In case it disappears from the internet, this is the site
mentioned above, unedited.
There is also a good gallery of artworks used to frighten poor sinners into submission; The Geddon Museum
I am utterly sure there are more End of the World predictions/cults out there in history.
- These days, people tend to associate apocalyptic hysteria with extremist Christian cults, Dark Age ignoramuses and assorted dorks who think that The X-Files was a documentary. But, in fact, the history of numerical nuttiness goes back much further than that. The Sumerians, Babylonians and Zoroastrians also shared an unfortunate proclivity for doom-by-numbers. As did the ancient Romans, who were apparently obsessed with the idea that twelve magic eagles had revealed to Rome's fratricidal founder, Romulus, the date for the city's ultimate downfall. Seeing twelve as a portentous value, the Romans had a tendency to get all farklempt over almost every municipal anniversary that fell on a multiple of the fowl dozen. The first big dread-fest occurring when the city was but a tender 120 years old. When that date failed to produce the promised arrivaderci Roma, the idea wasn't scrapped, just modified a bit, so that the eagles now represented the months in a year. Nevermind that there were only ten months to a year back in Romulus' imagined day. And since there were 355 days in a year (Republican Calendar), the end was now supposed to arrive promptly on...
- After 355 years of eagle-iconed months had passed away into the history scrolls. Far from being a downer year, however, 398 fell smack-dab in the middle of the Roman Republic's Golden Age. Clearly, if Armageddon fans were going to get any better mileage out of these kinds of prophecies, they were going to have to set their sights on a whole 'nother mythology.
(time approx.) - Setting the stage for craziness to come, the Book of Daniel hit the best-seller lists amongst the put-upon and seriously ******-off Jews laboring under Greek (soon to be Roman) rule. With their homeland reduced to Helenism on earth, these were people in serious need of a change in management. Wishful thinki... excuse me, prophesying the end of their oppressor's reign, the Book of Daniel goes into lip-smacking, lurid detail over the gruesome, God-ordained ends of the Chosen People's enemies, who are naturally portrayed as Evil Incarnate. And it goes without saying that the Chosen are all paragons of Goodness who wind up happily tra-la-la-ing through eternity in Paradise. The trouble with the BoD is that it's very, very vague about the due date on all this revenge fantasy stuff. The result is that ever since, it's tended to be used as a kind of theological booster rocket for the even wilder, bloodier and more cosmologically ambitious Final Countdowns that followed.
Early ? CE
- Of course, the earliest known failed apocalyptic prophecy of the Common Era came straight out of the New Testament's eccentric little Book Of Revelation, which states under no uncertain terms that the Final Curtain would be ringing down while there was still at least one Apostle left to give a standing O. Unless anyone reading this knows of any 2000 year-old social security recipients who were personal pals o' Jesus, we can assume that this particular claim has gone well past its expiration date. Still, like all claims based in the Never-Neverland universe of the True Believer, the fact that nothing ever came of it has not diminished its popularity with the Faithful one iota. Instead, it has merely spurred on legions of Casandra-come-latelies throughout history who always insist that the End is, indeed, nigh and that they are the only ones to whom the Lord gave the proper party directions... kind of like a really good rave.
- Seems someone pulled a fast one on the Thessalonians that year and suckered them into believing that, darn it all, the Rapture already came and went and they missed it! (Oooh, don'cha just hate when that happens?) Much hand-wringing, praying and screaming for refunds ensued. Not a prophecy, so much as a practical joke. But a damn good one, so I thought I'd give it a mention here.
(roughly) - Saint Clement I, whose main claim to fame would come in the form of being the only Catholic saint to achieve martyrdom by being used as an anchor, kept annoying people with the persistent hysterical declaration that the End would be coming any moment, now... really... just you wait and see... it'll happen soon... that's a promise!... when you least expect it!... boy, are the scoffers gonna change their tune!... any second!... it'll be ri - **splash!** gurgle, gurgle, glub, blub...
- Not too many little boys want to grow up to be martyrs, but Saint Ignatius was quite the iconoclast. Imprisoned and tabbed for lion kibble, Ignatius spent his idle hours in the Roman slammer writing down his life story, his notions about Christliness (a really hot topic in his day) and of the joys of impending martyrdom. He also went on at some length about the End Times and how certain he was they'd coming up soon... For him personally, they were.
