As evangelist preacher Harold Camping’s fourth attempt at predicting the end of the world back in October fell through, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest apocalyptic predictions in the last 200 years - that have all failed miserably.
1. 1806 - Prophet Hen of Leeds
In the early 19th century, the apocalypse was predicted in the northern English town Leeds after a hen started to lay eggs with the message: “Christ is coming.” The poor little fowl sparked terror convincing Yorkshire folk that Judgment Day was upon them, as described in Charles MacKay’s ‘Memoirs of Extraordinary popular Delusions’ in 1841. According to the book, people prayed violently and suddenly became religious. As it turned out, the miraculous message was a cruel hoax - the eggs had actually been inscribed with some corrosive ink, and forced up into the bird’s body.
2. 20 May 1910 - Halley’s Comet
An astronomer claimed that the Earth was set to pass through the tail of Halley’s Comet in 1910 which contained poisonous gas Cyanogen. With the invention of the telegraph combined with newspapers, doomsayers caught the wrong end of the stick and quickly spread the word that if comets contain the deadly toxic gas and if our planet was to pass through the gas, then that would mean that Earthlings would be in serious danger. This is exactly what The New York Times and other newspapers reported - instilling fear in the gullible global population.
Businessmen in the US took advantage of the hype and literally made a killing selling special “comet pills”, bottled oxygen and “anti comet umbrellas” to counter the effects of the poisonous gas. After Earth did eventually pass through the tail, everyone who had taken the pills was still alive...but so was everyone else.
3. 17 December 1919 - Planetary alignment
Seismologist and meteorologist Albert Porta said this date would spell doom as a rare alignment of six planets would create a huge magnetic current would pierce the sun, leading to great explosions of flaming gas that would eventually engulf Earth entirely. As the date approached, panic and suicide were reported throughout the world. It is said that when his trusted doomsday prediction fell through, the acclaimed expert went onto writing the weather column for newspapers.
4. 10 March 1982 - The Jupiter Effect
A much more recent planetary alignment theory has also created panic. On this date, the nine planets were aligned on the same side of the sun at 98 degrees. And of course, being such a rare event known as Sygyzy, something should have happened, like the end of the world. Earthquakes caused by a reversal in the Earth's rotation or a deadly solar flare were supposed to arise from the gravitational forces as written in a book entitled ‘The Jupiter Effect’, by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann. Luckily, nothing happened, except for a slightly higher tide.
5. 1 January 2000 - Millennium Bug
Many were left disappointed on Y2K to find that things were functioning completely normally. Somebody somewhere started a vicious rumor that computers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between 2000 and 1900s dates. Computer systems were expected to be vulnerable when ticking over from "99" to "00" - making some of them interpret the year as 1900. As the world began to bring in the New Year from 12am onwards, it was pretty clear that there wasn’t going to be a global meltdown - ranging from massive blackouts to a nuclear holocaust. The Y2K bug actually turned out to be harmless with only a couple technological glitches. Phew!
6. 21 May 2011 - Rapture
Harold Camping, whose rapture predictions failed in both 1994 and 1995, decided to revise his theory, predicting 21 May as the day of the Rapture. Despite being ridiculed by the world media, scores of gullible people actually fell for it too – selling off their assets, like homes and businesses. One man, Robert Fitzpatrick reportedly spent his $140k (£90k) life savings to spread the word of the rapture. Another teenager actually died after celebrating the fact that Judgment Day didn’t materialise.
When the world didn’t end at 6pm, the doomsday prophet’s excuse was: “The great earthquake didn’t happen on 21 May because no-one will be able to survive it for more than a few days or let alone five months to suffer God’s wrath because everything will be leveled and destroyed after that earthquake and there will be no food or water to keep everyone alive.”
He then said his followers would be under God’s judgment for five months and then will be annihilated with the whole physical world together on today – 21 October 2011.
Dates to watch out for
21 December 2012
This is going to be the big one. According to some modern astronomers and an ancient Mayan prophecy, on the winter solstice of 21 December 2012, Earth will be in exact alignment with the sun and the centre of the Milky Way galaxy - an extraordinary event which happens once every 25,800 years. No one knows exactly what effect this alignment will have on Earth, but the Mayans believed that the consequences of the inter-galactic occurrence would be catastrophic, prompting the world’s end.
It is imagined that a magnetic field effect reversal will take place, where the entire mantle of the Earth would shift in a matter of days, changing the position of the North and the South Pole. Such a rapid change in the Earth’s dynamics would result in earthquakes, tsunamis, global climatic change and eventually the ultimate planetary disaster, similar to the one depicted in the disaster movie ‘2012’.
According to scientists, this is the date the sun will swell into a red giant star, swallowing Mercury, Venus, Earth, and perhaps Mars.