For time immemorial, people have tried to predict the future. Some even become obsessed with the notion, unable to cope with the idea of an unknown destination. This medium has drawn many types of individuals from peasants to kings, charlatans to soothsayers, and children to adults. It attracts most and astounds everyone. To know the future would be the all powerful tool, with this knowledge one could very possibly become unstoppable. So, monetary gain along with curiosity fuels the fire of prophecy. The Holy Bible and other similar religious documents could very well be the beginning of mainstream future prediction to the ignorant bystander, however, they would be wrong. Since the beginning of recorded human history, circa 3100 BC, there have been those who claimed to see into the upcoming events of the world.
Modern day, these people still exist with no shortage of followers, curious, and skeptical people keeping pace and marking calendars to the next doomsday false alarm. Why are we so determined to know the future? Would it make any difference if we did? Would knowing the future change the future? Is there only one possible future to begin with? We are beginning to understand that there might be an infinite number of possible futures and with every choice set before us, new futures branch out from the possibilities of each decision.
Despite the paradox of predicting the future, many people still practice the art of prophecy and foretelling. Despite the evidence, or lack thereof, scores of people still subscribe to the ideas. Perhaps some find comfort in the idea. Especially doomsday predictions, where many find solace— it can be difficult to accept that the world, life, goes on without us. There is a sickening comfort knowing that the world will end when they do and therefore not missing out on something they daily took for granted. So it goes that these mystics will predict cataclysmic and foreboding thoughts of doom for a certain future date. Time after time, the date comes and goes with little turmoil besides what's to be expected from daily life.
Outlandish, preposterous, close, and even sickening, these are predictions that, at one time or other, terrified us; albeit wrongly.
15 2012 (Mayan Calendar)
The most recently notable prediction took place just four years ago. On 31 December, 2012 the Long Count Mayan calendar was set to end and many believed this to be the end of not just the calendar, but of the world itself. For years prior to the foreboding date, so-called experts, mystics, and even scientists foretold that the Mayans were so advanced in subjects such as astronomy, they were able to calculate the exact date of the end of the world. Conjecture abounded and events such as the Yellowstone Super Volcano eruption, massive earthquakes along the pacific rim, and even an asteroid impact were to be anticipated on New Year's Eve of that faithful year.
As the time approached people began to if not be scared, at least feel a subtle nervousness, to be laughed off with a joke outlining exactly what they are afraid of. Church attendance increased, so did products and survival guides, experts were brought on news media stations for analysis, and of course the Internet was laden with blogs, sites, and articles discussing the end of days. However, there were at least three groups of individuals who didn't give the idea a second thought; skeptics, most of the science and academic community and, oddly enough, the Mayan tribes in South America.
What nobody stopped to think about was what you do with your calendar when it ends. Well, you either toss it to make room for next year's edition or— it starts over. This is most likely the case with the Long Count calendar as well. It was set as far ahead as needed or thought necessary with the intent that it merely marked the end of a long cycle and that the new one was beginning. Maybe even the stone carver said enough is enough and 35,000 years would suffice. Nevertheless, 31 December, 2012 came and it did so without so much as an earthquake; passed into history uneventfully.
14 A Special Televised Appearance
The True Way, or Chen Tao, was created by Hon-Ming Chen and it was a cult that combined Christianity, Buddhism, Taiwanese folk religion, and UFO conspiracy. Chen and his followers could have been considered doomsday cultists, those who not only want, but long for, the end of time. Chen would come up with some pretty wacky and spooky theories, predictions, depending on who you ask. But, there was a stretch were things got really creepy. Chen announced that on 25 March 1988, God would appear on television, particularly channel 18 in the United States. God need television air time to say that he would descend to earth two weeks from that date in the form of a human. Not just any human, but an identical Hon-Ming Chen. One could surmise that this was a little too convenient for Chen who would have to come to terms with being mistaken for God, not to mention the unpaid t.v. advertising revenue.
Even though Chen didn't charge for his wisdom, people were not buying it all the same. When that monumental date came and went without so much as a God teaser trailer, Chen started preaching a different tune. He foretold that in the following year a ubiquitous army of demons would wreak havoc on the population. Then it would be followed by a cataclysmic flood that would finish what the demons could not. Of course, one could avoid witnessing such carnage by purchasing a ticket from Chen for the safety of a spaceship that was currently orbiting earth. You could not see the ship of course, it was disguised as a cloud.
