Don't panic. According to the Mayans, the world was going to end on Friday, December 21, 2012. Whether by a reversal of the Earth's rotational axis, a collision with mysterious Niburu, or by some kind of implosion black hole issue, the Mayan calendar clearly indicates this TGIF would be our last. Except it wasn't. Neither was Harold Camping's prediction, Pat Robertson's, or anyone elses's.
No matter how many times religious "prophets" predict doomsday based on numerology, the Bible or scientists wrongly calculate a comet's effect on the planet (Isaac Newton even wrote his own prediction of the apocalypse that was published after his death), people have kept bracing themselves for the end of the world or committing suicide to spare themselves from witnessing the Apocalypse (which, c'mon, would be pretty awesome to see).
Here are 15 failed apocalyptic prophecies of the past, from the scare of the Y2K Millennium Bug to the purported return of Baby Jesus in 1814.
Amateur Astrologist's False Observation Leads to Mass Suicide in 1997Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
When amateur astronomist Chuck Shramek took a fuzzy CCD image of the comet Hale-Bopp, which was set to reappear in 1997, he mistakenly observed that a Saturn-like object was trailing behind it. The observation reached message boards on the early, pre-YouTube Internet and spread, making UFO enthusiasts predict that an alien spacecraft was trailing the comet.
The closeness of the comet's appearance to the new millennium led religious cults like Heaven's Gate to see it as a sign of the apocalypse.
39 people in the cult committed mass suicide in California because they believed the UFO disguising itself through the comet was there to rescue them from a doomed Earth. How they thought killing themselves would help them get on the UFO makes no sense. Other cults who thought themselves to be creatures from other planets were waiting for the UFO to take them back home and end their "visit" on Earth.
Later it was discovered that two astronomers from the University of Hawaii had actually taken the photo and Shramek's had been altered to add the object. Oh, how gullible people were before the magics of social media and Photoshop were well known. I'll be right back, I need to drink my Acai, wheatgrass and bacon shot.
The Heaven's Gate cult has been made fun of in various parts of pop culture and has become one of the many cult laughing stocks that we now have forever. We have that information now, and can make fun of it whenever we want, so maybe it's not that big of a fail.This is probably the most notable of them all:
Joanna Southcott Claims She Will Give Birth to The Second Jesus in 1814Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
If this lady existed in modern day, she would most likely write slash fiction.
In 1814, a British virgin over 60 years old from Devon, England declared that she was the woman in Revelation (12:1-6) --
1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
According to her visions, she was pregnant with the next Christ and would give birth to him on Christmas day of that year. Despite the certainty that she had already gone through menopause and could no longer reproduce, Southcott was convinced that she was the next Mary. The second coming of Jesus would mean judgment day.
This wasn't enough proof for her 100,000 followers, however. Some kept believing in her until their death and up until 1927, one woman even put a large fortune behind publishing Southcott's writings
So where her prediction fell through was instead of giving birth on Christmas day, she died. So she was way off.
Y2K Bug Threatens To Plunge World Into Chaos. Nutjobs Prepare.Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
Instead of getting ready to party hard to celebrate the privilege of welcoming a new millennium, theories that computers would shut down completely when they reached 00 due to the use of two digits for years (97,98,00) raised panic throughout the world.
People bought gas-powered generators in case of massive power outages and stocked up on canned food and water because they were convinced that without computers running companies could not operate and the world would fall into chaos. In a Time article about Y2k that was written in 1998, the Eckhart family was featured as they prepared for the disaster. They loaded up on weapons (handguns, shotguns and rifles) in case any of the "unprepared" ones came onto their property after the New Year hit and Mrs. Eckhart made sure to learn some dentistry and medicine in case of emergencies.
Never thought of that, did you? Where's the dentist in your apocalypse plan? All you've got are swords, boards and nails, and awesome looking leather stuff. What would you even wear (here are some ideas)? These people actually thought ahead of time.
The acronym circulating on Y2k Internet sites was TEOTWAWKI or The End of the World as We Know It (as perpetuated by some Christian groups). A Christian Coalition even speculated that Bill Clinton would take advantage of the chaos to take over as dictator of America.
And all because someone didn't think ahead of time to put four digits instead of two for the years. Whoever did that math wrong must've felt terrible.
Needless to say, the millennium came, people still celebrated by freezing their asses off in Times Square and it only took several years for a recession to creep up on the U.S. and usher in the kind of financial meltdown that Y2K-enthusiasts had been predicting in the first place. So, you know, yay.
Someone should've carried the 1
Taiwanese Cult Leader Says God Will Arrive in SpaceshipPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY
"The True Way" (Chen Tao) was a cult started by a Taiwanese national named Hon-Ming Chen who was originally an atheist and a professor. The movement was a mix of Buddhism, Taoism and UFOlogy. Three things that obviously fit together.
Chen believed the Universe was 4.5 trillion years old and had been created by a nuclear war. He also believed there had been five tribulations in the past which were survived by UFOs rescuing Earth's inhabitants each time.
Chen predicted that God would appear on cable television in North America at midnight on March 31, 1998, regardless of whether you subscribed to cable or not. After announcing his return, he would land on Earth in his spacecraft. To prepare for God's arrival, "The True Way's" 140 members moved to Garland, Texas because it sounded like "God Land," bought twenty homes and started wearing cowboy hats.
When the prophecy didn't come true Chen offered to be crucified or stoned but no one carried out the punishment. 2/3 of the members abandoned the group, some because of visa problems that forced them to move back to Taiwan. In other words, people were so disappointed that they didn't even care enough to want revenge on the guy.