Irene Hughes, psychic who predicted Blizzard of ’67, dead at 92
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 10, 2012 4:28PM
Irene Hughes, who was a well-known Chicago psychic
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:17AM
Irene Hughes became one of Chicago’s best-known psychics after she predicted the city’s Blizzard of ’67.
She was a favorite guest on radio and on TV talk shows hosted by Regis Philbin and Merv Griffin. She appeared on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV show “People are Talking” with a then-little-known host named Oprah Winfrey. (Mrs. Hughes predicted that Winfrey would come to Chicago, according to her daughter, Patricia.) She wrote newspaper columns and books and was a frequent on-air guest of two Chicago radio titans of the 1960s and 1970s, Wally Phillips and Howard Miller.
With her many pantsuits in shades of pink from rose-petal to fuschia, her platinum blond hair and a car with the license plates “ESP 8,” she exuded a determined glamor that was a long way from her tough Tennessee childhood. Mrs. Hughes, 92, died Friday at Beecher Manor Nursing & Rehab center in Crete.
She told interviewers she first became aware of her powers when she was just 4, when she saw otherworldy creatures and heard voices telling her she had a gift. She was the seventh of 11 children in a sharecropping family. Her mother was half-Cherokee, according to her daughter.
“She told us that she did pick cotton,” her daughter said. “I remember her telling us how her hands would bleed.”
As a young woman, she spotted William Hughes at a carnival in New Orleans, then told relatives: “I already know his name is Bill, and that’s the man I’m going to marry.”
Her husband worked in the payroll department at Ford Motor Co., and they lived in Chicago Heights.
She billed herself as “America’s most accurate psychic” and predicted the paralyzing 1967 blizzard, including the Jan. 26 start of the snowfall.
“It came to her like a ticker tape,” her daughter said.
When the Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert interviewed her after the snowstorm, she told him she felt a twinge of rivalry with another well-known psychic, Jeane Dixon.
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” Mrs. Hughes said. “I know Jeane Dixon, and I consider her to be a great woman. This is not a field in which we have competition, after all. But, well, I have been more accurate.”
Chicago newspapers frequently asked for her forecasts on weather, interest rates and the fate of the Cubs and Bears.
In some old news clips, though, the accuracy of her predictions is rated only “fair.” She incorrectly forecast, for instance, that President Ronald Reagan would step down and that Vice President George H.W. Bush would fulfill his term; that Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, would be elected president in 1968; and that China and Russia would go to war.
Perhaps most painful for Chicagoans of a certain age, she was wrong in predicting the Cubs would win the World Series in 1969.
Her daughter said she accurately foretold the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
In 1973, she stunned Chicago Daily News religion writer James H. Bowman, who reported that she told him details of his family’s history, though he had decided to interview her only a minute or two beforehand, giving her no time to prepare in those pre-Internet days.
She ended her letters with the sign-off, “ESPecially, Irene F. Hughes.”
To the end of her life, she favored pink clothing. And “those [false] eyelashes, we would find them everywhere,” her daughter said.
She is also survived by her other daughters, Karen and Kathleen; her son, William, and 10 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.
At her request, no services were held.