13 Ok, Now He's Coming. Maybe.
There was a religious group in the 1840s who's leader foretold of the Second Coming of everyone's favourite saviour, Jesus Christ. William Miller began prophesying the end of the world in 1831 and that it would occur in 1843 with the return of the Son of Man. For the years prior, he traveled the United States preaching this end times doomsday and managed to gain his congregation upwards of 100,000 followers. Time flees and before too long the faithful date arrived for the faithful of heart. So convinced were the followers of Millerism that they gave away all their earthly possessions to family and friends, and of course those items came with a hefty speech on why they should join them. At last, the day arrived, Miller and his flock would of course ascend to heaven unobstructed while the rest of the human race faced judgment and possible damn nation. The Millerites gathered in a field and waited for their saviour. Alas, Jesus never showed.
William Miller was not disheartened, he discovered that he had merely miscalculated the arrival and was off by a year. So, his followers, rather than admit it was untrue or they were wrong, accepted that answer with vigor and now prepared, once again, for the return of the King of Kings the following year. Learning nothing of the last time, once again the followers gave away everything they owned, including land and money. This time, well, this time he would show for sure, he just had too. Miller wouldn't mislead them purposefully, would he? Well, I am sure you can guess the outcome. Broke, homeless, and with nothing at all, the Millerites retired into obscurity.
"I waited all Tuesday and dear Jesus did not come— I lay prostrate for two days not in pain, but sickened with disappointment." - Henry Emmons, Follower of Miller, 1844
12 That Poor Chicken
The attention of locals was focused on a small farm in England circa 1806. There was a unique fortune teller that was captivating the minds of all those who heard of this seer. People would travel the lengths of the land to catch a glimpse of this prophet. However, it was bittersweet since the foreseeable future was one of apocalyptic outcome. True believers could take heart however it was proof their religion was correct. Who was this special mind? Who could have been blessed with the gift of foresight? What power did this being have that could attract countless visitors to the humble home of prediction? A hen.
A farmer had a hen he claimed was not just laying eggs, but eggs with the phrase Christ Is Coming printed clearly on the shell. While this was a positive message for some, it spelled certain doom for others and of course the shouts of The End Is Nigh began in earnest. Nevertheless, it was soon discovered that the real prophet had been the farmer, who was writing the message in corrosive ink then, horribly enough for the chicken, putting the egg back inside the hen to give the appearance of it being genuine. The unfortunate part; there was no KY in 1806, thus scarring the chicken for the rest of its life. Talk about mixed signals.
11 Even A Blind Squirrel Finds A Nut
Harold Camping turned prediction into a profitable business. No less than 12 times has Camping predicted the end of the world. In his book 1994? he foretold events that would bring about the end of civilization, possibly humans as well. Earthquakes would ravage the Pacific fault lines, at such a magnitude that it would cause California to break off the mainland and sink into the ocean. Floods, volcanos, and famine would bring the human race to its knees and if there were survivors they would make t-shirts that boasted "I Survived 1994" However, the time came and went with all of us still standing and the t-shirt factory in financial ruin.
Using biblical numerology, Camping didn't stop there and most recently he claimed that on the 7000 year anniversary of the Great Flood of Noah's Tale, at least it was according to Camping's math, the world would come to an end on May 21, 2011. Again, this gained the seer notoriety and guest spots on television and radio programmes. When this date came and went, Camping simply stated his math was off by a few degrees and the actual date was October 21st of the same year. Suffice it to say that you are reading this, ergo, Camping was wrong. Again. At least he has a dependable track record.
10 Halley's Comet Panic
Every 75 years, Halley's Comet passes closely to earth and is so predictable one could set their watch to it, that is if we still used watches. All the same, in the year 1910, there was still little understanding of what the comet was, its projected course, or its chemical make-up. Also, it was this year that the comet would pass the closest to the planet than it ever has. This incited all kinds of scary predictions that the cosmic mass would collide with earth, or maybe that it would release the believed poisonous gases from its tail and kill everyone with a cosmic form of biological warfare. Panic ensued and people did what they can only be expected to do in this state, nothing productive. The media, ever considerate of the consequences of actions, did not help matters much, publishing such headlines as "Comet May Kill All Earth Life, says scientists" and others like it only threw gasoline on the smoldering fire igniting full out pandemonium.
Everyone stands by on the fateful day. Some sitting in churches, others in basements, and some in their homes, accepting their fates. Well, as we know, the comet passed over earth, closest it's ever been, and no harm came to us or the planet. All the same, earth did pass right through Halley's tail, no adverse effects are evident.
