When Fiction and Reality Collide

1974, California, USA — A photograph released by the FBI shows Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, with a machine gun, standing in front of a symbol of the Symbionese Liberation Army. She was kidnapped and brainwashed by the Symbionese group, and, calling herself Tania, she participated in robbery and extortion under duress. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In 1972, Regency Press published a novel, Black Abductor, by Harrison James, pseudonym for James Rusk Jr. It’s about a terrorist group led by a black man who kidnapped a college student, Patricia. Her wealthy father was well known and had right-wing sympathies.

In the novel, Patricia was kidnapped near campus while she was with her boyfriend, and was badly beaten by the abductors. For a while, he was a suspect in the case. The fictional Patricia initially resisted her captors but eventually subscribed to their ideology and became a champion of their cause. The terrorists sent Polaroid photos to her father and described the abduction as America’s “first political kidnapping.” They predicted they eventually would be surrounded by police, tear-gassed, and wiped out.

Two years after the book was published, in 1974, Patricia Hearst – daughter of newspaper baron Randolph Hearst and then a college student – was abducted from her apartment near campus. The kidnappers were members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a terrorist group led by a black man. Her boyfriend, Steven Weed, was with her at the time and was badly beaten and became a suspect in the case. Patricia Hearst, like the fictional Patricia, became a sympathizer of her abductors’ cause. She ended up robbing a bank with her kidnappers and was photographed carrying an MI carbine.

The FBI was either familiar with the novel or had read it and the author became a suspect in the case. The real abductors were eventually surrounded by the police, tea-gassed, and killed, just as the fictional kidnappers predicted they would be. All of this begs the question: had the terrorists read the novel? Or was this an instance where a creative edge enabled an author to sense the future so deeply that he uncovered stunning details identical to those that came about two years later?

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6 Responses to When Fiction and Reality Collide

  1. Dale Dassel says:

    Speaking of life imitating art, last year they filmed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in Hawaii. The premise of the movie is having to rescue the dinosaurs from the island before its dormant volcano erupts – and then a year later Hawaii’s volcano is actually erupting, causing people to evacuate the island! What are the odds of that?

    • Trish and Rob says:

      I’ve only seen the trailer, didn’t realize that was the premise! Very interesting odds!

  2. lauren raine says:

    I think the creative realm is an “imaginal” realm, where time or space aren’t the same as in “normal” consciousness. I have sometimes felt that I tapped into a synchonistic space when in the field of creative intensity, and have a few works that are still a big mystery to me because of that.

    But one has to ask………..is it possible the captor of Patty Hearst read the book? Was it a popular book at the time?

  3. Debra Page says:

    Wow! Very strange.

  4. blah says:

    a certain TV show wrote the “Steve Bartman” incident a decade previous…. course me thinking that be a whole different thing….