- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

STRASBURG, Va. Jeane Dixon's crystal ball was sometimes clear, sometimes murky. But the curator of a new museum dedicated to the famous astrologer is convinced of her gift.

"I started out as a rational skeptic," said John Schreiner, who sorted through boxes of Mrs. Dixon's papers and personal effects to organize the museum, which opened last month. "But some of these predictions are so frighteningly accurate that you can't just write it off as a lucky guess."

Mrs. Dixon, who died in 1997, was best known for predicting the Kennedy assassination. A 1956 article in Parade magazine is on display at the museum: "As for the 1960 election, Mrs. Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labor and won by a Democrat. But he will be assassinated or die in office."

Witnesses insisted she also predicted Robert Kennedy's assassination, visiting the Ambassador Hotel a week before his 1968 death and telling people that a tragedy at the hotel would prevent him from becoming president.

In 1978, she predicted that "a future president will be implicated in misconduct, and even worse than misconduct," in 1999, the year of President Clinton's impeachment trial. She also predicted in 1968 that Richard M. Nixon would be implicated in a wiretapping scandal, "but it will show him as a sincere man and will help his public image."

Still other predictions ended up flat wrong. She said in 1956 that Indian Prime Minister Jawarhalal Nehru would be ousted he served until his death in 1964. She predicted Fidel Castro would be overthrown and that the Soviets would be first to the moon.

The museum documents it all, including writings and books by Mrs. Dixon's skeptics. It is part scholarly, with a reading room to browse through some of the predictions, and part personal, with an extensive collection of Mrs. Dixon's belongings, including one of her crystal balls and a heavily marked-up book of Nostradamus' predictions.

Her personal items tilt toward the kitschy, with a collection of slightly gaudy hats and some truly awful oil paintings apparently given by fans. Mr. Schreiner said fans will approach Mrs. Dixon's items in awe; skeptics often will chuckle.

The museum has had only 100 or so visitors in its first few weeks, but Mr. Schreiner and museum director Babs Bodin Melton say it seems to appeal to believers and skeptics alike.

"We haven't been open long enough to get a handle on exactly who our clientele will be," Miss Melton said.

Three other museums run by the nonprofit Wayside Foundation the Stonewall Jackson Museum, Crystal Caverns and the Museum of American Presidents, located below the Dixon museum draw steady visits from school groups. But Miss Melton said developing a school tour for the Dixon museum "kind of has me stumped."

The museum is a testament to Mrs. Dixon's popularity even after waning public fascination with astrology since the 1970s.

Norma Langley, who edited Mrs. Dixon's column at the Star tabloid for more than two decades, said the four issues each year containing Mrs. Dixon's predictions would sell at least 100,000 copies more than usual. They also kept Mrs. Dixon's name in the public eye as supermarket shoppers would see the "Jeane Dixon Predicts" headlines in the checkout aisles.

"She had a deal with the paper that her name had to be above the fold," said Miss Langley, 67, a resident of Rockville. "They wanted to keep her happy."

For each column, the Star would give Mrs. Dixon a list of celebrities for her predictions. But Mrs. Dixon's true love was politics.

"Politics was her strong point. She never missed a presidential election until Clinton," Miss Langley said. "She was always telling me she saw a dark cloud over Clinton's head."

Mrs. Dixon's connections to the Reagan White House were well known. Before the 1980 election, she wrote a column in the Star explaining that Ronald Reagan had never sought her advice. Later, though, she had a falling out with Nancy Reagan, who turned instead to rival astrologer Joan Quigley.

Miss Langley was witness to the clout Mrs. Dixon carried in the Nixon White House. Mrs. Dixon took her to lunch at the White House a few times, and she had some of the personalized Christmas cards Mr. Nixon wrote to Mrs. Dixon.

Miss Langley had no evidence, though, that Mr. Nixon or any other president sought Mrs. Dixon's opinions; instead, Mrs. Dixon always had a "conduit" at the White House to whom she could report any predictions she wanted to relay.

When she died, Mrs. Dixon left many of her belongings to Leo Bernstein, her banker and longtime friend.

Mrs. Dixon had thought Mr. Bernstein, who practices in Strasburg, might be able to sell the items to raise money for his Wayside Foundation.

They decided instead that they had a unique opportunity to tell Mrs. Dixon's story and let visitors decide for themselves about her astrological talents.

"We're not promoting her as a psychic," Miss Melton said. "We just think it's an amazing story."

The museum, at 132 N. Massanutten St. in Strasburg, is open Friday through Sunday now to October. Tours are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Group tours can be arranged at other times. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 6 to 17 and seniors.

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