The Top 5 Most Disturbing Nostradamus Predictions Ever

Every year loads of articles make the rounds declaring Nostradamus' latest visions of doom and gloom. 16th-century French doctor and mystic Michel de Nostredame has become the globe's most infamous funny-hat-wearing prognosticator. Diehards proclaim the truth of his every word, rational skeptics roll their eyes and go about their business, and some folks in between grab popcorn to revel in imagining the always-coming-but-never-come ends of days. After all, much like our tragedy-obsessed modern news cycle, Nostradamus wouldn't have gotten much attention if he prophesied about daises and rainbows.

It's precisely because Nostradamus' prophecies — or, "prophecies" — were so vague that they capture people's attention. Most could mean anything at all, miss much more often than they hit, and only seem to fit actual historical events after-the-fact with 20/20 hindsight. Case in point: the Great Fire of London, the death of Henry II, the assassination of JFK, Adolf Hitler's rise to power, and many more. But it's this vagueness that also makes Nostradamus' words all-the-more menacing to some. Toss out enough words like "blood," "flames," "evil," "war," "plague," and in case you missed it, "blood," and Nostradamus' seemingly prophetic visions could come across as legitimately ominous.

Some of Nostradamus' most terrifying (seeming) predictions have already happened, like when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Other horrifying predictions, like World War III, climate disaster, and the emergence of the Antichrist, have yet to happen.    

The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II make the top of our list of disturbing Nostradamus predictions because of the sheer quantity of lives lost due to one single event. Nearly a quarter-million Japanese individuals — mostly civilians — died from the bombings' initial blasts plus subsequent cancer, radiation sickness, etc. The United States decided to drop the atomic bombs Little Boy and Fat Man after concluding that it would be a more effective, immediate way to stop the war than invading the Japanese mainland. And so it was that the Manhattan Project — led by J. Robert Oppenheimer — developed the most devastating weaponry Earth had ever seen.

Naturally, Nostradamus didn't discuss the ins-and-outs of nuclear weaponry back in 1555 when he wrote his book of prophetic poetry, "Les Prophéties" ("The Prophecies"). But, if taken abstractly enough, his verses could read like a description of what happened: "The heavenly dart with stretch its course / Death in the speaking: a great achievement / The proud nation brought low by the stone in the tree / Rumours of a monstrous human, bring purge, then expiation." While some elements are a stretch — like "stone in the tree" maybe referring to plutonium or uranium — other things make complete sense. "The proud nation" is Japan, the "monstrous human" is Oppenheimer, the "heavenly dart" is a bomb, while "death" and "great achievement" speak for themselves.   

The 9/11 terrorist attacks

Another disturbing item that Nostradamus apparently predicted is the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Back then — as anyone old enough to remember will attest — al-Qaeda operatives led by Osama bin Laden orchestrated the worst terrorist attack in American history. In less than an hour, American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the World Trade Center's North Tower, United Airlines Flight 175 flew into its South Tower, and American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. On top of the nearly 3,000 people killed on that day, U.S. retaliation to the attacks cost an unbelievable 3.6 to 3.8 million dead across multiple war zones, including 432,000 civilians and another 38 million people made refugees and displaced persons. 

Nostradamus' prophecy regarding this ultra-horrific event reads as follows: "The sky will burn at forty-five degrees. / Fire approaches the great new city. / By fire, he will destroy their city, / A cold and cruel heart, blood will pour. / Mercy to none." Plenty of these lines fit what happened, even without mentioning any specifics. Yes, there were really hot fires on September 11, and the attack struck a "great new city." "He" presumably refers to Osama bin Laden, as does the "cold and cruel heart" and lack of mercy. Plus, we've got a Nostradamus prophetic staple: blood.

The onset of World War III

While any random 8-year-old could predict that humans will never stop killing other humans, Nostradamus has the prophetic pedigree to make such statements seem ominous. Current global conflicts like the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the October 2023 Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel have sharpened fears about an impending World War III. And thanks to some interpretive help from Indian astrologer Kushal Kumar and some netizens on X, we've got some clues about Nostradamus' apparent World War III-related visions.

According to Kumar, May 8, 2024 marked a particularly "worrisome" astrological epoch for the emergence of a major international war, per the Daily Star. But now that May 8 has passed and we're not browsing social media from nuclear bunkers, Kumar says that June 18 "has the strongest planetary stimulus to trigger WW3." June 10 through 29 look bad, too. Meanwhile, X users talk about predictions like a "naval war" (here) in Nostradamus' world war-related prophecies, as well as "Iran nuking of Israel" (here). 

As it turns out, Kumar and such users are referring to the following verses: "After combat and naval battle, / The great Neptune in his highest belfry: / Red adversary will become pale with fear, / Putting the great Ocean in dread." Mint posits that the "red adversary" refers to China, which could make the "great Ocean" the Sea of Japan. How this connects to Iran and any other part of a supposed World War III is unknown.

Impending climate disaster

And so we come to what is arguably the greatest existential threat of this age or any other: The death of Earth itself — at least eventually. While folks will likely continue debating the truth or untruth of climate change until Antarctica's ice shelves completely melt away, Nostradamus apparently came down hard on the side of "beware" centuries ago. That being said, environmental catastrophe and related famine has been a fear of any age, and the astrologer had multiple, predictably vague takes on the topic.

One of Nostradamus' apparently climate change-related prophecies reads: "Like the sun the head shall sear the shining sea: / The Black Sea's living fish shall all but boil. / When Rhodes and Genoa half-starved shall be, / The local folk to cut them up shall toil." Many sites connect these lines to 2023, like The Jerusalem Post pointing out that temperatures on Rhodes skyrocketed that year. Relatedly, the World Weather Attribution describes recent extreme weather in regions surrounding the Black Sea.

Besides those lines, we've got loads of other flood- or heat-related prophecies across Nostradamus' work that could relate to climate change. "The dry earth will grow more parched, / And there will be great floods when it is seen," one such prophecy reads, while another says, "Fire, great floods, by more ignorant rulers; / How long the centuries until it is seen to be restored." All in all, taking such lines as a general warning about impending environmental catastrophe isn't a bad idea.

Here comes the Antichrist

Like the previous climate change entry, Nostradamus seems to have been off by a number of years with this one, as the New York Post ascribes the prophecy to 2023. But, believers would say that's because the prophecy isn't imminently obvious — yet. Namely, we're talking about the antagonist of Jesus mentioned in the biblical books of John 1 and John 2: the Antichrist. The truth is, the Bible isn't all too clear on who or what the Antichrist is, and describes he/it as a catch-all "deceiver" who leads people away from Jesus. Over time, folks have equated the Antichrist with Satan, Lucifer, the dragon from Revelations, and so forth.

And what does Nostradamus have to say about this figure? Quote: "The antichrist very soon annihilates the three. / Twenty-seven years his war will last. / The unbelievers are dead, captive, exiled. / With blood, human bodies, water and red hail covering the earth." See? We told you Nostradamus had a thing for blood. Anyway, all that fuss didn't happen in 2023 unless we missed it in the news cycle. That being said, even as far back as when John the Apostle (traditionally) wrote the aforementioned book of John, early Christians thought the Second Coming was nigh. Nostradamus was raised Roman Catholic and was doubtlessly aware of such things.