There's been a lot of John Cusak-related hubbub about the end of the Mayan calendar meaning the end of the world, but Harold Camping isn't buying that crap. "It's like a fairy tale," he chuckles.
Because by the time 2012 comes around, according to Camping, who developed his theory with "biblical math," it'll all be over, anyway; he's certain "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the world will end on May 21, 2011 -- and a lot of people are convinced he's right, including Marie Exley, a Colorado Springs woman leading a growing organization of people devoted to getting Camping's word out/mildly troubling their friends and relatives with evangelism and creepy billboards (Exley herself spent $1,200 dollars on them -- she's unemployed, just by the way). Until then, here's a few end-of-days scenarios that did not come to pass.
For your convenience, we've broken it down chronologically, by year of predicted apocalypse; some dates are more specific than others. We're also guessing that, even though all the information we could find on world-ending prophesy came post-anno domini, probably some folks in the pre-Judeo-Christian era had their own ideas about when it all would end, too. As it turns out, though, people didn't have to wait too long after Christ for the predictions to start rolling in.
5. Hippolytus: 400 A.D. Running on the biblical theory of the seventh day being one of rest, Hippolytus calculated way back in the third century that some 5,500 years had passed between the creation of Adam and the birth of Christ. When 6,000 years were up, he figured, that would be the seventh day of the Lord, and then it was all over; therefore, since they were somewhere around 5,800 right then, the world had about two centuries left to go, putting the final coming around the year 400. By most accounts, it's true that that year sucked -- but it wasn't, as they say, the end of the world.
4. 1,000 + Sign of the Beast = curtains The post-Christ calender having been solidified in most parts of Europe about 800 years earlier, people were able to get much more specific with their predictions, given that they agreed upon an idea of time. Thus, 1666, which is what you get when you add 666 to 1,000, was predicted to bring the end times. Despite a particularly shitty year in London, which experienced a devestating bubonic plague outbreak and the famously harsh London fire, time continued marching ever forward.
3. Joseph Smith turns 85: 1890 When the founder of the Church of Latter-day Saints asked God to give him an ETA on the Second Coming, the Lord, in typically inscrutable style, gave him more of a riddle: "Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter." But that line leaves us with more certainty that Smith was getting on the Lord's nerves than the date of the Second Coming; if Smith had lived to see 85, that would've pegged the date at 1890. He didn't, though -- apparently, he had also gotten on the nerves of an angry mob.
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2. The planets are aligned, baby: 1982 The only one of these not based on religion, this one is based on science, albeit shitty science. In 1974, John Gribbin, Ph.D., and Stephen Plagemann published the best-selling Jupiter Effect, which theorized that the alignment of all nine planets (there were nine then) in the solar system on one side of the sun would have Armageddon-like gravitational effects on earth -- and even though it was considered pretty thin science even at the time, mass panic ensued. One year after it didn't happen, the two published The Jupiter Effect Revisited, in which they theorized the effect had actually taken place in 1980, triggering the eruption of Mount St. Helens, even though there was no planetary alignment in that year. Fifteen years after that, Gribbin said of his former theory, "I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with it."
1. Harold Camping again: 1994 Yeah, remember him? He's the guy predicting the End of Days for May 21 -- despite his pretty poor track record of world-end prophesy so far. Back in 1992, based on the same calculations he drew his current conclusions from, Camping predicted the world would end pretty close to September 6, 1994. When the Rapture failed to materialize then, Camping went right back to crunching the numbers. Remember, Harod: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.