Irene Hughes, who went from being a Chicago Heights housewife to one of the world's most acclaimed psychics, died early Friday morning. She was 92.
Hughes, a longtime resident of Crete, Ill., died at Beecher Manor, a retirement care center in Beecher, Ill., where she had been a resident for more than a year, said her daughter Patricia.
"She died around 8:15 Friday morning and her family was at her side," Patricia said.
"Her death was related to her age and she died peacefully."
Hughes' husband of more than 66 years, Bill Hughes, who served as her business manager, died in April at age 94.
Born Irene Finger in a log cabin on a farm in Saulsbury, Tenn. (some sources say Bolivar, Tenn.), the seventh of 11 children, she said she grew up on her grandfather Joseph Carter's watermelon farm.
Her mother, who was half-Cherokee, was said to be able to read the future using coffee grounds and the family claimed Cherokee Indian and Scotch-Irish ancestry. She worked in a hospital in New Orleans and married William Hughes in 1945.
Hughes moved to Chicago and began to gain national and international attention for her uncanny predictions after she became a favorite television guest on Merv Griffin's talk show. Soon, her abilities to predict future events garnered her waiting-list clients, including actress Eva Gabor and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.
Irene Hughes told The Times in 2010 she had correctly predicted to Howard Hughes his 1976 death.
Her most famous predictions made headlines around the world, including her foretelling of "the Blizzard of 1967" and the deaths of both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. In 1962, she predicted the exact date of death of former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson, which came to happen in 1965.
She also predicted the automobile accident involving Ted Kennedy. She said she repeated the prediction to Kennedy when she met him in the Senate dining room in Washington, D.C. She warned he would be involved in an accident near water, his companion would die, but that he would be uninjured. Two weeks later, on July 19, 1969, Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and companion Mary Jo Kopechne was killed. He was not injured.
Her uncanny "gift" to pinpoint details and descriptions about future occurrences made her a favorite for fodder for tabloids, including using Hughes for annual cover stories each January touting her "predictions for the new year." She was dubbed with the title The World's Most Accurate Psychic.
In the Midwest, she also was a frequent face of the local Chicago TV newscasts, often assisting law enforcement agencies by using her "psychic abilities" in what she said were more than 2,000 murder investigations.
Until the late 1990s, clients would seek her services by scheduling an appointment with her in her lavish office at 500 N. Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago. In later years, she moved her office to her home in Crete, where she could be spotted driving with her famed personalized license plate that read ESP.
In addition to Griffin's media attention, she also credited talk show host Regis Philbin with helping promote her abilities.
For years, she was a regular guest on Philbin's talk show that he filmed in St. Louis in the early 1970s, where he hosted "Regis Philbin's Saturday Night in St. Louis" on KMOX-TV. When he moved the show to Los Angeles and renamed it "A.M. Los Angeles" from 1975 to 1978, he would fly Hughes to the West Coast to appear on the show.
"He always wanted to 'go home' to New York though and do his talk show and he often asked me about what I saw as predictions for his career," Hughes said during an interview with The Times earlier this year.
Hughes said she always "told what she saw," even predictions that weren't always happy hints as to what was to come.
While appearing in 1974 on Chicago radio legend Jack Eigen's show on WMAQ broadcast from the Merchandise Mart, Hughes said she chatted with fellow guest Jack Benny, who originally hailed from Chicago. Sensing a vision, she put her hand on his chest over his heart and warned "watch this and be careful." Benny died later that same year at age 80 from cancer that spread to his chest area and vital organs.
She said she also told actress Barbara Eden, while she lived at the Lake Point Towers on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, of her impending divorce from her first husband, Michael Ensara, which came to pass in 1974.
Hughes said she was most competitive with her astrological colleagues when it came to making political predictions.
"I've always been correct with my predictions about U.S. presidents, and I even consulted with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon on various occasions, including attending White House Prayer Breakfast events," Hughes told The Times in 2011.
"One time when I was in Washington, D.C., Jeane Dixon, the psychic who lived there and was based there, wanted to have lunch with me. We argued about our predictions that year as to who the next president in the White House would be. I was right, and she was wrong."
In 2009, Hughes finally published her autobiography called "Memoirs of a Psychic and Astrologer," taking readers to her past, starting with her first psychic experience as a child in rural Tennessee.
Hughes is survived by four children, William III, Karen, Patricia and Kathleen, as well as 10 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
Funeral services are pending and will be private, according to the family.