- Okay, so this guy walks into Ardabau - stop me if you've heard this one - and he starts to prophesy like there's no tomorrow. Anyhow, this guy (whose name was Montanus, by the way) this guy, well, he's good, really good, he shows promise. But his act doesn't really catch on until he gets these two chicks, Maximilla & Priscilla, as backup seers. Well, look out, hold the phoenicia! The trio is a hit! Pretty soon they're getting this huge fan following and doing major gigs all over Asia Minor. From there on, though, it's the old story; Star gets too full of himself, starts bad-mouthing the Bishops and acting like God's mouthpiece, gets all petty and demanding, figures his fans ought to fast and be celibate and, like, martyr themselves or something 'cuz, oooooh, The End is gonna be coming any minute, now! In fact, New Jerusalem's supposed to land smack dab between Pepuza and Tymion, of all places, like some phrygian Mother Ship... and it all just goes downhill from there. Pretty soon, Montanus and everyone who hung with him are, like, totally excommunicated. They try to make it on their own as a kind of free-agent sect and the group still's got a few die-hard hangers-on right up to 900-something, but really, by the early 500's, The Montanists are definitely doin' the one-hit-wonder slide on the one-way road to Has-Been City. Bummer, huh?
- In one of those, "If ya' cannot beat 'em, join 'em" moments that Christianity has built some of its more positive (or less negative) PR on, early holiness hustlers seized on a collection of old prophetic scribblings known as the "Sibylline Oracles" to scare their pagan pals into a quick conversion. According to the Sibyls, (or, at least, to the version the unwashed infidels got to see) the End would be a truly icky, ookie, awful bit of business with an uncomfortably imminent due date of 195 CE. I suppose it goes without saying that the sole means of salvation proposed by our intrepid sect sellers was a get-out-of-hell-free card that came only with purchase of a complete soul-change and a Church-authorized Lord & Savior. Being, as it was, some 1900 years shy of the first Customer Service Dept., complaints from P.O.ed ex-pagans by CE 196 went sadly unrecorded.
- A Christian seer by the unfortunate name of Judas futzed about with the Book of Daniel and came to the conclusion that the Antichrist would be popping up "real soon now"... And the clock is ticking...
- Long before there was a boy named Sue, there was a Saint named Hilary... of Poitiers, that is. He is also known by the far more apt Latin name of "Hilarius". In addition to being a foaming-at-the-font anti-heresy loon and a would-be tunesmith, Hilary took up the "real soon now" cry for Antichrist hysteria with gusto. He made the all-too-typical and tragic mistake of limiting "soon" to "this here year", however, and by 366 was taunted out of town as if his mother was a hamster and his Father smelled of elderberries. Having altogether too much time on his hands, Pope Pius IX decided to overlook this embarrassing mystical gaffe and in 1851 declared that his latest choice for sainthood would truly be Hilarius.
375 - 400 CE
- Probably the world's first conscientious objector, Saint Martin of Tours managed to get out of being drafted into the Roman legions by arguing, "I am Christ's soldier: I am not allowed to fight." ...A philosophy which obviously never caught on with too many subsequent Christian generations. After being booted out of the corps, Marty went his own way and ended up in Poitiers as the protégé of... you guessed it; Hilarius. With a role model like that, it wasn't long before Marty was squealing about the Antichrist, too and writing reams of histrionic screeds warning that The Evil One was already out and about and training for the big showdown. Cagey enough to have learned from Hilary's mistake, Marty was careful to make his "real soon now" claim a bit more fuzzy and wavered around 25 - 30 years. Nevertheless, all those who had embraced Marty's warned fuzzies would be in need of a lot of post let-down hugs as the years droned uneventfully on and on...
500 CE - Around 221 CE
the noted historical scholar and obsessive Christian apologist, Sextus Julius Africanus wrote his "Chronographiai", an attempt to compile the whole history of life, the universe and everything into one all-purpose, handy-dandy tome. Stuck as he was on the idea that God was on a tight 6000 year creation to demolition schedule, Jules placed the open for business date at about 5000 BCE and Armageddon at roughly 500 CE. (time approximate and subject to schedule change) The date was given even further affirmation when Hippolytus, famed antipope and insufferable grouch, came to the same conclusion. The year came, the year went and the Christians who had so hopefully packed their bags for Rapture pick-up were left standing at the cosmic bus stop without a ride.
