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12 Historical Predictions That Completely, Utterly Missed the Mark

Elvis should stick to his day job? Excessive smoking plays only a minor role in lung cancer? Check out these seriously "d'oh!" remarks from the wrong side of history.

Emma Kapotes/

On not signing The Beatles

Decca Recording Company expressed their opinion on signing the Beatles on the Fab Four in 1962—and it wasn’t positive. But according to, the Beatles have sold 1.6 billion singles in the U.S. and 177 million albums. So much for guitar music being “on the way out.” The Beatles went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. Also a worldwide phenomenon? These 10 historical figures who probably never actually existed.

Emma Kapotes/

On the popularity of Harry Potter

The publishing executive sounded pretty positive that Harry Potter would be a flop when they wrote this to J.K. Rowling in 1996. They probably wish they could use an “obliviate” spell right about now.

Emma Kapotes/

On the risks of smoking

W.C. Heuper, the director of the National Cancer Institute’s Environmental Cancer Section, only ruled smoking as a “minor” contribution to lung cancer when he said this in 1954. Whoops. This sounds less like a prediction and more like an outright lie to us. These 11 stories prove that it wouldn’t be the first time a lie made history.

Emma Kapotes/

On drafting Michael Jordan

Rod Thorn, the Chicago Bulls general manager, didn’t have much hope for Michael Jordan when he said this in 1984.

Emma Kapotes/

On Elvis’s musical future

Eddie Bond, a radio host, didn’t think Elvis would make it as a singer when he said this in 1954. Yet somehow, Elvis still managed to make money after he died, according to—which is strange for someone who apparently wasn’t singer potential. We laughed at this prediction almost as hard as we laughed at these 14 jokes you’ll only understand if you’re a history buff.

Emma Kapotes/

On the future of the telephone

According to a Western Union internal memo in 1876, telephones had “inherently no value to us.” Now, more people have more cellphones than toilets, according to

Emma Kapotes/

On Ronald Reagan as an actor

The United Artists executive rejected Reagan as the lead for The Best Man, and claimed he didn’t have “that presidential look.” He ended up being the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. We doubt you learned about this prediction in history class, but you may have learned about these other 18 other history lessons your teacher definitely lied about.

Emma Kapotes/

On electing a female prime minister

In 1969, Margaret Thatcher didn’t believe that a woman would become prime minister in her lifetime. Ten years later, she became the first female prime minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990.

Emma Kapotes/

On the longevity of the television

In 1946, Darryl Zanuck, a 20th Century Fox movie producer, didn’t foresee a bright future for the world of television. According to a story published by The New York Times 70 years later, “On average, American adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day.” That statistic is true, but you’ll wish these 10 messed-up facts from history weren’t.

Emma Kapotes/

On women’s suffrage

If you’re female and you’ve ever voted, Grover Cleveland wouldn’t have considered you a “sensible and responsible” woman in 1905.

Emma Kapotes/

On vacationing in Vietnam

Around 1960, Newsweek encouraged readers to vacation in Vietnam to go on safaris. Of course, 1960 would have been a horrible time to take a pleasure trip to Vietnam due to the ongoing Vietnam war. The war has a complex and intricate history, but these 10 historical conflicts started over incredibly petty issues.

Emma Kapotes/

On the viability of a steam-powered boat

When told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat in the 1800s, Napoleon Bonaparte didn’t have the time to listen to such “nonsense.” According to, “The first successful steamboat was the Clermont, which was built by American inventor Robert Fulton in 1807.” These 12 predictions completely missed the mark, but you’ll be even more shocked by these 9 historical predictions that have actually come true.

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