American Christian radio host Harold Camping told us that the Rapture would take place on 21st May 2011. On this date at precisely six o’clock in every time zone, huge earthquakes would tear through the world and approximately 3% of all humans would be called to heaven.
But in the end, as the clock turned six without a hint of a rumble the date was met only with the rapturous laughter of the smugly enlightened. It’s a pathetic image: Harold thumbing through his dog-eared bible, pocket calculator in hand, earnestly adding the number of times St Paul says the word “afterwards” to the age that Jesus was when he ate a sandwich and multiplying the whole thing by god knows what, only to declare that he has worked out the expiry date of the universe.
But Harold, don’t be too embarrassed. After all, it is not the end of the world. Your Rapture is the latest in a long line of failed apocalyptic predictions. Take a look at these and you’ll see that you’re in good company.
Summer of 1969, Charles Manson
The ever trustworthy Charles Manson predicted the coming of a world-ending race war. Believing himself to be not just a seer of the apocalypse, but its actual creator, Manson and his followers set about triggering doomsday by recording a Beatles’ inspired album full of subliminal incitements to murder.
May 2003, Nancy Lieder
Self-proclaimed “contactee” Nancy Lieder claimed that inhabitants of the Zeta Reticuli star system had told her that a pole shift on Earth would destroy almost all human beings. Her prediction inspired the ‘Pana Wave Laboratory’ Japanese cult to try to steal an Artic seal and return it to the wild, believing that this action would avert doomsday.
1982, Pat Robertson
Over the years, this American televangelist has relayed multiple messages from god including the guarantee that by the end of 1982, judgment would have come. Years later, in reference to his less than perfect history of predictions, Robertson said “I have a relatively good track record. Sometimes I miss.”
21 December 1954, Dorothy Martin
According to Dorothy Martin, aliens from the planet Clarion sent her messages in the form of automatic writing revealing the existence of a coming great flood. On 20 December, as instructed, Martin and her followers ripped the zippers and bra straps from their clothes and waited for the flying saucer that would carry them to safety. It did not come.
2060, Isaac Newton
Like Camping, Newton used the bible to predict that man would cease to be around about the year of 2060. It’ll be another 50 years before it is seen whether Britain’s greatest ever scientist was – on this occasion – profoundly mistaken.