A seven-year-old docudrama narrated by the late Orson Welles has many California residents panicked that an earthquake could reduce the city to rubble this week.
The hot-selling 1981 videotape, "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow," dramatically interprets a vague prediction in verse by the 16th-century seer Nostradamus as proof that a planetary alignment will cause an earthquake to level Los Angeles sometime in May.To make matters worse, astrologers have further narrowed the prediction to say the quake is most likely to strike sometime this week, possibly between Sunday and Thursday.
Callers have clogged earthquake hotlines. Psychologists report an increase in patients' anxieties. Moving companies have even transported a few desperate souls completely out of quake-prone California.
Although many experts have called the film bunk and said there is no planetary alignment during May, anxiety seems to be gaining momentum.
"The phones are ringing pretty steadily," said Brenda Searcy, a nurse answering crisis line phones at Charter Hospital in Long Beach Friday night.
"They're really panicking. Some of them are shaky and crying," Ms. Searcy said. "I've had a lot of parents call and say their children can't sleep at night because of the predictions."
Ms. Searcy said she tells the callers "the way I feel. I don't believe there is going to be an earthquake."