Criswell Predicts an Accurate Glimpse of the Future Q&A with Edwin Lee Canfield

criswell ed wood

Criswell Predicts an Accurate Glimpse of the Future Q&A with Edwin Lee Canfield

Q. Who is Criswell?

ELC. Jeron Charles “Criswell” King dubbed himself the “20th Century Nostradamus.” He was also called “America’s Fore¬most Prophet” and based on “trend, precedent, pattern of habit, hu-man behavior, and the unalterable law of cycle!” he claimed 87% accuracy in his predictions. Cris, to his friends, is known mainly for his opening monologue, narration, and closing comments in Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956), but his career went well be¬yond that and his persona was a product of the continuing growth and onslaught of mass media during the mid-twentieth century.

Q. How did the book Criswell Predicts an Accurate Glimpse of the Future published by Bear Manor Media come about?

ELC. I would estimate that Criswell made tens of thousands of predictions from the 1950s into the 1970s through his nationally syndicated newspaper columns, books, magazines, recordings, and radio and television appearances. During my research I collected thousands of them from newspaper archives and the internet My first idea was a book/calendar of a prediction for each day of the year which evolved into the book of predictions mostly from the 1970s. This group of predictions certainly reflect the changing societal climate of the era and are like distorted little time capsules. Looking back at the future. The book also includes essays, articles, and blogs about Criswell written by me and Ass’t Editor Charles P. Wireman.

Q. Who is Charles Phillip Wireman?

ELC. Wireman is a well-respected international correspondent with articles published in the New York Enquirer and Spaceway Science Fiction, as well as bylines on the AP, UPI, and A.I.P.© wire services. For over three decades he served as Criswell’s Assistant Editor for his nationally syndicated newspaper columns, Criswell Predicts and Dear Criswell, earning him the title “Journalist of the Future.” Wireman’s current whereabouts are unknown. A man living in between two worlds of time.

Q. What are some of the best, or your favorite predictions in the book?

ELC. Criswell was very liberal in a lot of ways but could also be very conservative in some ways as reflected in his predictions about Hippies, marijuana, and Rock and Roll, “In ‘occult folklore’ marijuana was known as deadly ‘night-shade.’ It drove people out of their minds and opened them up to ‘demons who would take over their bodies’…In the light of modern medicine, ‘obsession’ is a common incident when drugs, especially marijuana, is taken regularly.” His prognostications on sexuality were pretty spot-on, “I predict that an Anti-Discrimination law, permitting members of the same sex to marry will soon have Hollywood caterers featuring wedding cakes with two grooms, or two brides.” And he could get poetic with good old red-blooded American commie bashing, “Blood will flow in the gutters of Red Square (Moscow) like water after summer rain.”

Q. Your book, Fact, Fictions, and the Forbidden Predictions of the Amazing Criswell is a fantastic read of one of American pop culture’s most fascinating people. When did your interest in Criswell start? What is it about him that intrigued you?

ELC. I first learned of Criswell from seeing him in Plan 9 from Outer Space and then as he was portrayed by Jeffery Jones in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. In late 1999 I read one of his books of predictions, Criswell Predicts from Now to the Year 2000, and was fascinated by the far-out and outrageous things he said would happen or should have happened. The dates for the predictions he had assigned dates to, had already passed, like that the world would end on August 18, 1999. I just had to know more about him, like is this guy for real?

Q. While a lot of people may know who Criswell was, he just never seemed like the kind of person you could find much deep information about online or anywhere else. What was the research process like for this book, and about how long did it take to complete?

A. It was in the year 2000 that I started researching him and the internet was just beginning to be a common, everyday thing. There was a couple of online sites that had some basic information on him. I used online searches and sites like to find anyone that had known or knew of him and conducted interviews with them via phone and email. I also found books, photos, etc...on online auctions and used genealogical and newspaper archive sites.
My original intention with the research was to write a screenplay for a biopic similar to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood but over time it evolved into the book which I would work on as life permitted and I found new information about him. During the pandemic I found myself with the time to focus on the project and did more research especially with online newspaper archives which had grown exponentially over the last twenty years. That, and some more interviews, really helped to fill-in Criswell's timeline and story and bring the book to where I felt it was ready for publication.

Q. What is Criswell’s influence on pop-culture and what would you say is his legacy?
ELC. In his own bizarre way, he symbolized the nature of fame in twentieth century America. He tried unsuccessfully to break into and find fame on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley but these failures didn’t prevent him from co-authoring three books on how to succeed in those fields. His story, in both his triumphs and defeats, is the story of a typically American quest for fame, and one that couldn’t have happened without television. He had his fifteen minutes of fame long before Andy Warhol made his famous, frequently quoted observation on modern culture that rings even more true now in the twenty-first century. Since Criswell’s day, the tube has created an army of celebrities who are ‘famous for being famous.’ He has the dubious honor of being one of the first. His story sheds a great deal of light on the American dream and the aspirations that most of us share. His story also asks, explores, but can’t answer the eternal question of “What is the true measure of success?”
Q. As someone who has spent a lot of time learning and writing about Criswell — what do YOU think his greatest achievement was? What do you believe HE was most proud of?

A. His greatest achievement was the creation and invention of himself. The persona of a celebrity born for greatness, which he stuck to and lived like he was the star he was destined to be. His belief in himself and tenacity in being this larger-than-life character all the time without apology. He had a good understanding of the persuasiveness of the “cult of celebrity” mentality in the early days of television and mass media. If a celebrity said something with conviction, then it had to be true and accurate and would usually be believed without questioning. He certainly used that to perpetrate the image and myth of the celebrity Criswell. Vampira said about him, “When¬ever you wear a good suit and a diamond ring, people tend to take you seriously. In those days there were very few people who had one name.”

Q. The cover art for your first book is by Mitch O’Connell. I can’t think of another artist who could’ve captured the vibe better! Is it safe to say that Mitch truly is, without a doubt, the “World’s Best Artist” ?

A. For that book cover he was definitely the “World's Best Artist.” I had been following his work for a while and loved his previous drawings of Criswell along with Ed Wood, Vampira, and the rest of the gang. He was my first choice and agreed to do it saying he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to draw Criswell. I sent him a few reference photos and very little direction and he nailed it.

Edwin Lee Canfield is a writer whose fascination and obsession with the life of the amazingly eccentric Criswell led to his authoring the book, Fact, Fictions, and the Forbidden Predictions of the Amazing Criswell! published by Headpress Publishing in 2023. Criswell Predicts an Accurate Glimpse of the Future is his second book and he has a number of other projects in the works from “laid bare” biographies to magazine articles to screenplays. His main goal and desire as a writer is to take the title of “king of lowbrow literature” from the late, not-so-great, Leo Guild. Canfield was born in Oklahoma, but currently resides in the desert.
Facebook & Instagram @forbiddenpredictions

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