9 The Black Plague
While not a prophecy per se, it did bring about the very scary belief that the world was coming to an end. In 1347, 12 merchant vessels docked in Sicily after a long voyage across the Black Sea. When dock workers went to begin the task of unloading the ships they discovered a macabre scene. Most of the sailors were dead and the rest were extremely close to it. Feverish, unable to keep food or liquid down, and covering their bodies were large, black boils. Harbour masters ordered that the ships be let loose from the docks, however, it was too late. For the next five years The Black Death, The Plague, would raze the population of Europe by astronomical proportions. Almost a third of Europe's population, approximately 20 million people, would succumb to this then mysterious illness.
It was 1347, and they were using medical procedures like leeches and boil lancing and had no concept of germs, viruses, or any theory even that came close to the notion. This was the end, God's punishment for living wicked lives.
However, humans are resilient and we managed to survive and prosper as we can see today.
This is one most people can remember being swept up in. So it goes, that when computers were first coded, no one accounted for the change over from the year 1999 to the new millennium in 2000. The dating system was set as 00/00/00, ergo, the computers of the world would think it was 1900 and that would not compute, thus starting a cataclysmic chain reaction of main system computers shutting down, services ceasing to function, and anything under computer control to go haywire. It would be the end of civilization as it was known. Quite possibly the birthright of the Doomsday Prepper, this event was to cause famine, nuclear holocaust, knock out all forms of digital and electrical communications and devices, satellites to plummet from the heavens and of course incite what people are best known for when under immense pressure, panic.
The ominous feeling was palpable when December 31, 1999 rolled around. Many tried to ignore it, some made fun of it, having End Of The World or Y2K themed parties, others dug in and prepared for the Mad Max-like world they secretly craved. However, when 12:01 came about, nothing happened. Thanks in part to a tireless effort of computer and software professionals to correct the problem in some systems, however it had no affect on computers that had not been updated. The world survives another scary envision of the future.
7 The Great Flood... Again
On February 25, 1524, Johannes Stöffler, a respected German mathematician said it would be the end of the world. Due to an alignment of the planets under the sign Pisces, a water sign, on that day a great flood would begin and the earth would be covered in water. Again? Maybe? The mob does what the public always does, you guessed it, they calmly rationalized that it was unlikely and went about their lives. Just kidding, they panicked. Pamphlets were distributed en masse causing even more panic, if that was possible.
One man, Count von Iggleheim, a German nobleman, actually took on a task of biblical proportions. He went as far as building a three-story ark, as in that character Noah. There's no word on whether Count Iggleheim actually gathered two of every animal. It did start to rain that fateful day, a few sprinkles, yet, no flood or even a puddle for that matter.
6 Heaven's Gate
He was a nerdy-looking older man, like that quirky lonely uncle everyone whispered about, non-threatening, gentle, and had a seductive way of speaking to certain people. He prophesied that the comet Hale-Bopp had a tag-a-long following in its wake, an alien spacecraft. One that would take Marshall Applewhite and his thirty-nine followers away and into space, Applewhite even knew the exact instructions to ensure their passage. NASA and astronomers at large refuted this claim, since they could see the tail and see that there was no ship. Applewhite refuted them claiming it was all a cover-up orchestrated by NASA. Applewhite preached that the earth was to be "recycled" washed clean and everything shiny and new. Which implied the end of life as we know it. However, society is a little more jaded than it was in the Middle Ages to the 19th century. No panic, for once, ensued.
However on 26 March, 1997 it did turn out to be the end of the world after all, for the thirty-nine members of Heaven's Gate, including Marshall Applewhite. Found in a California mansion where the group communally lived, there were their bodies laid out on bunk beds, couches, other places, with a black sheet draped over them, wearing all black down to their shoes. We cannot say if they transcended spiritually, however, there is no evidence to support the notion and the earth has yet to be recycled, reduced, and reused.
5 Sure. That's What I Meant.
In 500 AD, Christianity took Rome by storm. Roman theologian Sextus Julius Africanus wrote that after 6000 years of creation had past and the end times would be upon the earth. He predicted that approximately 5331 years had passed between creation and resurrection. At the time, that would make 500 AD the time of the Second Coming and the end of the world. I know, it doesn't make sense, math must have been a new concept. Suffice it to say, when 500 rolled around and then away, Jesus was a no-show.
