matter-of-fact she might be talking about the weather, King declares, "One thing I've put together is that anywhere people go home and kill their families or there's a murder/suicide -- anything spur-of-the-moment or really violent -- you can always be sure that within one to four days will follow a quake in the Chile-Bolivia-Argentina border area."