Predictions about the end of the world are almost as old as the world itself. Whether it’s religious leaders, politicians, or just plain nutjobs, it seems that the end always has and always will be near. There have been apocalyptic predictions from flooding, global freezing, planet collision, and even aliens hiding behind comets, yet, usually, we’re all still here when we wake up. Let’s take a look at some failed doomsday predictions throughout history.
Montanism is a 2nd Century schismatic movement of Christianity. It began in Phrygia, which is now modern Turkey. The beliefs were based on the visions of a man named Montanus, who claimed that he spoke directly to God. One of the key foundations of their beliefs was that the second coming of Christ was imminent. Many followers abandoned their Christian communities when individuals left their homes in preparation for the second coming and the beginning of the Apocalypse. They abandoned their belongings and migrated to the two villages of Pepuza and Tymion in Phrygia, where Montanus claimed Jesus would descend back down to earth. Yet, he never did.
The Second Great Flood: 1524
A respected German mathematician named Johannes Stöffler predicted that there would be a great flood that would cover the earth for a second time on February 25, 1524. He believed this was doomsday scenario would occur because there would be an alignment of the known planet under Pisces, a water sign. Hundreds of pamphlets were released to the public to raise awareness, which in turn caused panic. One German nobleman named Count von Iggleheim even built himself a three-story ark. On the day of Stöffler’s prediction, there was a light rain, yet nothing even close to any flooding.
The Great Fire of London: 1666
In the Bible, the number 666 is considered to be the number of the Beast or the Devil. So, in 17th century Europe many feared that the world would come to an end sometime during the year 1666. During this year, there was a fire now known as The Great Fire of London. It blazed from September 2nd to September 5th. The fire left the majority of the city destroyed, including 87 parishes and 13,000 homes. People saw this as a fulfillment of the apocalyptic descriptions in the Bible, constituting the event as the beginning of the end. However, only 10 people died and everything soon returned back to normal.
The Shakers: 1780
On May 19, 1780, a heavy gloom of fog and smoke covered numerous regions of New England. One religious sect known as the Shakers interpreted this as a sign that Judgment Day had finally come. Called the “Dark Day”, the dimmed sky was nothing more than a mix of smoke from nearby forest fires and a heavy fog, all it really did was send the religious group on a mission to spread their message of celibacy as a path to redemption. To this day, they are still regarded as a highly apocalyptic group in the early stages of America.
The Prophet Hen of Leeds: 1806
In 1806 in Leeds, England, there was a domesticated hen appearing to lay eggs inscribed with the message “Christ is coming”. When word got out, hundreds and hundreds of people went to visit the hen. This led to a great fear spreading in the area that Judgment Day was indeed soon coming. However, it was soon discovered that there was nothing prophetic about this hen at all. Instead, it was the work of the hen’s owner who was writing on the eggs in corrosive ink and then horribly reinserting them into the hen’s body.
Joanna Southcott: 1813
At 42 years old, Joanna Southcott reported hearing voices that gave her the ability to know about future events. One of her premonitions was about the crop failures of 1799 and 1800 in England. She then began to publish her own books and even managed to gain around 100,000 followers/believers. In 1813, she went on to announce that she would give birth to the Messiah, whose coming would bring about the apocalypse. In 1813, at the age of 64, Joanna told her doctor she was a virgin, yet she died before she could ever give birth. She should have seen that one coming.
The Millerites: 1843
In 1813, the religious leader William Miller began proclaiming that the end of the world would occur in 1843 with the second coming of Jesus Christ. He gained over 100,000 followers, who called themselves Millerites. They decided the end of days would occur on April 23, 1843. Many of the followers sold their property and belongings, believing they would be taken into heaven by Jesus himself. However, when nothing happened, many disbanded and formed what is now the Seventh Day Evangelists. Miller even went so far as to push the date back an entire year with still no coming of Christ.
Mormon Armageddon: 1835-1891
The founder of the Church of Mormon, Joseph Smith, called a meeting with his church leaders in 1835. Here, he told them that he had another discussion with God, except this time it was about the end of the world. God told him that within the next 56 years, Jesus would return to earth and the End Times would begin. So, for 56 years, the Mormon Church waited patiently. By 1891, Jesus still had not returned. Although it was Joseph Smith who said this, it’s fair to assume that most followers eventually forgot about this prediction.
Halley’s Comet: 1910
In 1881, an astronomer discovered through spectral analysis that comet tails include a deadly gas called Cyanogen. This information was not really thought much of until the discovery that Halley’s comet would closely pass by Earth in 1910. A portion of the general population became concerned that the earth was going to become covered in toxic gas. This information was printed on the front page of The New York Times and caused a large-scale panic across the world. However, scientists eventually stepped in, notifying the public that there was nothing to worry about. Halley’s Comet eventually passed and all was well.
