Thursday, May 21, 1998 | 10:05 a.m.
Twenty years ago, world renowned psychic Olof Jonsson told the Sun there would be a building boom in Las Vegas, a new president in 1981 and that the United States and Soviet Union would be allies against China during World War III.
In a story that ran in the June 19, 1978, Sun editions, Jonsson hit the nail on the head with the prediction that Las Vegas would become a boomtown -- the valley doubled its population and has built several megaresorts since then.
Jonsson, a Swedish-born American citizen, got half credit for his prognostication about a new president, as Jimmy Carter indeed was defeated, but not by another Democrat in the primary as Jonsson predicted. He lost instead to Republican Ronald Reagan.
A humanitarian who raised money to feed the world's hungry children and used his psychic prowess for the good of mankind, Jonsson was relieved that his prediction for global nuclear war in the 1980s did not come to pass.
But any psychic who is accurate half the time cannot look back on his life with too much disappointment. Jonsson's friends and family say he indeed was proud of the great scope of his work.
Olof Taga Jonsson, a former psychic advisor to Philippines Dictator Ferdinand Marcos who also conducted NASA-sponsored extra sensory perception experiments during the Apollo 14 moon flight, has died in Las Vegas. He was 79.
Jonsson died May 11 of complications from diabetes at a local hospice. Services for the Las Vegas resident of 18 years were Tuesday. His cremains will be returned to Sweden and buried alongside his mother. Arrangements were handled by Desert Memorial Cremation & Burial Society.
"Olof was one of the world's most versatile psychics -- whether it was research science, hunting for treasure, helping police solve murders or making predictions for the tabloids," said longtime friend Cheryl Jones-Latimer of Las Vegas.
"He did not get asked for much advice on gambling. If a friend asked who he thought would win a horse race, Olof would laugh and say he'd have to think about that one. The question he was most asked was when the next big earthquake would hit."
Michael Jonsson of Malmo, Sweden, said he was most impressed by his father's ESP prowess, noting that he possesses only a fraction of Olof's psychic abilities.
"Most people don't believe in ESP, but when you see it with your own eyes like I did, you have to believe it," Michael Jonsson, president of the Olof Jonsson Foundation, a Swedish-based humanitarian organization, said.
"I think I would want my father to be remembered not just for being a good psychic, but also a kind person who did whatever he could to help people. He believed that universal harmony and balance would bring world peace."
In the 1978 Sun story, Jonsson's prediction about growth in Las Vegas, and the stumbling block it would hit in the late 1970s-early '80s was hauntingly accurate.
"I see Las Vegas building a little too many high-rise hotels and casinos which will feel the effects of a temporary recession in 1979," Jonsson, then a mechanical engineer working in Chicago, said. "The recession will be national, brought on by the Arab countries (that will) hike the price for oil."
Jonsson, known for his soothing, soft-spoken voice, preferred being called a scientist rather than a psychic. He came to the world's attention in a Feb. 26, 1971, Time magazine story about telepathic experiments he conducted with Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell.
Johnson gave details in comprehensive 1978 and '93 Sun stories on the $100 billion worth of Japanese gold that was stashed around the Philippines during World War II. He told of how he used his psychic powers to help Marcos find the treasure trove.
Although he never wrote a book, Jonsson was the subject of several books, including "The Psychic Feats of Olof Jonsson," by Brad Steiger, published in 1971.
In the book, Steiger notes that Jonsson was always willing to be tested by experts who questioned whether his psychic powers were real or a trick.
"Olof Jonsson has been studied, observed, examined, photographed and investigated by doctors and parapsychologists since he was a very young man," Steiger wrote.
"He sat patiently and guessed cards, levitated vases or duplicated test passages from randomly selected books. ... The psychic is constantly being challenged by researchers and skeptics to prove his talents."
One of the most recent tests was at the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1992, when Jonsson was pitted against a computer. Jonsson correctly guessed 88 of 288 targets. Test administrators said they expected he would make just 72 correct guesses.
Born Oct. 18, 1918, in Malmo, Sweden, Jonsson said he first became aware of his psychic ability when he was 6 years old. He said he could read his parents' minds and move objects with his brain via a process known as telekinesis.
Jonsson served as an officer in the Swedish Navy, using psychic powers to guide ships through undetected mine fields. After World War II, he used his unusual talent to help Swedish police solve murders and find missing people.
In 1953, Jonsson came to the United States to be tested at Duke University by parapsychologist J.B. Rhine. He decided to stay and, in 1958, became a U.S. citizen.
He resided in Chicago for the next 22 years where he worked as an engineer for the Michigan Avenue firm of Schmidt, Garden & Eriksen.
In the 1970s and '80s, treasure hunters hired Jonsson to use his telepathic talent to locate ships that sank while carrying valuable cargo. In addition to the Philippine gold hunt, Jonsson also assisted with the search for the Spanish galleon Atocha, which sank off the coast of Florida in 1662.
In addition to his son, Jonsson is survived by a sister, Karin Parson; a grandson, Tobias Jonsson; and a niece, Anne Parson, all of Malmo.
DONATIONS: In Jonsson's memory to the Olof Jonsson Foundation, Halsjogatan 33, 217 66 Malmo, Sweden.