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Mad Oracle

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And if I make no sense to you,
Well, I make no sense to me!
The dreams I have are sticky as dreams
That leave trails of words
That will mean churches' fall!
Current 93, "Black Ships Were Sinking Into Idumaea"

The good news about this character is that they can see the future. The bad news is that it turns out that seeing the future is not good for your mental health. Perhaps it's the stress of breaking through the boundaries of time, perhaps it's the strain of seeing so much all at once, possibly including alternative futures. It could be that now they can see the future, the concepts of time and causality don't make sense anymore. Maybe they can't handle seeing the truly Bad Future awaiting them. Or it could be that they are only able to see the future because they are mad, writers often don't distinguish. Either way what we have here is easily one of the most useful and irritating types of Seer. Work out what they mean and you have genuine cast iron visions, get confused or ignore it and you will find it coming back to bite you.

They tend to speak entirely in metaphor, riddles, vagueries, and oblique poetry.

A partial inverse of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, related to Go Mad from the Revelation, Poke in the Third Eye, and Prescience Is Predictable. Compare The Schizophrenia Conspiracy, Infallible Babble, His Name Is....

Compare also The Cassandra, when a character doesn't get mad from predicting the future, but still gets ignored, and sometimes considered as mad by others, because they can predict the future.

See also Waif Prophet, Junkie Prophet, Fainting Seer, and Doomsayer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Darker than Black has an elderly woman who mainly serves as the focal point of the surveillance spectres for Astronomics. She's silent and comatose for the first half of the city, but once sunspot activity starts picking up and the circumstances that led to the Heaven's Gate incident start occurring again, she starts mumbling vague statements about how she can "hear" the stars and that a great disaster's going to befall the Contractors.
  • In Four Knights of the Apocalypse, the Waif Prophet Guinevere causes a commotion when she kisses a total stranger- one four years older than her, to boot. She insists it's fine because they will get together several years in the future; the severely shaken boy does not agree. Although Guinevere's case is less "foresight makes you crazy" than "foresight exacerbates the selfishness and impulsivity you already have". She knows exactly what she's doing; she just doesn't care.
  • The old man from Paranoia Agent. After he dies, he passes the role on to Maniwa. The series ends with Maniwa finishing the calculations the old man started and pulling back in shock, though we don't learn why. Presumably, it has to do with the Vicious Cycle he describes post-credits.
  • To some degree, Ran from Texhnolyze, who can see one of the many possibilities of the immediate future.
    • She's never exactly mad though, although her powers apparently include the ability to drive people mad from the revelation. On the contrary, she's disturbingly deadpan, putting on her fox mask whenever she's in danger of actually showing any emotion.

    Audio Drama 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: When the Doctor goes mad in "Zagreus", he suddenly develops the abilities to see the future, past and alternate timelines.

    Comic Books 
  • Age of Bronze: Cassandra's prophecies are accurate, but because she's mad people rarely see the truth of this. In this case, she wasn't driven mad because she spurned Apollo, rather, she and her brother were raped by a pedophile in Apollo's temple, who jeered that no one would believe them even if they reported what happened, so her Cassandra Truth became something of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • In Captain Britain: A Crooked World, the precognitive Cobweb ends up like this when the Fury arrives in the 616 universe and Mad Jim Jaspers starts taking over the world.
    "Shouldn't be here... pattern broken... there was a Crooked Man and he... white wine turning red... white and red, like blood and bone, like chessmen... the board's askew... the gamer's hands are scorched and blackened... all strategies are shredded in the random wind... nothing is certain now..."
  • CrossGen's The First has Orium, whose Meaningful Name is a portmanteau of "oracle" and "delirium." He's a creepy old god who was given the gift of true sight by Altwaal after the latter was disappointed with his vision as a leader.
  • Delirium in The Sandman (1989) is occasionally shown to have insights into the future even Destiny doesn't have. Since she's the Anthropomorphic Personification of insanity, it can be assumed she's an oracle because she's mad, rather than the other way round.
  • Dajjal of Supergod can see all futures and people think of him as crazy but he sees sanity as a social norm and he's beyond society.
  • Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan's powers (including the ability to see the future) have made him so out of touch with humanity he has forgotten how to act "normal." The future-sight is a major part of this, as he perceives time non-linearly and can get confused as to when he actually is.
  • Blindfold, a young mutant in X-Men, is a blind girl born without eyes who can perceive various alternate futures and has odd speech patterns, as though answering questions that have not yet been asked or saying "thank you" for things that have not happened yet. Not surprisingly, she was created by Joss Whedon during his run on Astonishing X-Men.
    • A later comic explained the bizarre speech patterns: it turns out that Blindfold was the only person capable of sensing Cipher, another mutant with the power of "total stealth." She was in conversation with Cipher the whole time, which explained why she spoke as though there was another person in the room with her.
    • A later storyline establishes she was unwell before even that. Her mutant-hating brother's vengeful astral form had assaulted her and stolen part of her power and sanity.

