Mystic Meg, who has died aged 80, was an erotic fiction writer from Lancashire who predicted a future for herself as a newspaper astrologer and was delighted when it came true (in the News of the World and The Sun); she was also a pioneer of telephone horoscope readings, raking in a fortune from her premium-rate recordings, before metamorphosing into a clairvoyant with a 45-second slot on the televised weekly National Lottery draw.
Her Gypsy-Rose-meets-Cleopatra shiny black hair, intense stare, crimson nail varnish and high-collared cloak were all suggestive of a crystal ball-gazer from the end of a seaside pier. “Dream-maker planet Neptune and Venus spin fortunes for Scorpio and Capricorn and someone who bought a ticket at 6pm today,” was a typical prognostication from her Lottery show spot.
With ghostly music and spangled mist swirling around, she would wave a glass charm and predict who was about to win. “The power of the pendulum,” she intoned, “is spelling out Pat and Kathy as winning names, and a woman wearing dark blue is serving drinks.” … “A grey cat with golden eyes is close. Insurance workers, binmen and a dentist will be celebrating, too.”
Cynics suggested that the psychic’s scattergun spiel could apply to almost any ticket holder. Others pointed to her successes: in March 1997 she forecast that a jackpot ticket would be bought in Sunderland; it was, by a syndicate who shared £2.4 million. On another occasion, however, several men from Hull called Eric were disappointed when their balls were not drawn.
Mystic Meg’s newspaper columns offered traditional horoscope readings carried off with a certain panache such as this one from the News of the World in 1992: “A stubborn love problem can be solved if you say what you honestly want and pull the daggers of mistrust out of your mind. Destiny turns a journey into a honeymoon.”
But she also provided what John Dugdale in a Guardian profile described as “a cornucopia of supernatural services”. These included messages from the Other Side such as “Stella of Brighton: Your legacy is in a manicure case.”
In another week, her “psychic love detector” drew on a range of arcane sources from the Ancient Egyptian square of destiny to gypsy love lore. She would also read tea leaves, tarot cards and runes.
Events foreseen by Mystic Meg were proclaimed triumphantly by the paper, among them the birth of Princess Beatrice and John Major’s resignation. Those she miscalled were not referred to again. Meanwhile, her book AstroSex (1995) claimed to provide “the first scientific proof that astrology works” thanks to a survey of 30,000 readers that supposedly revealed “statistically significant” differences between their star signs and their love-making preferences.
But even when accurate, Mystic Meg’s predictions were not always welcome. In 1995 she generated her largest News of the World postbag after infuriating Manchester United fans by predicting that their team would be defeated by Everton in the FA Cup final. She was right: they lost 1-0.
According to her publicity she was born Meg Markova into an Anglo-Russian family, the granddaughter of a celebrated mathematician and a gifted astrologer from whom she inherited the dynastic crystal ball aged 21. In reality she was born Margaret Anne Lake in Accrington, Lancashire, on July 27 1942, making her, according to astrological charts, a Leo, with Leo rising and Mercury in Cancer.
She was the daughter of Bill Lake, an RAF aircrewman, and his wife Millicent (née Howard). The eastern connection was that her maternal grandparents lived in Russia Street and Accrington was dominated by a factory known as Moscow Mill.
By the time Bill was demobbed in 1946, Millicent had fallen for a BBC engineer and their marriage was over; Meg never saw her father again. She read English at the University of Leeds and trained as a teacher, but soon she was contributing to Woman’s Realm, where she became known for her versatility. A colleague recalled her being equally at home tackling knitting or cooking.
Her fortunes changed when she sent a series of erotic stories to Men Only and was given a regular column. From there she progressed to a sub-editing job on the News of the World, eventually becoming deputy editor of the paper’s colour supplement, Sunday.
Her editor having discovered that she liked to predict the future for journalists worrying about love or money, in 1986 Meg was appointed the paper’s astrologer. She styled herself “Mystic” Meg Markova, a mysterious figure who never drank, ate only vegetables and exercised at the gym four times a week to keep up her predictive powers. Soon universally known as Mystic Meg, and Britain’s most famous soothsayer, in time she acquired a column in the paper’s sister title, The Sun.
As resident astrologer of the western world’s best-selling newspapers, she received droll testimonials from Terry Wogan and Bob Monkhouse; David Frost quoted her “messages from beyond the grave” on his breakfast TV show; and the hero of one Jilly Cooper novel found his life ruled by her forecasts.
The News of the World closed in 2011 and Meg’s time at The Sun ended in 2014, though she continued to contribute to projects such as Sun Bingo. She also ran the Mystic Meg website, offering a galaxy of astrological jewellery, daily horoscopes and a weekly tarot. She contributed to The Globe in America and New Idea in Australia, while her other books included Astrolife and Mystic Meg’s Secrets of Your Star.
She lived in a garden flat in Notting Hill with her Terry Oldfield records and seven cats, the most intuitive of which, Doris, sat in on crystal-ball sessions. She liked eating porridge and owned several racehorses with names like Astrodonna, Astroangel and Astronova. “I use my astrological skills to love-match the mares with the right stallions,” she told The Independent.
Margaret Lake enjoyed a long relationship with Nigel Moores, a member of the Littlewoods pools family, who died in a car crash in France in 1977 aged 39. She never identified any other lovers.
“When I want to, I can attract a man by sending him a mental message that he fancies me,” she confided, adding that “it’s no sex for 24 hours” before seances, and “I’ve always known that I must never marry, or have children, so that I can concentrate my energies.”
By the time of her death her name had passed into the popular lexicon, a commonly used phrase being: “You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to predict …”
Mystic Meg, born July 27 1942, died March 9 2023