Jeron Criswell King (August 18, 1907 – October 4, 1982), born Jeron Criswell Konig, and known by his stage-name The Amazing Criswell, was an American psychic known for wildly inaccurate predictions. In person, he went by Charles Criswell King, and was sometimes credited as Jeron King Criswell.
Criswell was flamboyant with spit curled hair, a stentorian style of speaking, and a sequined tuxedo. He owned a coffin in which he claimed to sleep. He grew up in a troubled family in Indiana with relatives who owned a funeral home, and said that he became comfortable with sleeping in caskets in the storeroom. The casket appeared in one of Ed Wood's later works, the 1971 pornographic film, Necromania.
Criswell said he had once worked as a radio announcer and news broadcaster. He began buying time on a local Los Angeles television station in the early 1950s to run infomercials for his "Criswell Family Vitamins". To fill the time, he began his Criswell Predicts part of the show. They made him a minor, off-beat celebrity in Los Angeles and around Hollywood, and his friendship with old show-business types like Mae West and rising fringe celebrities like Korla Pandit made Criswell an entertaining presence at parties. His fame brought him appearances on The Jack Paar Show (1957–1962) and he published two books of predictions. Criswell found cinematic infamy in the movies of Ed Wood.
Criswell's predictions were nationally syndicated and he appeared on the television show Criswell Predicts on KLAC Channel 13 (now KCOP-13) in Los Angeles as well as being recorded for syndication. His announcer was Bob Shields, who later played the judge on Divorce Court. Criswell wore heavy makeup in public after his live program was broadcast in Los Angeles. Only selected people were allowed in the KCOP studio during his broadcast.
Criswell wrote several books of predictions, including 1968's Criswell Predicts: From Now to the Year 2000. In it, he claimed that Denver would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks. He predicted mass cannibalism and the end of planet Earth, which he set as happening on August 18, 1999.
Criswell was a student of history. He believed history repeated itself, that the United States were the "modern Romans." Each day, he read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looking for clues for his predictions.
Some sources claim Criswell's most famous prediction was on The Jack Paar Program (1962–65) in March 1963, when he predicted John F. Kennedy would not run for reelection in 1964 because something was going to happen to him in November 1963.
Sources say that Criswell never claimed to be a real psychic however, those who knew him, such as actress and fellow Plan 9 alumna Maila Nurmi ("Vampira"), believed he was. According to writer Charles A. Coulombe, whose family rented an apartment from him, Criswell told Coulombe's father "[I] had the gift, but ... lost it when I started taking money for it."
Criswell married a former speakeasy dancer named Halo Meadows, who appeared on You Bet Your Life, and whom Coulombe describes as "quite mad": "Mrs Criswell had a huge standard poodle (named "Buttercup") which she was convinced was the reincarnation of her cousin Thomas. She spent a great deal of time sunbathing ... which, given her size, was not too pleasing a sight."
Mae West used Criswell as her personal psychic, he once predicted her rise to President of the United States, whereupon she, Criswell and George Liberace, the brother of showman Liberace, would take a rocket to the moon. Criswell and West were great friends and she would lavish him with home-cooked food she had delivered to the studio that he shared with Maila Nurmi ("Vampira"). It is said that West sold Criswell her old luxury cars for five dollars. He died in 1982 and is interred at Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood.
In popular culture
On Mae West's 1955 album The Fabulous Mae West, she wrote and recorded a song called "Criswell Predicts."
Criswell has been portrayed by many different actors over the years. Perhaps the most notable portrayal was by Jeffrey Jones (above) in the 1994 Tim Burton biopic, Ed Wood. Since 1997, several stage actors, including Sean Phillip Mabrey, have played Criswell in Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical, written by David G. Smith. Another incarnation of Criswell would appear in the 1999 homage to low budget films, Devil Girls, played by Rob Gorden (in a poorly styled wig). Craig Brown played Criswell in Plan Live From Outer Space, the 2006 stage adaptation of Plan 9 From Outer Space which won a Canadian Comedy Award in 2007. On September 9, 2009, a teaser trailer was released by Darkstone Entertainment for the upcoming John Johnson film Plan 9, a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space. The voice of popular television horror host Mr. Lobo can be heard narrating the trailer as Criswell. He will also star in the film as Criswell who has a much larger role in this re-imagining of the original Ed Wood story. In addition, for the purpose of promoting the film on the internet, Mr. Lobo has produced 62 episodes of Criswell Predicts! which is a parody and homage to Criswell’s original television program of the same name sans the exclamation mark.
1.^ Dharma Pancakes: Criswell Predicts (Part 1)
2.^ Dharma Pancakes: Criswell Predicts (Part 5)
3.^ C-E-N-T-E-R ART PROJECT interview with Criswell biographer Edwin L. Canfield
9.^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0198417/ 1
0.^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1108860/ 1