  • Frodo is one of these in the Bagenders prequel episode set in Troy.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Doctor Strange isusually coherent, if cryptic (often for his own amusement), but sometimes seems to go completely around the bend.
    • Luna Lovegood after becoming the new Delirium, though she's more coherent than her predecessor.
    • Ruth in Ghosts of the Past is a canonical example, being Blindfold of the New X-Men. This time, however, her strange speech patterns and being somewhat Unstuck in Time are caused by her mutant powers manifesting just as Harry and Maddie threw down in a psychic brawl with global scale side-effects.
  • The Bureau Universe Bon Bon became one of these after being Forced to Watch Lyra get petrified and smashed to pieces in The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum. The trauma of the event drove her completely insane, not helped by the "temporal stroke" she suffers that leaves her brain in two separate time zones - one part is always in the present, and the other part just wanders around, able to see every possible future the timeline can produce. Most of the time, she's a babbling mess who randomly spews out total gibberish or unintelligible non-sequiturs, but when she does give a genuine prediction, it's accurate and the heroes have found them quite useful.
  • Angelique from The Empress Returns (sequel to The God Empress of Ponykind) is a psyker whose powers manifested at a very young age, leaving her a mental wreck who speaks only in convoluted (and usually unpleasant) prophecies about those she's around. She has moments of lucidity when around more maternal figures (such as Sister Bianca) or more powerful/mentally stable psykers (such as Twilight or Celestia).
  • In the Gensokyo 20XX series we have this with Yukari, who, as she was losing sanity, wrote in her seventh diary entry what was occurring in her dreams. It is interesting to note that she's seen most of those things that occur in Gensokyo 20XXIV in her dreams.
  • In George Weasley and the Computational Error, George finds it convenient to claim that he's one instead of admitting that he is from the future. For bonus points, he says his becoming this was a product of the Ministry trying and failing to make an artificial seer.
  • The Lion King Adventures Series 5 brings us Ugaidi, a cub who was tortured by the creatures guarding the Dark Caves. This drove him insane, but somehow gave him the power to see the future... which, due to his madness, he's only able to express in nonsensical broken sentences and warnings. The Final Task reveals that in actuality, the Roho and the Hermit of Hekima granted him his powers and altered his memories, all in an effort to warn Simba and his friends of the coming of The Writer. Unfortunately, this process drove him insane.
  • Oracle Lunara from Of Darkness and Light speaks backwards when giving predictions, so she even needs a translator. She's a bit mad as well, with a really strange sense of humor and all. She's not called Lunara for nothing.
  • In Robb Returns, Patchface, who somehow knows that dragons are coming back and that the Others are starting to make their move.
  • In the Vocaloid fanfic Rotting Camellias, Mew is a pretty straight example of this trope.
  • In The Westerosi, Patchface again. However, this time he has Jade at his side. Since she's well aware of how psychic powers work, she's able to determine the fool has a limited, but very painful and uncontrollable connection to Planetos' background psychic field.

    Film — Animated 
  • 6 in the movie 9, but 1 refuses to believe him and just keeps him in a corner with a curtain over it, where he spends all his time drawing what he sees in his head.
    • The deleted scenes also show once he finally saw what was in his head, he got a new vision, and apparently heard/saw in his head the monster made out of 2's body. "Huh..2?"
  • In Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, Barbara Gordon really is an oracle who lives in Arkham Asylum, but that's because of her medical condition—confined to a wheelchair and speaking and breathing through a chest tube and artificial diaphram. She's quite rational, but prefers it there because she doesn't have to put up with her family's pity. "Besides, if you saw as I do, you'd take the insanity within these walls over the true madness out there."
  • The Simpsons Movie gives Grandpa a flash of this.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 12 Monkeys: Such oracles throughout history are implied to be time travelers who have gone insane.
  • The 13th Warrior: The protagonists go to consult an old woman who supposedly knows how to defeat the 'demons' who are attacking them. A local girl mentions that she's quite mad, whereupon one of the Vikings replies sarcastically: "The perfect advisor."
  • Mad Medium variation from the crazy homeless guy in Always, who can hear the voice of Richard Dreyfuss's ghost and repeat what Dreyfuss is saying. The message gets a little lost in the man's general rambling, making him a less-than-ideal communication device — Dreyfuss's attempt to discourage a young hotshot pilot from pursuing his widow comes across as just the opposite.
  • Seneca from Carry On Cleo is portrayed as this, moaning and twitching about the "Ides of March" and annoying Julius Caesar. Although a vague prophecy, the March gets its own back on Caesar, leaving a smug Seneca to mumble "I told you so" at his dead body.
  • The Fireman in Dead Man, who reveals the end of the film at the beginning.
  • Donnie Darko. The ability to see the future takes a heavy toll on Donnie's already unbalanced emotional and mental state.
  • In Monster! (1999), Travis Reeves initially agrees with the police of New Purgatory that his grandfather Lloyd is suffering from some form of senility or dementia when he insists that the Monster from the series of B Movies that Lloyd wrote and starred in during the '50s is actually real and attacking the town. But then Lloyd keeps making uncannily accurate predictions about strange, impossible things, even predicting that Travis' new Love Interest is named either Jane, Jill, or Sally. It ultimately turns out that Lloyd is actually a case of Cassandra Truth; whilst his status as Town Hero makes him immune to the Genre Blindness inflicted on the town by the Monster's Reality Warper powers, that same Genre Blindness causes the locals to ignore Lloyd and treat him as a crackpot until the Monster is defeated.
  • Mitsuo Hori, the "Super Psychic" in Noroi: The Curse. His house and his clothing are covered with tin foil, he mutters, fidgets terribly, is obsessed with "Ectoplasmic Worms" and is prone to get violent when he receives psychic impressions/information. However, he provides very useful information to the investigation.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean. In some ways, Tia Dalma is like this. While not really mad, she takes pleasure in speaking in riddles and making people wonder what she really meant.
  • In Suspect Zero, long-term use of the remote viewing abilities O'Ryan's former FBI unit is said to have possessed, combined with the lack of an "off" switch for the abilities themselves, is shown to lead to severe mental breakdowns. Many among the unit eventually were driven to suicide or suffered psychotic breaks.
  • Take Shelter is deliberately ambiguous whether the protagonist is a mad oracle or just mad, being plagued with increasingly vivid nightmares that he believes to be prophetic... and yet it's also entirely possible that an established family history of mental illness is finally catching up to him. The ending doesn't really clear it up.
  • Tell Me How I Die: A pharmaceutical company is experimenting with a drug that allows people to see into the future. The villain is a patient from a previous drug trial who was given increasingly higher doses until the visions took a toll on his sanity and he started getting visions where he violently murdered everyone around him.
  • Dennis in Thir13en Ghosts can see ghosts and read the minds of anybody he touches. He also has no control over his powers. As a result, he's been driven to the brink of madness and comes off as a twitchy drug fiend.
    Dennis: I come within ten feet of anything dead, I go into seizures! I touch somebody, and a whole life full of shit just flashes in front of my eyes!