True Way: 1988
Taiwanese religious leader Hon-Ming Chen established the religion of Chen Tao or True Way. The movement is a combination of Christianity, Buddhism, UFO conspiracy theories, and Taiwanese folk religion. Chen preached that God would appear on United States television channel 18 on March 25, 1988, to tell everyone that we would be coming to earth the next week in Chen’s identical physical form. The following year, Chen was back at it again, this time he prophesized that millions of devil spirits along with massive floods would extinct the human population and that his followers needed to buy their way onto a spaceship disguised as a cloud to survive.
Pat Robertson: 1982
in May 1980, televangelist and Christian Coalition Founder Pat Robertson alarmed many when he made an announcement that directly contradicted Matthew 24:36 (“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven…”). Robertson informed his “700 Club” TV show audience around the world that he indeed knew when the world would end. He stated, “I guarantee you by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment upon the world. However, it looks like he should have listened to Matthew because 1982 came and went, and no final judgment occurred.
Heaven’s Gate: 1997
When the Hale-Bopp comet appeared in 1997, rumors began to circulate that an alien spacecraft was trailing the comet. According to the rumors, all of this information was being covered up by NASA and the astronomical community. Although the stories were refuted, some groups took it seriously. The rumor was even publicized on Art Bell’s paranormal radio talk show “Coast to Coast AM.” This led a group of San Diego UFO cult named Heaven’s Gate to proclaim that the end of the world was coming. Thirty-nine members went on to commit suicide on March 26, 1997.
Rainer Binder/ullstein bild via Getty Images
The writings of Michel de Nostradame has interested people for over 400 years. His writings tended to be relatively accurate due to their great flexibility and they have been translated and re-established in dozens of different versions. One of his most famous writings reads, “The year 1999, the seventh month/From the sky will come great king of terror”. To most believers and theorists, they believed this to be his prediction of Armageddon. However, even though people waited patiently for over 400 years for the year 1999, it is now 2017, and we’re still alive and kicking.
As the turn of the last century rapidly approached in 1999, many people grew concerned that the world was going to come to an end. That’s because, as first noted in the 1970s, it was thought that many computers may not be able to tell the difference between 2000 and 1900 dates. Nobody knew exactly what this might entail, and many people assumed catastrophic issues ranging from worldwide blackouts to nuclear holocaust. As an increasing number of people panicked, gun sales rose and bunkers were built by the most suspicious citizens. However, when 2000 rolled around, the world continued on without a hitch.
May 5, 2000
After we dodged a bullet from the Y2K bug, Richard Noone assured global destruction in his 1997 book 5/5/2000 Ice: The Ultimate Disaster. According to Noone, the Antarctic ice mass would be three miles thick by May 5, 2000, a date when the planets would supposedly align with the heavens, and somehow result in a global icy death. Yet, as we know today, literally the exact opposite of Noone’s prediction has happened as ice masses are slowly but surely melting away. Instead of global freezing, we now have global warming. Great.
God’s Church Ministry: 2008
God’s Church minister Ronald Weinland claimed that the end times are upon us, again. In his 2006 book, 2008: God’s Final Witness, he stated that hundreds of millions of people will die by the end of 2006 and that during the two years after, the world would be plunged into the worst times of human history. He further claimed that by fall of 2008, the United States will have collapsed as a world power and no longer exist as an independent nation. He even went as far to place his predictions on the line as the end-time prophet of God. Eight years later, and it looks like Weinland’s reputation as the end-times profit isn’t looking too good.
The Hadron Collider: 2008
In September 2009, the Large Hadron Collider was started up for use. With its primary purpose being to smash atoms together, it received a lot of negative speculation. Some groups claimed that if something should go wrong it would lead to the end of days. One group believed that it could create a black hole that would devour the earth, while others thought we were trying to play God and would be punished for such acts. These groups attempted to file lawsuits against the Large Hadron Collider in hopes of stopping further progress on the project. However, the LHC was eventually launched and so far there are no black holes to report.
Harold Camping: 2011
Harold Camping has publicly predicted the end of the world 12 times based on his interpretations of biblical numerology. His many predictions have made him one of the most prolific modern predictors of our time. In 1992, he published the book 1994? in which he predicted the end of the world sometime that year. His most high-profile prediction was May 21, 2011, a date that he calculated to be exactly 7,000 years after the Biblical flood. When nothing happened, he pushed the date back to October 21, 2011, in which nothing happened again.
2012 Mayan Apocalypse
December 21, 2012, marked the end of the first Great Cycle of the Maya Loung Count Calendar. This was interpreted to mean an end to the calendar, which tracked time from a date 5,125 years earlier. Because of this, doomsday predictions began to emerge. Scenarios for this date included colliding with a fake planet, solar flares, catastrophic planetary alignment and more. The idea was so popular that Hollywood made a film about it, titled 2012, which only helped to spread more uneasiness and panic.
September 23, 2017
Recently, we had a close-call with another doomsday prediction. in September 2017, Christian Numerologist and self-described “researcher” David Meade announced that on September 23, 2017, the world as we know it will come to an end. He claimed there would be an alignment of the planets, leading earth to collide with another planet named Nibiru. There was just one small problem with Meade’s prediction — Nibiru is not a planet and researchers found no reason to believe any planet was close to colliding with our planet. This was obviously a completely made up doomsday prophecy.