Apocalypse… not just yet

In the wake of Harold Camping's erroneous prediction that the end of the world would come on 21 May, we look at other mistaken forecasts of armageddon.

Harold CampingPA

Followers of a California-based religious groups called Family Radio had expected a series of earthquakes to hit successive countries at 6pm local time on Saturday. This was to signal the start of The Rapture, in which millions of the Faithful would ascend to heaven before the Second Coming of Christ. Instead, the world continued turning as normal.

The man behind the prediction, 89-year-old retired civil engineer Harold Camping (pictured), had previously predicted the end of the world to occur in 1994. When this failed to happen, he blamed mathematical error. This time, Camping and his followers spent over $100m worldwide to promote what they believed to be the forthcoming apocalypse.

Camping is not the first, and will certainly not be the last, to prophesise the end of the world. Here are a few others who have tried and failed.

Heaven's Gate

Members of the Heaven's Gate cult in San Diego believed that the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet in the spring of 1997 portended the arrival of a spaceship. This craft was to begin the destruction - or "recycling" - of the Earth. To survive the coming apocalypse, cult leader Marshall Applewhite (pictured below) ordered his small group of followers to leave their "flesh bodies", so that their souls could board the UFO.

On 19 March he recorded a video message proclaiming that mass suicide was "the only way to evacuate this Earth". Seven days later police found the partially-decomposed bodies of 38 Heaven's Gate members, plus that of Applewhite, in a rented mansion. There were no reports of the simultaneous arrival of a spacecraft.

Marshall ApplewhitePA

William Miller and the Great Disappointment

William Miller was a Baptist preacher from Massachusetts. Studies of the Bible suggested to him that the world would end in 1843 with the second coming of Jesus Christ. He publicised his views widely, and quickly won many followers, dubbed Millerites, all of whom believed his apocalyptic prediction.

To begin with, Miller refused to name a precise date for armageddon, but he did amend his prophecy to claim that "Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between 21 March 1843, and 21 March 1844." When this period passed without incident, Miller opted for 18 April. When this too failed to herald the second coming, he adjusted his forecast to 22 October. This date became known as the Great Disappointment. Miller died in 1849, still convinced that the day of judgement was near at hand.

A member of the God's Salvation ChurchPA

God's Salvation Church

A Taiwanese sect in the Dallas suburb of Garland prophesised that God would make an appearance on channel 18 of every television set on the planet at one minute past midnight on 22 March 1998, to announce that the world would end nine days later. Unfortunately for the sect, He did not show up.

Heng-ming Chen, leader of the God's Salvation Church, called a press conference to say: "Even though the image doesn't show on television, I don't have any reason to doubt the existence of the Supreme Being, God, in this universe." His group had predicted an apocalypse involving a mixture of religious revelation and UFOs. Their Chinese name, Chen Tao, translated roughly as "God Saves the Earth Flying Saucer Association".

The Amazing Criswell

Jeron Criswell Konig, better known as Charles Criswell King, was a 20th century American psychic who went under the stage name The Amazing Criswell. He specialised in predictions of a particularly outlandish kind; he once forecast that the city of Denver would be hit by a space-ray that would give metal the properties of rubber.

Criswell had a keen sense of how to generate self-publicity. He won just as much notoriety for his eccentric lifestyle as his prophecies, including his fondness for sequinned tuxedos and the rumour that he slept in a coffin. His most fantastic prediction was that the world would end on 18 August 1999, accompanied by an outbreak of mass cannibalism. Sadly Criswell did not live long enough to see this prove to be completely untrue.

Nostradamus

Ever since their publication in 1555, the writings of the French soothsayer Nostradamus (pictured below), or Michel de Nostredame. have been linked to dozens of historical events. Everything from the Great Fire of London in 1666 to the rise of Adolf Hitler has supposedly been foretold in his manuscripts, albeit in highly ambiguous terms. One passage of text became particularly famous due to its apocalyptic undertones: "In the year 1999 and seven months, from the sky will come the Great King of Terror." Naturally this did not come to pass.

NostradamusRex Features


Pastor John Hinkle

Pastor John Hinkle, of Christ Church Los Angels, believed the world would end on 9 June 1994. Unlike many other soothsayers, who have based their predictions on numerology, Hinkle claimed to have received a vision for God. Quoting God, Hinkle said: "On Thursday, 9 June, I will rip the evil out of this world."

Sheldon Nidle

Sheldon Nidle's prediction was one of the more unusual eschatological claims. The California psychic said the end of the world would come on 17 December 1996, when 16 million spaceships and a host of angels would converge on Earth. When the date passed without incident Nidle tried to save face by claiming that the angels, instead of destroying the planet, placed us in a holographic projection to preserve humans, giving us a second chance.

Lee Jang Rim and the Mission For The Coming Days

Korean-born Lee Jang Rim started his church called Mission for the Coming Days and claimed that the end of the world would come at 9:00am on 28 October 1992. Rim said that Jesus would return through Sydney Harbour and his church had over 10,000 followers. When the day passed without incident Rim went into hiding and some of his followers committed suicide. Rim was later jailed for two year after embezzling $4.4 million from his followers.

Sydney HarbourSteve Parsons, PA

And here are two that you should watch out for:

Michael Drosnin

After looking through the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) Michael Drosnin claimed to have found a hidden message, which predicts that a comet will crash into the earth in 2012 and annihilate all life.

Professor Lloyd Cunningdale

While the professor was excavating the site of the Donner Party, he claims to have found evidence that points to the end of the world. Cunningdale claims his find says that humans will abandon conventional methods of conflict and resort to biological warfare. One such disease will spread and kill us all sometime in 2016.