  • Justified, Discussed, and Deconstructed in the Belgariad: the Sentient Cosmic Force of Prophecy can speak most easily through madmen, but its communication is limited by the vessel's mind. The near-Empty Shell Mrin Prophet delivers the most comprehensive prophecy of the planet completely out of order because he can't understand time; the Darine Prophet produces short outbursts that are only useful as an "index" to the Mrin Codex; and the sorcerers have to have any number of other local lunatics' ravings transcribed, since only they have the expertise to pick out the prophetic bits.
  • The Bone Maker: Marso was a preeminent bone reader until his visions overwhelmed his mind. He's rescued after years as a Naked Nutter, but remains badly scarred and only regains fragments of his old ability. It's ultimately revealed that The Mole gaslit him into the mental break by discrediting his (accurate) visions of the Big Bad, causing him to lose faith in and control over his powers.
  • Subverted in Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible. The Pythias were the seers who ruled Gallifrey before Rassilon came to power. The last Pythia goes mad because she's losing her oracular abilities, and can no longer see the future clearly.
  • In The Chronicles Of Alice: Hatcher has what is called The Sight, which allows him to see a possible future, and is a Madman in ways disconnected to the power.
  • In the Circle of Magic books, the character Zhegorz is introduced as a madman, apparently a schizophrenic. It eventually turns out that he's actually able to scry on the wind, both sights and sounds, a very rare ability, which is why everyone assumed he was hallucinating... so unexplained visions + insistence from all sides that he must be mad + commitment to a Bedlam House = all the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, only based in reality.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos: The Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, writer of the Necronomicon. Technically not an oracle, as he probably couldn't see into the future (although the contents of the Necronomicon are too vague to say for sure), but other than that he fits this trope very well. Strange visions, cryptic texts, being completely off his rocker, etc.
  • Old Mother Dismass in Discworld: perfectly coherent, but having a conversation in a different timezone than everyone else. Described as having "a detached retina in her second sight".
  • The Dresden Files:
    • The books kind of tweak this. Harry says the reason Oracles all talk in riddles and goofy parables and weirdnesses is that they while they see snatches of possible futures, they may not know exactly what events lead to them from the present. Similarly, the tendency towards really vague prophecies is a way of avoiding paradoxes.
    • In addition, a number of "oracles" in the past (the Oracle of Delphi is specifically mentioned) who were also mad were actually that time's current incarnation of the Archive, a repository of all human knowledge, who were driven mad by said knowledge and yet were able to make accurate predictions of the future through simply analyzing what they possessed and drawing accurate conclusions from it.
  • Dune: Paul Atreides/Muad'Dib/the Kwizatch Haderach (and later Leto II, his son) are widely regarded as this. The reader sees enough of their inner thoughts to know they're not exactly "mad" per se, but it does seem to be a huge burden to sift through all the might-bes and work out which of the infinitely many possible paths leads to the desired outcome, and since Paul and Leto actually care about this, it makes them do things that sometimes seem pretty random to other people. Like disappearing from the Padishah Throne and becoming a desert vagabond, or arranging for your own death ... ish ... sort of thing.
  • The novel Final Destination: Dead Reckoning, a spin-off of the film series. Throughout the book an unnamed vagrant, who apparently experienced the same vision of a nightclub collapsing as the Final Girl Jess, appears, usually right before Death kills someone, to offer cryptic, borderline non-sensical advice, all the while throwing in random references to mice and the moon.
  • Forgotten Realms, The Erevis Cale Trilogy. Erevis and companions visit Sephris Dwendon, the chosen of the God of Knowledge, seeking information on the MacGuffin. Initially Sephris is only a little cracked, yet after being raised from the dead, not because he wanted to be, but because of a sense of duty Sephris becomes more than a little crazy. Bitter, cynical, carving mathematical formulae into his flesh.
  • The Sibyl at Orm in A Gathering of Gargoyles turns out to be mad Doona from the house in which Aeriel grew up as a slave. Subverted in that Doona is actually not the Sibyl. She killed her and took her place.
  • The witch in Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact. She Cannot Tell a Lie — and apparently, can't shut up either.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: Han, Chewie, and Mako encounter one, who calls herself Vima and "the descendent of Vima Sunrider" during The Hutt Gambit, who claims that Han will face betrayal from those he trusts (Bria in Rebel Dawn; Lando in The Empire Strikes Back; Mako in Dark Empire; Zeen, Kid DXo'ln, Wynni and Ana Blue in The New Rebellion; and finally his own son in Legacy of the Force. She doesn't mention anybody by name, but stares at Mako, who's with him), will be rich but only after he no longer cares about it, will be a great warrior, and will do much for love. Han, of course, is skeptical (not to mention drunk), and has forgotten about it by the next day. The woman doesn't outright identify herself as the Jedi Vima-da-Boda, whom Han later meets again in Dark Empire, but it's pretty clear that it's her.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Averted with Luna Lovegood. She's not mad, but she seems mad and she speaks Cassandra Truth about the Present.
    • Played with for Divination instructor Sybill Trelawney. While most of her predictions fall along the lines of YMMV, she will on occasion make a true prophecy (including both about Voldemort) and appears to be in a mad state when she does - using a different voice and not remembering that she said it. Her behavior throughout the series is also rather bizarre, though much of this can be attributed to her attempting to make Divination seem more useful and mysterious than it actually is and her addiction to cooking sherry.
  • The Illustrated Man, a Ray Bradbury character who was given tattoos that showed ever-changing visions of the future. Unfortunately, they tend to show people's deaths, often violent ones, so he can't stay in one place very long because people don't react well to seeing how they die. As a result of this, he has become unstable and violent, to the point where people sometimes see him killing them in his tattoos...and then it happens.
