Failed End of the World Predictions
By Editorial Staff
Contributed by Info Guru Angela Hail
There have been countless predictions of The End, dating back since we humans first realized our mortality.
We are a tenacious bunch, however, and despite our very best attempts have managed to avoid the obliteration foretold by every end times prediction made so far. That is, until the sun explodes some several billion years from now … if we make it that far.
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10. Christopher Columbus: The Rapture
After sailing the ocean blue, getting more than a little lost, winding up in the Americas, mistakenly calling the natives he found there “Indians,” and then finally admitting to discovering a whole new continent (some time after the Vikings had already been there), Columbus settled down to write a few religious texts before he died. The last of these was a little tome called Book of Prophecies, in which he predicted Christ would return and the world would end in 1656. He died a year after the book’s publication in 1505, so never knew if for once he finally got something right.
9. Charles Manson: Apocalyptic Race War
Now here’s a standup guy–convicted murderer, psychopath, and erstwhile cult leader of the 1960s–Manson predicted an apocalyptic race war which would be responsible for the end of the world as we know it. And, of course, his hellish band of hippie harbingers, the Manson Family, were supposed to bring about this end times vision by committing some of the most notorious murders in American history. We all know how the story ends. Innocent people died, the monsters were sent to prison, and the world just keeps on spinning. World: 1, Manson: 0
8. Pat Robertson: The Rapture (again)
Quite possibly the most well known evangelical preacher alive today, Pat Robertson himself couldn’t resist the urge to tell the world just when it would come to an end … twice. His first prediction was made in the 1970s, announcing Armageddon was imminent, oh, sometime between October and November 1982. When that didn’t happen, Robertson had the good sense to lie low on the whole prophecy bit. That is, until the spirit came to him again while he was writing his 1990 book The New Millennium. Here he indicated the world would be destroyed on April 29, 2007. Of his failed predictions, Robertson was quoted as saying, “I have a relatively good track record. Sometimes I miss.”
7. Harold Camping: The Rapture (yet again)
This Christian author and radio broadcaster is responsible for the loss of many of his followers pensions, homes, and livelihoods after emphatically predicting the rapture, not once but three different times, on September 6, 1994, May 21, 2011, and finally October 21, 2011. When he made the 2011 predictions, word spread far and wide. Followers quit their jobs and donated large sums of money for advertisements in the hopes of reaching as many believers as possible. In a surprising show of humility, he has since recanted.
6. Heaven’s Gate: Annihilation by Comet
While Camping’s predictions may have cost his followers some funds and misplaced faith, at least he can say that no one died on his watch. Not so for Marshall Applewhite, leader of the San Diego UFO cult, who convinced his followers that, in March 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp would pass through the earth’s atmosphere, followed closely by an alien spacecraft. The comet would destroy the earth, but those who left their “vehicles” (the Heaven’s Gate term for the human body) behind would be taken up by the passing alien ship and be spared. On March 26, 1997, police found the bodies of Applewhite and 38 followers who had all committed suicide in successive groups over the course of three days, beginning March 24th. Some stories are simply too tragic to laugh about.
5. Y2K & the Apocalypse
The year 2000 was the year that everyone, from Isaac Newton () to the IT guy living next door, thought would be the end. Predictions about the turn of the millennium ranged from the coming of Christ’s return to All Technology Everywhere Failing, leading to worldwide societal collapse. We’ve had a rich history of fearing the looming millennial shift. But midnight, January 1, 2000 clicked over, and life kept going. Business as usual.
4. Death by Planetary Collision: Planet X
Also called the Nibiru cataclysm, this doomsday event was first proposed by Nancy Lieder, the leader of the website, Zeta Talk. She claimed to have been contacted by aliens and implanted with a device which enabled her to receive messages from them. She also said she was to give us all a warning that, in the year 2003, there would be an errant planet or planet-sized object which would collide with our own planet, destroying all life on earth. The idea spread far and wide, and was eventually hijacked by many Mayan Calendar doomsayers, to be applied to our impending demise on December 21, 2012. (See failed prediction #1)
3. Annihilation by Science: The Large Hadron Collider
Sometimes truth is cooler than (or at least as cool as) fiction. Here’s the setup: In 2008, a gigantic monster of a scientific instrument called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, came into being at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. But there were concerns that use of such a machine might not be entirely safe. Theories abounded that these experiments might create micro black holes which could swallow up all existence, or worse. In 2009 they fired it up, while more than a few people held their collective breaths. Nothing reality-collapsing happened. They did it again, with increased power this time, in 2010, still with no annihilating side effects. So far, so good. Of course, they have yet to crank the LHC up to full power, so we probably shouldn’t speak too soon.
2. Ronald Weinland: The Rapture (that’s right, again)
This repeat offender is the founder of the Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God (a mouthful of a name which is commonly shortened to COG-PKG). Claiming to be appointed by God as one of two “end time witnesses” mentioned in the Book of Revelation, Weinland first predicted the return of Christ in September 2008 and then in May 2012. He now claims God was being merciful and has pushed the Savior’s return to May 2013. For real, this time. As an aside, our dear would-be prophet was convicted in November 2012 and sentenced to 42 months in prison for tax evasion. Apparently honesty is not a prerequisite for soothsaying.
1. Mayan Calendar: Death by … Something That Might Happen on 12/21/12
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In our most recent display of mass hysteria, many people became aware that the Mayan Calendar ends on December 21, 2012. The popular translation of this became that we’re all going to die. Of course, we didn’t. Apparently the Mayans putting away the old chisel and letting their elaborate calendar come to a conclusion had nothing to do with the end of all existence. My guess is that they moved onto other things. And maybe we should all take a deep breath now and do the same. There’s no bigger waste of life than to spend it fearing the end.
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