This is the fifth and final part of a series (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) covering several ways that humanity’s time on Earth could conceivably come to an end. The study of the apocalypse, known as eschatology has been a pervasive force in religion, science, and popular culture since the development of the first cultures on Earth. Some of the theories about the end of days are more plausible than others, but all are thought-provoking nonetheless. Well, the day has come and gone, and we are still here. This isn’t the first time someone has Incorrectly Predicted the Apocalypse to the end!
Wow…I don’t believe it. December 21st, 2012, the day that was supposed to herald the end, has come and gone – and we are still here. My shock is palpable! Not really folks…after all, the first four parts in this series basically explained how everything except the end of the world could happen today. Even the Mayans didn’t explicitly say it would be the end! So, in an attempt to offer the doomsday preppers out there a bit of consolation, I thought I would share a few other past doomsday predictions that never came true. But first, enjoy this very appropriate song –
1666 AD – It all makes so much sense!…right?…
There actually isn’t too much behind this one. Basically, it was believed that the year 1666 would herald the end of the world, the Battle of Armageddon, and all sorts of other terrible things. Why this year? Well they started with the year 1000 being the first full millennium after the birth of Christ, and then added 666, which is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as being the number of the beast. Of course – it makes perfect sense! With such advanced mathematics, it is hard to believe that the world didn’t end in this year. Then again, it would have made much more sense for the world to just have ended in the year 666 AD…
Unfortunately, there was one terrible event that happened in Europe – a huge fire that burned in London for three days in September 1666. Although the death toll was extremely small, 7 out of 8 homes were burned, leaving 70,000 people basically homeless for months. The breakdown in society that it caused was catastrophic and probably seemed a bit like the apocalypse for a while.
1997 – The Opening of Heaven’s Gate
This is definitely the saddest and most disturbing of the bunch. In the early 1970’s, a man named Marshall Applewhite found a religious cult named Heaven’s Gate. Basically, members of the cult believed that sometime in the future, the Earth would be “recycled” – in other words, wiped clean. Fortunately for them, they had secret knowledge of a way to “evacuate” the Earth before it was recycled. They believed that they consciousness was separate from their bodies, and that their bodies were only a vehicle for them to move to the Next Level. Members of Heaven’s Gate gave up all their worldly posessions and lived an almost monastic life among others in the community.
Then, their moment of transcendence finally came. Applewhite recorded several videos explaining how the evacuation of Earth could be achieved: he believed that a UFO would be following the Hale-Bopp comet as it passed our planet, and that it could pick them up if they had faith in his message. And that is where the story takes a tragic turn. On March 26th, 1997, police entered a mansion the group had been renting in San Diego and found the bodies of 39 people, including Applewhite. They had committed mass suicide in groups, were all wearing identical black shirts and pants, all had the same black Nike shoes, with five dollars and three quarters in their pockets, armbands saying “Heaven’s Gate Away Team”, and all but two of them were lying neatly in their bunk beds with their torso and faces covered with square, purple cloth – presumably because those two were the last to die and nobody was left to prepare their bodies. The weirdest part of this whole thing? Their website is still up, looking as if it hasn’t been changed since early 1997.
2000 – The Y2K Bug!!!
Yikes!!! Remember this? I was sitting at home with my family watching New Year’s Eve late night shows, wondering if the lights were really going out at midnight. Of course, they didn’t, but it was still amazing how much hype there was about it.
The origin of the Y2K scare was this: many older, long-running computer systems had coding that represented the year as two digits instead of four; for example, 1982 was only found as 82 in the computer’s code. Therefore, when the new year arrived, dates in computers around the world would go from 99 to 00 – something that caused problem for some system’s logic processes. Technically, this was not a difficult problem to correct, but it still created a huge scare. Many predicted that public computer systems would break down, leading to massive failures in electrical and utility grids, banking systems, and more essential services. This snowballed a bit as the new millennium got closer – some even predicted things like mass extinctions and alien invasions.
Obviously, this didn’t happen – but it was still an interesting time to be alive.
1874, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 – Jehovah’s Witnesses
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t intend to make fun of Jehovah’s Witnesses at all – but they have an awful track record for predicting the return of Christ and the end of the world. You can see from the above dates that they are 0 – 7, although some of those years had awful things happen that made the predictions not a total loss. For example, 1914 was the start of the first World War, which they saw as being the Battle of Armageddon. Same thing in 1941, when Hitler consolidated his hold over Europe and was seemingly on his way to conquering Russia.
However, it was eventually predicted that 1975 would definitely mark the return of Christ and the end of the world. JW members were encouraged to quit their jobs, sell their homes, and turn to full-time evangelization. Unfortunately for them, 1975 came and went, and there was subsequently a massive exodus from the church that it has arguably yet to recover from. Hey, at least they were resilient!
The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?
I admit, researching and writing about all the science and lore surrounding our supposed impending doom has been very fun and extremely fascinating. Unfortunately, it seems like it is finally time to move on to some other topics that may be a little more relevant. I’m glad we will all be around on December 22nd, and I hope you all enjoyed reading this series. See you all in 2013!