  • The Immortals After Dark series has Nix, also known as Nucking Futs Nix. She's hilariously insane, having lost the ability to sort out the past, present, and future, but there's a method to her madness; all knowledge that she dispenses or withholds is carefully calculated to achieve a certain result. Even her madness is accounted for in her plans, such as when she found a Post-It to herself on the underside of her sister's bed (no explanation as to what she'd be doing there). Her antics include keeping a pet bat. No, it doesn't live in a cage.
  • Mrs. Tachyon from the Terry Pratchett novel Johnny and the Bomb. Her dementia isn't due to SEEING through time so much as TRAVELING through it—- and constantly losing track of whether she's speaking to someone from the past, present, or future...
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull / Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", Gonar poses as this to get taken seriously. Down to and including performing Human Sacrifice for his foretellings.
  • Delores from Last Mage is impossibly smart and clinically depressed, in the Sherlock Holmes sort of "my brains burn out when I've nothing to do" way.
  • Toki in the Madgie, what did you do? series is a downplayed example, in that, while she does suffer from mental illness, she is usually on medicine to make her coherent, however, she does serve as an oracle, sometimes predicting the events in the story.
  • The intercessor from Maledicte is a scruffy guy standing on the street corner muttering about the gods, who everyone knows are dead anyway. They aren't. As a potential intercessor, Gilly fears he might be a little mad as well.
  • Serth, aka The Meressian Oracle from The Map To Everywhere. He was driven mad after seeing how the Pirate Stream was going to end, up to the point that he was convinced that it was inevitable.
  • The Clayr of the Old Kingdom books seem to be a clan built of (slightly) Mad Oracles. When their power to See is concentrated into a set number of people, they can receive clear visions of the future or present — assuming there is a future to See. However, in most circumstances, their Sight is divided among the hundreds of Clayr, granting each of its members with random fragments of possible futures. This also gives the Clayr a rather incoherent sense of time and causality, though one character suggests that it's not just the Sight itself but also the culture it creates - the Clayr are often focused on future possibilities in distant places, rather than paying attention to the people and events immediately around them. This tendency grows more pronounced with age, with the Sight growing stronger and harder to control, to the point that the oldest Clayr - who can apparently live to be a hundred and fifty years old - have to retire to special "Dreaming Rooms" when they become too disjointed in time.
  • In Eric van Lustbuder's Science Fantasy series The Pearl Saga, this is mentioned as happening to all oracles, which is why the prophecies were written by dragons rather than oracles. So when Giyan is forced by circumstances to unlock her latent oracular powers, it signals the beginning of her descent into madness as she grows more and more tormented by fragments of possible futures.
  • May Castellan from Percy Jackson and the Olympians, who went mad after seeing visions of her son's future.
  • In Perdido Street Station and Iron Council by China Miéville, there's the Weaver, a giant multi-dimensional spider who can see the strands of past and future and always speaks in never-ending streams of free verse. This isn't that bad for the Weaver, since it was never human to begin with, but the human characters in the book find its advice disconcerting and incomprehensible. Plus, it can kill you with a wave of its pedipalp if it doesn't like you (or just thinks the weave of the universe will be prettier that way).
  • In Alfred Bester's story The Push of a Finger, the Stabilization Bureau's Prog building doesn't contain a human oracle, but a mechanical one; it can't go mad, but it does illustrate how a human one could: one of the techs working it explains it as a sort of probabilistic machine that does millions of predictions and kind of "averages" them into a likely future, and if you were human and happened to get the one with the hyperintelligent lobster people, then that would pretty quickly either drive you actually mad or make people think you were.
  • Raymond Feist's The Riftwar Cycle contains an oracle that is mad because it shares a body with a godlike being granting her its powers.
  • Tsinga from David Clement-Davies' The Sight is a pretty darn good example of this.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Court Jester Patchface. While he's generally humored by those around him and treated as just an insane fool, his short ditties are not only prophetic but aptly disturbing at that.
    • Dedicated worshipers of both R'hlorr and the Drowned God come across this way to those of the Faith. Human sacrifice and visions play a huge part in both religions, after all — things the Faith of the Seven hasn't been keen on for years. Heck, the Red Priests and Drowned Men can seem to jump off the deep end as far as the less extreme factions of their religions go.
  • The White Queen from Through the Looking-Glass. For example, she threw the Mad Hatter in jail after having a vision that he would commit a crime in the future. As for the "mad" part, well, it's the "Alice in Wonderland" books. Being mad is kind of a requirement.
  • Goosefeather in Warrior Cats was often seen as this by his Clanmates due to his erratic behavior, and indeed, many of his prophecies and signs seem rather questionable. The problem is that there are some actual premonitions in there too, so everyone ignores him when he starts getting really bad feelings about Tigerkit's future.
  • Fiver in Watership Down is a Waif Prophet, but the vision that inspires Hazel and the others to leave their home warren is so terrifying and beyond his comprehension that he can't do more than say a 'terrible danger' is coming. Later they meet Silverweed, who is a Crazy Sane version — he's so lost in his warren's dark secret that he almost sounds reasonable when he says rabbits should be willing to accept death at any moment.
  • Quasiman from Wild Cards. When he says he remembers you, it's a good idea to listen to him, because he's probably in your future. However, he gives one the impression of being... not all there (literally- bits of him, both mind and body, pop in and out of local space-time, one piece at a time).
  • In Wylder's Hand, mad old Uncle Lorne makes a number of oddly-accurate prophecies despite his normal style of conversation. Though it may just be coincidence since every other seemingly supernatural occurrence in the novel turns out to have a non-supernatural explanation.
  • One of the Young Wizards books features an intelligent Magical Computer which does this, speaking in triads. (Its predictions turn out to be accurate, though, once the meanings of cryptic names like "The Hesper" are sorted out.)

