The 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake: Gin Chow's Earthquake Prediction

His record for accuracy was uncanny. He predicted the 1923 earthquake in Yokohama, which killed 143,000 Japanese. His most remarkable prophecy, however, came in 1923 when he announced that on June 29, two years later, Santa Barbara would be visited by a major earthquake. He hit it "right on the nose," to the undying puzzlement of the seismologists who had ridiculed his audacity. Scientists still have no idea how he did it.

-T. M. Storke, from California Editor, Westernlore Press, 1958, Los Angeles.

Actually, what baffles seismologists is that so many people believe the story of Gin Chow's earthquake prediction, which is regularly repeated in print to this day. The story apparently derives from a claim Gin Chow made in Gin Chow's First Annual Almanac, published in 1932, in which Gin Chow says that he posted a notice in the Santa Barbara Post Office on December, 23, 1920, saying an earthquake would strike the area on June 29, 1925.

Gin Chow was a successful Chinese immigrant who was well-known in the Santa Barbara area for making weather predictions that were supposedly better than government weather forecasts. Thomas Storke, who is quoted above, was editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press for many years, including during the 1925 earthquake, and was a direct descendent of the first commander of the Santa Barbara Presidio, José Francisco De Ortega.

Despite Storke's belief in Gin Chow's earthquake prediction, and despite the numerous times the story of the prediction has been repeated, there is no evidence that Gin Chow's "prediction" is anything but a bogus claim made after the fact.

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