A Brief History Of Apocalypse Predictions

Forget the Mayan doomsday prophecy, the world has nearly ended plenty of times before that. Count yourself a true survivor...
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Forget the Mayan doomsday prophecy, the world has nearly ended plenty of times before that. Count yourself a true survivor...

'I'm not boasting or anything, but I've survived more apocalypses than I can remember...'

We've all heard of the recent end of the world on the 21st of December when the Mayan calendar ended and the world was due to reset. The fact that you're reading this now means that the world clearly didn't end. But this isn't the only time the world was due to crumble into dust, in fact there have been a fair few of these events since I was born. Actually these predictions have been cropping up since around 634BCE when the Romans thought the world would end. But how many apocalypses has your average 20 year old survived? Let's start in 1993, 22 years ago, and the year I was born.

David Berg, the leader of a American cult known as The Family International, predicted that the tribulation, the build up to the second coming of Jesus, would begin in 1989, and the actual seconding coming of Christ would occur in 1993. The second coming of Jesus is, in Christian belief, pretty much the end of the world. This apocalyptic event evidently didn't occur, so most 20 year olds survived their first end of the world when they were still before they'd celebrated their first birthday.

Next up in 1994, on the 2nd of May, Neal Chase the leader of a Baha'i sect said that he believed that New York would be destroyed by a nuclear bomb on March 23rd, 1994. He said that after this horrific event there would be a 40 day gap before the Battle of Armageddon would take place. New York's still standing and there wasn't an epic battle to end the world, and I, along with many now 20 year olds, continued at playgroup blissfully unaware.

The next set of predictions came from Harold Camping, a man well know for predicting the rapture, a Christian belief in being 'taken up' to meet God, such as in 2011, but his first on was on the 4th of September 1994, and when this didn't occur he reassessed his prediction for the 29th of September, and again when this didn't come through he pushed it back to the 2nd of October. Then after this third prediction wasn't lucky he pushed it back nearly six months to the 31st of march. This would be his final prediction of the rapture until his 2011 predictions, but he didn't have the best track record when it came to this sort of thing. Meanwhile I was still at nursery, concentrating hard on riding tricycles.


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Our next end of the world wasn't until the end of 1996 when Sheldan Nidle, a Californian psychic predicted that the world was going to end on the 17th of December. This apocalypse was taking the form of 16 million space ships and a host of angels invading earth. While 3 year old me would have loved aliens I was due to be disappointed when they never appeared, and I just continued to play with my toys.

After this came the prediction of James Ussher, a 17th century Irish Archbishop who believed this date to be 6000 years after the earths creation, therefore being the end of the world. This coincided with my 4th birthday, so fortunately the world didn't end, as that would have ruined my party.

Two years later, 1999, was a popular time for the end of the world, due to the upcoming millennium, but we had to wait till July 1999 for our next apocalypse. This came from the French apothecary and reputed 'seer' Nostradamus, who said that the 'King of Terror would come from the sky in 1999 and 7 months'. The six year old version of myself was pleased as it meant I could still enjoy my summer holidays. In the same year Philip Berg of the worldwide Kabbalah Centre predicted that on the 11th of September 'a ball of fire will descend destroying almost all of mankind, all vegetation, all forms of life'.
Next, still in 1999, Charles Berlitz predicted the world will end, but was unsure how, but believed it may involve nuclear devastation, asteroid impact, polar shift or other earth changes. This was coupled with smaller cult leaders predicting that Armageddon would engulf the world before the year 2000.

2000 saw the rise of a major worldwide belief in the world ending, through the Y2K bug, otherwise known as the millennium bug. Many people predicted that this would lead to global economic crisis as well as pretty much all computers to crash due to them being unable to cope with the change of millennium. However what actually happened to most people was that the little calendar in the corner of the computer ticked over to 2000.

Other apocalypses predicted for 2000 included the planets lining up bringing a star holocaust as predicted by the Nuwaubian Nation and a couple of predictions of the Anti-Christ popping up to say hey.

Next up in May 2003 Nancy Lieder predicted that a planet was going to hit or pass near to earth, known as the Nibiru Collision, leading to a pole shift on earth that would lead to the destruction of the majority of humanity. I and the remainder of the ten year olds were busy at school playing conkers and kiss chase and stuff.

The next well known event predicted to end the world was the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider. This was a fairly long running apocalypse, starting on the 10th of September 2008, when they turned the machine on, and reemerging on the 30th of March 2010 when the Collider reached half power. Both times groups predicted that the experiment was going to produce plant-destroying Black Holes. Both of these events were widely ignored by most teenagers at the ages of 15 and 17, who were mostly concentrating on finding and keeping girlfriends and going to parties, in the times they weren't studying for exams.

Next up came Harold Camping again, predicting another bout of rapture on the 21st of may 2011. He predicted that the rapture would kick off now, then god would take 3% of mankind into heaven, and the world would finally end on 21st of October. Both of these predictions weren't widely regarded, mostly because of his original four predictions all falling through. Later in August 2011 the Comet Elenin past between the earth and the sun prompting many to believe it would disrupt the earths crust causing earthquakes or tidal waves, or would even strike the earth. Scientists maintained, and we're proved correct, that this was not possible.

Finally we reached the Mayan apocalypse, when their calendar ran out on the 21st of December the world was going to end via asteroid strike, alien invasion or supernova. Despite scientists and NASA experts claims that this was impossible it didn't stop most 20 year olds going out and having a few drinks, just in case.

So, not including several minor predictions by cult leaders or repeated predictions of the coming of Christ, the average 20something has survived a grand total of 19 different predictions of the worlds ending, near enough one a year. That's pretty impressive, I didn't even remember most of the ones when I was a kid.