    Live-Action TV 

By Creator:

  • Frankie Howerd used a mad soothsayer in Up Pompeii (Senna the Soothsayer) and a similar character, a mad beggar (Derti Dhoti) in Whoops Baghdad.
  • Joss Whedon likes this trope:
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Drusilla is a cross between this and Waif Prophet. Unlike many such prophets, her madness can make her, not just other people, unable to act on them properly. In the Angel episode "Redefinition" she sees a vision of Angel setting her and Darla on fire, but doesn't really understand it and takes in only how pretty the fire is. When it actually happens she's a lot less happy about it.
    • River Tam from Firefly
      • Both of them have very similar styles of speaking.
    • An Alternate Universe Episode of Angel featured the title character as this, when he inherits the visions sent by the Powers That Be. In the normal episodes, this didn't happen to Cordelia, but it could have if she hadn't chosen to become part demon, since humans weren't meant to have the visions and they were destroying her brain.
    • In BTVS "The Gift" Tara, who has been Mind Raped by Glory and reduced to a babbling childlike state, suddenly points to Giles and shouts, "You're a killer!" foretelling his murder of Ben.
    • Also Crazy Homeless People in "The Real Me" (and in later episodes, people driven insane by Glory) can see that Dawn isn't real.
      Stop them talking! (Dawn screams) I know you...curds and whey...I know what you are. You-don't-belong-here.

By Series:

  • Altered Carbon. Lizzie Elliot had already been tortured into insanity and was then given psychiatric treatment by Artificial Intelligence Poe, who taught her to make use of the Array to gather information. As a result she's developed Prescience by Analysis though sometimes has trouble with conversations because she's often talking about events that in her mind have already happened. She even lampshades the madness of the original Cassandra in a conversation with Poe.
  • The Hybrids in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, who only say things like "Mists of dreams drip along the nascent echo and love no more" and "Intruders swarm like flame, like the whirlwind; Hopes soaring to slaughter all their best against our hulls."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth Doctor is the only Doctor whose Psychic Powers enable him to see visions of the future, and also the one with the most tenuous sanity in his default mental state. These two factors may be connected.
    • In the TV Movie, the Eighth Doctor seems to show prophetic powers, giving people hints about their future and knowing facts about their past. He is one of the less sane Doctors.
    • Invoked in "The Fires of Pompeii". Donna threatens to warn the people of Pompeii about the oncoming volcano eruption, if the Doctor won't save them all. The Doctor says that no one will believe her, and instead think she's a "mad old soothsayer". Later, two oracles (an older man and a young woman) make a number of correct predictions about the Doctor and Donna, but they say it in such a way that the woman's family can't make heads or tails of it - significantly, the young woman is the more obviously unbalanced of the two, and rather than the odd image or random snippets, sees straight through the Doctor, detailing who and what he is. And one of the predictions ("Daughter of London, there is something on your back") makes no sense to any of them until a later episode.
    • Dalek Caan becomes this in "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End". He travelled back into the Time War itself to rescue Davros, but breaking through the "time lock" turned him into this. In an interesting twist, not only is he not half as crazy as he pretended, dropping the crazed giggling and becoming much clearer and more concise once he drops the act. This is because he also saw what the Daleks truly were, sparking a Heel Realization. Thus he didn't tell anyone that the Doctor and his companions would stop Davros to save all of reality.
    • Then there's the Visionary from "The End of Time", a Time Lady who spends her time scribbling prophecies and rambling. She foretells the end of the Time War and the Doctor and the Master's confrontation on Earth. At one point, she basically tells Rassilon his next move seconds before he does it.
      Visionary: Ending, burning, falling. All of it falling. The black and pitch and screaming fire...
    • Idris, the "bitey mad lady" from "The Doctor's Wife". She has good reason for her behaviour, because as the living soul of the TARDIS, she's experiencing the whole timeline at once.
  • From FlashForward ("The Garden of Forking Paths"):
    Demitri: You're Insane!
    Dyson Frost: Most oracles are, you know? They see the future and the knowledge... ends up destroying them.
  • Played with in Person of Interest. Root is regarded as insane by the rest of Team Machine due to her fervent Machine Worship and sociopathic tendencies, and has a habit of making cryptic yet accurate predictions that she claims come from God (actually the Machine talking to her via an implant).

