So-called Moon Man Ken Ring is backing away from his prediction that Christchurch will be whacked by a huge earthquake today.

His back-pedalling comes as the Herald on Sunday reveals his background as a magician and fortune-teller - with expertise understanding a cat's "psychic" influences by studying its paws.

Ring yesterday skipped his untidy West Auckland home to hole up in the $1 million Herne Bay house of daughter Miriam.

He refused to defend claims that have terrified Cantabrians and led to people fleeing Christchurch.

The fear was such yesterday that even residents staying in the stricken city were stocking up on petrol, water and other disaster supplies.

Miriam Ring said her father would not comment on his prediction, had been unfairly pressed by the media and had only offered the date as a suggestion.

On this week, Ken Ring said he never predicted another earthquake on March 20 exactly.

"I said the 20th but I also qualified it only as a potential, as with all my forecasts. I would never be so silly and presumptive as to state (and mean) something WILL happen, when there are so many factors and unknown variables in weather and earthquakes."

Then he said: "Would it not be more constructive to offer hope and prayers for the people of Christchurch who have lost so much, rather than to continue to kick at me for imagined inconsistencies?"

Yet on September 7 - days after the first big earthquake - Ring made his first online seismic predictions on his website.

He wrote "the morning of 20 March 2011 sees the South Island again in a big earthquake risk".

Ring said at 9.44am the moon would be at its closest point to earth for 2011.

"All factors should come together for a moon-shot straight through the centre of the earth and targeting NZ. The time will be just before noon. It could be another for the history books."

Weather forecaster Philip Duncan said Ring had fired up a lot of debate.

"He's created a lot of genuine fear and that's not a good thing. I've got no problem he's not a scientist but to be credible you have to be consistently accurate and pinpoint things."

Magician Alan Watson said he had known Ring since the forecaster worked as a magician called Mr Goodtimes in the 1970s.

Ring was former president of the now-defunct New Zealand Society of Magicians and is described on as a lecturer, speech therapist, author, actor, clown and magician known as Mathman.

He is co-author of Pawmistry: How to Read Your Cat's Paws, which teaches ways to read a cat's mood and "explores the psychic influences that numerology and the zodiac have on your cat".

Watson visited Auckland's Starship Hospital in 1995 with Ring and a rabbit known as Milkyway.

"He makes kids happy and is a very giving person," said Watson. "He used to teach maths as Mathman, in an unorthodox, fun way. He's always had a great love of maths."

Ring had been hurt by the reaction to his latest prediction, Watson said.

"He's been shocked and upset. He thought he was doing a service to help people and save lives. He's not getting anything out of it. In fact, he's only had grief."

Watson said Ring was like a doctor diagnosing a terminal illness. "If you've got six months to live should your doctor not say so?"

Christchurch residents have left the city for fear of being trapped in another earthquake.

Avondale resident Nicky Taylor left for Waikuku on Friday with her two children Tim, 6 and Charlotte, 4.

She said there would be a lot of anxiety in the city this weekend. "If something happened I'd feel terrible. It's a long weekend and a good excuse to get out."

Ring's heart was in the right place, said Taylor and "he seems to know what he's talking about".

ACC Minister Nick Smith and the Sceptics Society are holding a lunch today to mock Ring's prediction.