It was a very entertaining act," says Terry Sanford, president of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

"Of course it's a trick, a mere illusion," declares Dennis Sowers, the proprietor of a store called the Magic Corner in nearby Raleigh.

Sanford and Sowers were talking about Stanley H. Fried, 18, a Duke freshman who uncannily predicted the collision of those 747s in the Canary Islands. It was coupled with another Fried prediction, Marquette's defeat of North Carolina in the NCAA basketball finals. Says Fried, who is called Lee, "I don't like the word 'trick.' "

Here are the facts. On Monday, March 21, Lee, an electrical engineering student from New Orleans and an amateur magician since he was 14, appeared at President Sanford's office. He carried sheets of cardboard on which he said he had printed headlines that would appear in six North Carolina newspapers. Lee asked Sanford, Duke community relations director Paul Vick and a Durham newsman to sign the back of each card. None of them saw the headlines. In the presence of all three, Lee placed the cards in an envelope, sealed it with wax and placed it in Sanford's desk drawer. The Duke president locked the drawer and placed the key in a small wooden box with a combination lock.

On Tuesday, March 29, Vick removed the sealed envelope and took it to a local TV show to be opened and read. Fried was in his dorm at the time. The air crash headline is at right. Fried's sports head was "Marquette Bursts UNC Bubble; Wins 68-58." The News and Observer's: "Marquette Pokes Hole in Tar Heels' Bubble." The actual score was 67-59. "I don't claim to have ESP," Fried says. "The human brain is an amazing thing. I've been able to train myself to do this."

An admirer of Houdini, Fried also has tried escapes—"handcuffs, ropes and chains, but I have not yet been locked in a trunk and thrown over Niagara Falls." For the moment, however, Lee is giving up magic. "I've got to get back," he says, "to the business of being a student.