  • Pythia, more commonly known as the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The chamber where she gave her predictions was supposedly filled with vapors that rose from the ground. Since she spent so much time in the chamber, it drove her into a frenzied state. This is the reason why most of her predictions were so cryptic, she was loopy from the fumes. Some sources even state she needed an interpreter to translate. Thus making this yada yada...
    • The Real Life Oracle of Delphi was much more mundane. The Pythia was a middle-aged local woman (young virgins having proven prone to kidnapping); she didn't rave or speak in tongues and those cool 'delphic' prophecies seem to be entirely fictional. The usual questions handled by the real Oracle concerned matters religion and ritual.
      • The fact that Delphi was, partly because of the Oracle, a major hub for gossip, meant that often the Pythia and the clergy were just well-informed.
      • While the 'vapors' were not of volcanic origin or some natural gas (like ethylene, a substance believed to have been responsible: it's been reported that the waters from which the Oracle drank have surprisingly high content of it), recent studies have shown that it may have been oleander that the Oracle chewed and her priests burned below her chamber to induce the prophetic visions. Regardless if it was oleander or ethylene, the former known to the ancient Greeks and the latter attested to rise up under Delphi after earthquakes, there was certainly some form of airborne substance involved. However, it is also perfectly possible to invoke a state of altered consciousness by auto-suggestion. The Pythia was not manic, vase paintings and contemporary accounts describe her as sitting quietly on her tripod holding a branch of laurel and a bowl of holy water (a position not conducive to hysterical convulsions) and answering the inquirer in a calm, direct manner. Whether she was coached ahead of time or answered according to her inspiration of the moment is another question.
  • Cassandra is like this in some versions, either perceived or actual, due to never being believed. In her most recent portrayal, in Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze, she was very much this. Age of Bronze has a tendency to do in the wizard, so her origin story there is deeply ambiguous.
  • Dionysus also functions as this—his role as the god of ecstasy both refers to emotional ecstasy (for his followers' wild parties), and religious ecstasy (for the trances/rituals that his prophets underwent).
    • Although records are extremely limited (literacy with the Myceneans was limited to a small caste of scribes), there is some indication Dionysus was a god of, amongst other things, madness and insight through madness that became a god of wine through syncretism with wine cults, the idea being that getting extremely drunk basically let Dionysus possess you and imbue a bit of his madness and divine power into you. The wine associations gradually became more important, but the connections with madness and insane insight never quite disappeared entirely.

  • The Magnus Archives: This appears to have been a side effect of the infestation of Jane Prentiss - before she lost her mind completely, she gave a mad, rambling, stream-of-consciousness statement (which forms the episode "Hive") that included premonitions about the future of Gertrude and the Institute.
  • On the Threshold: Becoming one of these seems to be one of the effects of experiencing what Mad Artist Zoey Evans calls "the inversion of religious ecstasy", probably with side serving of becoming The Cassandra if they ever express what they experience to others. She's trying to induce this effect through her VR environment The Cathedral of Bar Shachath.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Johnny Carson's "Carnac the Magnificent" routine on The Tonight Show had him play a character like this. The routine worked like this: Carson would enter dressed as Carnac, wearing a large feathered turban and a cape, to Indian music (usually stumbling as he did). Ed McMahon would produce a set of envelopes that he claimed were sealed. "Carnac" would hold each one to his head, say what he believed was the answer to the question written within, then open it, and read the question. Of course, revealing the question was always the punch line to a joke. One example:
    Carnac's answer: Over 105 in Los Angeles.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Ravenloft: The Mad Seer Hyksosa, among others. It's pretty common, really. So common, in fact, that it's an NPC class.
    • The Contact Other Plane divination spell has a chance of causing severe (if temporary) mental lapses.
  • In Nomine: The Archangel Gabriel has a unique connection to God through which she can see visions of the past, present, and future, but she is also, for a number of reasons, quite mad — some speculate that the weight of this knowledge and connection are at least partly responsible for her instability; among other things, she's not always able to tell the present from the past. Her prophecies still come, but they're often extremely difficult to comprehend or to distinguish from her normal stream-of-consciousness rants and monologues.
  • Rocket Age: Those few Chanari, Martian desert people, who gain psychic powers tend to have significant mental illnesses.
  • Precognition is a fairly well-known power of psykers in Warhammer 40,000, but carries with it The Dark Side. Aside from the Eldar, The Dark Side seems to win more often than not with would-be prophets. Just ask the Night Haunter.
    • Kairos Fatereaver, the oracle of Tzeentch is this trope. Tzeentch is able to see into the future himself, but even he doesn't know which possible future will come to be. So he threw his vizier Kairos into the point where all timelines intersect, giving him the ability to see everything that has happened and will ever happen. The downside is that he came back unnaturally aged (daemons are immortal and normally don't age), with an extra head and completely off his rocker. To make things worse, his heads contradict each other; one sees into the past, and the other sees into the future (neither see into the present), and there is no way of knowing which one is telling the truth at any given time.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Spellcasters have "Witchsight", the ability to see the Background Magic Field superimposed on the physical world. Sometimes this grants them flashes of insight or hints into the future, but these visions threaten an Insanity Point if they fail to make sense of them.
  • White Wolf loves this trope.
    • Changeling: The Lost:
      • One Goblin Contract (such Contracts have some nasty side effects) serves as both ends of the trope. You can uncover anything you want to know about anything you've encountered... but you gain a derangement for the duration of the next day. And you only get the mild derangements if you roll high; if you roll low, you can look forward to 24 hours of schizophrenia. And once that wears off, you forget what you learned. Hope that you're lucid enough to write it down.
      • The College of Worms is an Entitlement that believes in the value of portents and omens. Unfortunately, for every three serious scholars of fate, there's one loon who thinks the College is the perfect place to express themselves.
    • Exalted: Abyssal Exalted can take a background known as Whispers. This allows them to directly consult their dead-but-not-gone Eldritch Abomination masters. Seeing as the Exalted have minds that are still essentially human while the Neverborn are most definitely not, characters with high Whispers are a little, um, odd.
    • Hunter: The Reckoning: Members of the Hermit creed all have a direct line to the Powers That Be, giving them oracular insight at the cost of overloading their psyches, which forces them to withdraw from human contact (hence the name).
    • Mage: The Awakening: The Ministers are fantastically powerful Archmasters who lead the Ministries of the godlike Exarchs and serve as their representatives in the material world. However, the psychic bond to their patron Exarch basically burns out their minds, so these paragons of magic spend their time sequestered in Pocket Dimensions, drooling and babbling gnomic prophecies.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: All members of the Malkavian Clan are this, whether they know it or not. They all go insane as part of the Embrace (and that doesn't count the tendency to Embrace those who are already insane), but they become attuned to the "Malkavian Madness Network" (a sort-of latent Hive Mind that runs through the clan's Antediluvian) and thus know things that no one else does.