No problem, they just misheard him or he miscalculated, sure, whatever. It's actually 600 AD. Nope, he said he was off again, or people just misheard him, it was actually 800 AD. No wait! Well, you get it. It seems there is a pattern in religious organizations about predicting the end of the world. In 600 AD, the pope said that the second coming was "already near", in 1284 AD Pope Innocent III predicted the world would end 666 years after the raise of Islam, that would have made it 2001, and in the 14th century Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly predicted that the Antichrist would be among us no later than 1789.
4 God's Got Me On His Favorites List
God's Church minister, Ronald Weinland, predicted in 2004 that earth and humanity itself was near the end and that in 2006, this from his book 2008: God's Final Witness, hundreds of millions of people would be dead by the end of it. From that point we would have two years left before the world would plunge into darkness in 2008. By the Fall of that year, the United States would collapse and no longer be a nation, let alone among the most powerful. How did Ronald know?
He was the End-Times Prophet of God with a direct line of communication with the big fella. Well, it must have been a prank call, however, who is the fool? The fool or the fool that follows him? The book sold plenty of copies after all.
3 Three Strikes, You're Out!
Puritan, witch hunter, and all around douche-bag, Cotton Mather, was never one to give up. He not only predicted the end of the world, he did so three times. The first time was due in 1697. Swing and a miss. The second time was said to be in 1716. Strike Two! Then Mather's third and final prediction claimed the apocalypse would occur in 1736. Cotton, you're out! What is exceedingly confusing about this is the fact that Mather was a Puritan and they held the notion that the world would be free of evil and sinful acts and be completely "pure and godly" no later than 1700. If that were the case, how did Mather arrive at the date 1697? That's like being two dollars short of a million dollar home. Basically, that's a lot of work towards the godly state to piss it off with only three years remaining.
We could surmise, however, that Cotton Mather may have suffered from a mental illness, may a deep seeded belief, or maybe he was just a sadistic asshole. Nevertheless, he burned innocent women alive for hearsay from nosy or jealous neighbors that the accused were witches. All without a shred of empirical evidence.
2 Brothers And Sisters Of The Red Death
In the year 1900, a cult in Czarist Russia believed that November 13th of that year would bring the end of days to earth. Members of the Brothers and Sisters of The Red Death, a mysterious group that reportedly had survived underground for the past two hundred years. A very odd cult, it forbade its members from marriage and all initiates had to recruit twelve new members to earn their place in "heaven." Also, upon meeting their quota they were then granted the honor of having gratuitous sex with any member they like at the next secret meeting. However, there's always a catch, following the orgy came the consensual suicide, when other members would suffocate the doomed, yet happily content, cultist with a red pillow.
Believing they would fast track their way to heaven and earn God's thumbs up, the now 862 member group planned a mass suicide for the fateful date of the apocalypse. The plan was that each cultist would lock themselves in their homes, then proceed to set the house on fire. While Czarist troops caught wind of the plot and stopped many of them, approximately 100 people died by burning everything they owned, their families, and selves to death.
When 14 November came about and their had been nothing asunder the previous day, the remaining cultists did something unfamiliar to most on this list, they realised the idea had been wrong, became disillusioned and disbanded. No word were the underground city they lived in for two hundred years is located.
A religion from circa 2nd century BC in modern day Iran. This is actually a very fascinating subject that merits a deeper look. It's chosen one God, born of a virgin mother whom rode on a donkey, visited by shepherds who brought him gifts, and roamed the land curing the ill and raising the dead. Heaven, hell, and even an afterlife of perfection was a part of their beliefs and existed long before other similar stories. Perhaps their only non-plagiarized notion is that of the end of the world, well, the date anyway, which according the founder of the group, Zoroaster, would come about 3000 years after he initiated the belief system. Ergo, it's speculated that Zoroaster's birth was circa 1000 BC, which would mean any day now, however, there are others who place his day at 650 BC which means we can all breathe a sigh of relief, since that gives us hundreds of more years to find another way to eradicate ourselves.
According to Zoroaster, a virgin would be placed in a lake of semen from Zoroaster that would give birth to Saoshyant, the end times judge and saviour of true believers, then he would raise the dead, pass judgment, and each soul was placed in molten lava to purge their sins, each soul soaked according to the amount of sin committed. After which, they are allowed to pass into heaven before the renovation, which will level all mountains and reduce the earth to a smooth sphere. After which the earth ascends to the heavens, the heavens to the moon, and all souls live happily ever forever. How nice.
Guess we'll find out soon enough.
Sources: history.com, britannica.com, livescience.com, arstechnica.com, wikipedia.org
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