From the moment man was able to fear it, the end of the world has been a hot button topic. Predictions have been made by so many people over time that it’s tough to keep track of every instance the world was meant to end; but there are specific cases that were more than just predictions. In this installment from Top10Archive, we look at 10 end-of-the-world predictions that caused panic, mayhem, and chaos, causing people to do ludicrous and impulsive things.
December 21st, 2012
Was it going to be the outbreak of a world war or a series of natural disasters? These were the questions on the minds of believers as December 21st, 2012 slowly approached. The date wasn’t predicted by some religious fanatic or would-be psychic. Rather, December 21st, 2012 was the last day in the Mayan calendar before it reset, and many took this to mean that the ancient society of the Mayan’s had already predicted the end of the world. Despite professional Mayan scholars and even Mayan elders speaking out against the end of the world belief, the thought was already out there and the world latched onto it hard. In response to the coming apocalypse, many quit their jobs months in advance, hoping to spend their last days enjoying life.
October 21st, 2011
Not satisfied with the result of May 21st, 2011, Harold Camping revised his original prediction to state that the “spiritual” judgment occurred in May, leaving the physical rapture for October 21st, 2011. Despite his prior failed predictions, Camping’s followers still believed in the old man and continued to put their lives on hold to spread the word of Judgment Day. Not surprisingly, the rapture did not occur and Camping was left with only one thing to do – apologize for his incorrect predictions and resign from his place on Family Radio.
May 21st, 2011
Anybody that has followed Harold Camping’s school of thought knew that May 21st, 2011 was really an arbitrary date decided upon using mathematical formulas and some speculated information. Also, Camping had been wrong before in 1994, though he blamed that on a miscalculation. Despite the absurdness to Camping’s claim, many followed his belief that May 21st, 2011 would mark the start of the Rapture. Believers prepped themselves for the end of the world by quitting their jobs, selling their possessions, and following Camping on a nationwide Rapture tour, complete with a Rapture bus and the ramblings of a crazed old man. May 21st came and went and the most that came out of it was a series of humorous memes and some backtracking on Camping’s part.
January 1st, 2000
The turning of the millennium brought with it a widespread panic that touched numerous parts of the globe and threw I.T. departments everywhere into a frenzy. It was believed that the transition from 1999 to 2000 would throw the world into a technical chaos because it was feared that computers would register the two digit year of “00” as 1900. Many thought this would lead to software and hardware failures across pertinent systems like banking, utilities, government records, and even computer chips that ran everyday equipment. Should these systems have failed, the world would have been thrown into a potential dark age as the computer systems running much of the globe would be basically useless. The Y2K bug wound up being an over-hyped fear that amounted to very few system failures and far less excitement than what was projected.
March 26th, 1997
Some end of the world prophets are so convincing that they are able to bring down entire groups of people with them. For Marshall Applewhite, his prediction revolving around the Hale-Bopp comet claimed the lives of 38 people. Leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult, Applewhite strongly believed that on March 26th, 1997, Hale-Bopp, while it was at its closest distance to Earth, would be trailed by an extraterrestrial spacecraft that would rescue certain souls from Earth and let them pass through Heaven’s gates. The only way to get aboard the craft and be saved from an inevitable apocalypse was to commit suicide; and on that day, Applewhite and his followers downed a mixture of phenobarbital and vodka, claiming the lives of everyone involved.
It may be safe to say that there are very few people that would say Charles Manson is a man of sound mind, but back in the 1960’s, he had a whole cult that lived by his word. Manson believed that in 1969, a race war would ignite between blacks and whites. What he dubbed “Helter Skelter”, would be massive in scale, leading to the apocalypse. As if predicting the end of the world wasn’t enough, Manson sought to be the catalyst of it, ordering the murders of Sharon Tate and the LaBianca family. Despite his efforts, Manson’s vision of Helter Skelter never came to fruition and he wound up in serving life in prison.
May 18th, 1910
Some believe if you want to know when the world will end, you just need to look to the sky as either aliens or asteroids are going to be the catalyst. In 1910, it was the passing of Halley’s Comet that caused an uproar over the apocalypse. While nobody likely thought so at the time, the panic that stirred when tabloids spread rumors that poisonous gas would enter the Earth’s atmosphere and threaten the human population is actually quite humorous. Genius businessmen and con-artists took to selling “comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” that would save people from the deadly gasses emitted by Halley’s Comet.
October 22nd, 1844
When one man can throw an entire group of people into panic over the end of the world, that one man has some power. Unfortunately, for followers of Baptist preacher William Miller, that power of persuasion isn’t something he wielded lightly. During the Second Great Awakening, William Miller had predicted that the world would end in either 1843 or 1844 upon Christ’s second coming. A follower of Miller’s, Samuel S. Snow, pinpointed October 22nd, 1844 as the date. Following the word of a man they respected and believed, Miller’s followers started to give away their worldly goods in anticipation of the event. What Miller’s believers experienced became known as the Great Disappointment after neither Christ nor the end of the world came.
February 1st, 1524
According to story, if not for Noah and his Arc, a massive flood would have wiped out the world already. This idea made another appearance when a group of London astrologists apparently hoped to be as life-saving as the great ark builder, when, in June of 1523, they predicted that a massive flood would completely engulf the city a year later. Of course, as can be expected, there was no flood – but over 20,000 citizens had already abandoned their homes. Those that remained behind obsessively stockpiled food and supplies to survive, completely derailing their normal lives.
January 1st, 1000
Pope Sylvester the 2nd was one of several who brought popularity to this date by claiming it to be the Millennium Apocalypse at the end of the Christian Millennium. The turn of the millennium was a big deal long before Y2K. The year 999 proved to be an interesting one for many as those that prepared for the end of the world willingly gave away their possessions, assuming that, with the world ending and all, there would be no need for them. Prisoners were set free, crops were neglected, and riots broke out as societies tried to handle the thought of the second coming of Christ. Come January 2nd, 1000, when Christ did not show, theorists changed their tune, stating that the end was really going to be on January 1st, 1033, which marked 1,000 years after his death.