  • Ophelia from Hamlet is often portrayed like this in the mad scenes. Many researchers believe that her madness gives her the ability to sense everything (unfortunately, she's unable to express her thoughts properly, which makes her a Cassandra-like character).
  • The Fool in King Lear is sometimes played this way, depending on the production.
  • Some productions of Romeo and Juliet depict Mercutio as this, with his rambling speeches foretelling the tragedies that befall the characters by the play's end.
    "A plague o' both your houses!"

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Subject 16 is unstable at the best of times — and stark raving mad at the worst — but his ramblings are always far more relevant than they first appear. He does know what he's talking about. The problem, naturally, lies in figuring out what he's talking about.
  • City of Villains has Diviner Maros and Mender Lazarus, who can see through all of time and often confuse cause and effect and talk to you about adventures you haven't even taken yet. Maros even uses his gift to lampshade the way that other contacts often send you out to figure out where the next mission is on your own, as seen here.
    "The Freakshow in the cult are going to try to kill you now, but since you don't yet know where to go to take the fight to them, they have the advantage. However, we can edit out all of the tedious searching for hideouts and interrogation. I will tell you where to go."
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Prophet was once a hermit who preached that the Ancestor's research would bring doom to the Hamlet and tried to turn the people against him. After several failed attempts to murder the man, the Ancestor showed him exactly what he was working on. The Prophet went completely over the edge, gouged out his own eyes in horror, and fled into the depths of the Ruins, where he raised an army of cultists and mad-men to serve the very evil that he tried to stop with everything he had before his fall from sanity.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Ulstyr Moresby, a character from 'Chance's Folly', one of the many books that can be found in the series. The eponymous 'Chance' is an infamous thief who learns about an ancient tomb that, though full of traps and monsters, has untold riches within. She enlists the assistance of Ulstyr, a gigantic warrior who mutters incoherently to himself and is generally viewed as eccentric by the other townsfolk. Throughout the story, whenever he speaks (including before they actually start the journey), he repeats several key phrases:
      • Chitin: The Chitin armour he ended up taking along with him helped to protect him from a rainstorm that arose on the pair's way to the tomb.
      • Hot steel: He brought a sword that was imbued with fire magic, which proved effective against the ice elementals that dwelled inside the catacombs.
      • Fifty-three: When they reached the room where the treasure lay, there were fifty-three bags within, all filled with gold.
      • Drain ring: Chance was hiding an enchanted ring under her glove that allowed the wearer to sap the vitality of its target (which, growing suspicious of how many of Ulstyr's ramblings seemed to be coming true, she considered using against him once they could claim the treasure).
      • Walls beyond doors: When Chance entered the room, the door snapped shut behind her. On her side, the door looked exactly like the walls around her, leaving her with no way to escape.
      • Two months and back: Ulstyr left and then returned to the tomb after two months, by which time Chance had died in that very same room.
      • Prop a rock: Ulstyr stopped the door from trapping him by propping it open with a rock, allowing him to take the treasure for himself.
      • At one point, Chance wonders to herself if the rumours about the insane being in communication with the Daedric Prince Sheogorath were true and if he was relaying this information to Ulstyr through this madness.
    • Oblivion: Dagail, Bosmer leader of the Leyawiin Mages' Guild Hall, hears 'The Voices' which tell her of the future. On her own, the voices drive her into madness, barely able to form a coherent sentence (which is problematic, considering you're there for a written recommendation), reducing her to cryptic words and statements. Luckily, her father (who had the same power) has an Amulet that reduces The Voices to a manageable level. Once she's lucid, Dagail reveals that she knew you would come and help her eventually, and that Kalthar was the one who stole her original Amulet.
  • The Hand of Repose in the Exmortis games serves this purpose when allowed to speak; normally, he acts as a living gateway for the Exmortis demons to return to Earth through, but his position as an anthropomorphic wormhole has allowed him to see a little way into the future - resulting in the Prophecy of the Hand booklet given to you in the second game. And in a particularly interesting twist, the Hand is none other than the PC of the first game.
  • From the Fallout franchise:
    • "No-Bark Noonan" of Novac appears to be a crazy conspiracy theorist, and he is, but his information holds surprising and important insights somewhere amidst all the nuttery.
    • Mama Murphy has "the Sight," which she claims allows her to glimpse the future, the past, and the present. She has an odd cadence to her speech as if she isn't entirely within the moment. She uses various chems to invoke the Sight, and it's likely that a lifetime of substance abuse has fried her brain.
  • In Mass Effect on Eden Prime there is an apparently insane scientist who only gives terrified, cryptic statements and claims to be the Only Sane Man. When you learn of the Reapers, you'll realize exactly what he was talking about.
    • And again in Mass Effect 2 where the crazy doomsayer on Omega appears to have read the game script ahead of time. His cryptic prophecies all turn out to be correct later.
  • Portal 2 gives us 'The Unredeemed Turret'. Turrets in the Portal games are sweet, sapient little robots designed to riddle everything moving with as many bullets as possible. Any that are "different" are placed on the 'redemption line' to die a horrible flaming death as they're melted down for scrap. At one point in the game you're able to rescue one who thanks you, and makes some rather strange statements, such as "get mad", "the answer is beneath us", "her name is Caroline", "Prometheus was banished by the gods for giving knowledge to man. He was sent to the bowels of the Earth...pecked at by birds", and finally, "don't make lemonade." It's all Foreshadowing. The turret's words referencing that beneath them are about Old Aperture, where the company was founded. Cave Johnson was the founder, and as expected (given Aperture Science) was quite insane, so much so that when he learned he was dying and recalled an aphorism about making lemonade from life's lemons he went on a bizarre rant about turning the lemons into bombs to blow up life's house. His assistant was Caroline, who was turned into GLaDOS. And GLaDOS does indeed get cast into the earth to be pecked at by birds.
  • Runescape's Postbag from the Hedge pages sometimes have the Chaos Elemental give cryptic hints of future content.
  • Inverted in The Secret World, where bit NPC Sarah is having a mental breakdown because every day hundreds of people are having visions through her, forcing her to relive her traumatic memories over and over.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is based on the tabletop game above and retains the Malkavians' prophetic madness.
    • A Malkavian Player Character has unique dialog options that frequently reveal hidden information about people the moment you start talking to them. It's outright stated that a Malkavian character has absolutely no idea what any of the things he/she sees about people actually mean and can't help but utter them aloud.
      Bertram: Oh shit. A Malkavian. I guess I'll finally get what you're talking about in a month or so. Man, I hate talking to you guys! It's like I'm getting answers to questions I haven't even asked!
    • Rosa is one of the Thin-Bloods hiding on the beach near the Santa Monica Pier. She's more coherent than any given Malkavian, but does dip into incoherence due to unwanted glimpses into the future: nonetheless, for twenty dollars, she'll give you some cryptic riddles that seem like nonsense until you actually start encountering what they refer to in the game.


    Web Original 
  • Mac from the <3-Verse can see the future when he's not stoned, but he's stoned almost all the time. I wonder why...
  • Moira Vu Noi in The Gungan Council is borderline insane with the number of visions she has seen, including those of Darth Apparatus which made her develop an insane obsession for him.
  • Subject Five of Unlikely Eden speaks in an oddly reversed poetic manner. Every one of her predictions is reputed to be inevitable. It's just that no one (including her) can be sure what they mean.
  • Circe, in the Whateley Universe. Yes, that Circe. She's a couple thousand years old, and she's now a teacher at Whateley Academy. And when she predicts things, she tends to ramble weirdly. Okay, sometimes she rambles weirdly when she's not predicting stuff...
    • In the Whateley Universe, there are very, very few powerful precogs. The strongest one shown in-universe is Mrs. Potter, who has been the proverbial butterfly for quite a lot of the series' events. The reason for this is simple: the sheer, unadulterated flow of information quickly burns out their minds, leaving them stark raving mad. This was weaponized against Mimeo, an extremely powerful Mimic — he attempted to copy Mrs. Potter's power, and collapsed into a gibbering heap until the effects wore off.

    Western Animation 
  • Banana Barbara from The Amazing World of Gumball paints pictures that predict the future. And each time she does it she stares around blankly.
  • Ronaldo from Steven Universe is on the one hand a kooky conspiracy theorist, but on the other hand has an odd habit of predicting things entire seasons before they're actually revealed. Some examples: he's the first person who ever mentions the term Diamond Authority, despite having no idea what it actually is or any real evidence it exists at all, and he's also the first person who ever says anything about a human zoo, again having no knowledge that such a thing actually exists.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mad Prophet


Dr. Manuel of Eden Prime

Commander Shepard encounter a pair of human scientists on Eden Prime during the opening mission of the game. One of them, Dr. Manuel, is constantly rambling about a coming apocalyptic darkness that will bring about the destruction of humanity. Everyone believes he's just lost his mind... but later it turns out he was warning about the Reapers.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MadOracle

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