- It is a proven fact that those who lean toward fancying Doomsday prophecies tend to hold rather low standards in Doomsday prophets. A textbook example of this lack of good judgment happened in France on this particular year. It seems that some Frankish villager wandered into a local forest and found himself eye-ball deep in a swarm of flies. (hygiene being what it was, or wasn't in those days, it's a wonder why this sort of thing did not happen more often) Overwhelmed with a major attack of the creepy-crawlies, the poor fellow came completely unglued, ran off to become a hermit, decked himself out in animal skins, then came back to town and started telling anyone who would listen that he was Jesus Christ gathering his flock before the Big One hit... which would, of course, be "real soon now". Ignoring what would seem the obvious fact that he was a raving (and exceptionally fragrant) loony bird, people starting following him in droves. The end (not of the world, but of the cult) came when a local bishop sent a crew of thugs out to nab the Lord of The Flies and hack him into tiny bite-sized bits. Ah, the perils and pitfalls of pre-Black Flag society.
- Before there was AD (Anno Domini) there was AM (Anno Mundi - "The Year of the World"). Though no FM, I am afraid. And if you think the exact placement of 1 AD was a bone of contention, let me tell you, that was nuthin' compared to the holy hoohah over 1 AM. An understandable issue in light of the fact that the AM concept came with a warrantee for only 6000 years and the various presumed deadlines (like Julius's above) were coming up fast and furious. Responding to the crises like the good anti-millennialist he was, the theologian and someday saint Bede simply changed the dates. Bede stands out from the usual number-swapping rabble by changing not only the date, but the whole calendar along with it. He got the idea from a long dead Scythian monk named Dionysius Exiguus (or, sans the glossy Latin, Dennis the Dinky) who had simply gotten sick and tired of the old inconsistent Julian system and the havoc it was playing with his day-runner. For Bede, this was not just good chronology, it was great PR! Just a flick of the quill and presto-chango! Doom and gloom 6000 AM became harmless, work-a-day 800 AD... Or 801... Or possibly 796... Or maybe even 797... Then again...
- Some people just don't know how to let go. When the last of the Frankish Merovingian kings was deposed by the first Carolingian one, scores of folks carried on as if it were the end of the world. Eventually, they moved on to the acceptance phase and forgot about the whole thing.
Between 799 - 806 CE
- Saint Gregory of Tours was one of those irritating sniffy types who raise false modesty to an art form. Always whining about the poverty of his knowledge and the humbleness of his abilities, just so he could get others to coo all over him, protesting how fabulous he really was. Of course, daring to toot one's own horn so close to the End Times might have looked rather bad on one's eternal résumé, so one could sympathize a bit with the ol' bishop's creative solution to the ego boo prob. By his calculations, the Last Call would be sounded out in only a scant two centuries, (and you know how fast they fly) starting off in 799 and then wrapping up seven years later to allow for sufficient grovel and debasement time in between. Of course, Greg himself keeled over in 594, so he wasn't in any real danger of seeing how his theory tested out.
- Remember Sextus Julius Africanus? Well, he's back. Or, at least, his prediction for Armageddon is. Believing in the concept of the "back-up plan", Jules included this date, should the first one fall through. Unfortunately, his second shot at the Second Coming turned out to be just as second rate.
800 CE (take II)
- Targeting that very same year, an elderly Spanish monk by the name of Beatus (what are you laughing at?!?) announced his deep and utterly unshakable belief that he would live to see the Antichrist and Armageddon arrive hand in hoof by the year 800 ... Sad to say, even before the date rolled by, Beatus (stop snickering!) had already been disqualified on a technicality: He dropped dead in 798.
- A select few people-in-the-know about Bede's little calendrical switcheroo went briefly bonkers when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. Why? Well, according to the old Anno Mundi calendar that nobody was supposed to talk about anymore, this was really the 6000th year since the dawn of Creation and the date the Antichrist was supposed to rise to Satanic power... Provided he had even the slightest respect for staying on schedule. Which you can never tell with these Incarnation of Ultimate Evil types. So fickle.
- The "prophetess" Thiota waltzed into Mainz in 847 to announce to the easily impressed citizenry that the next year would be the last one. One assumes there wasn't much to do in Mainz since she acquired quite an avid following... for a year, anyhow.
- Another mischief-making monk, Adso of Montier, sent a letter off to the highly impressionable sister of King Otto of Germany insisting that the Antichrist would rise the very moment the Frankish kings were knocked out of power. Underwhelmed as Otto himself was, the letter ended up being copied and sent out all over Europe causing the populace to indulge in an energetic and refreshing bout of apocalyptic panic for a little while.
- An eclipse caused real tsures amongst Europeans everywhere, especially the soldiers in Otto's army, who were convinced that the End had come. It was a short-lived thrill, but I guess when you're stuck living in the Dark Ages, you'll take anything.
Friday, March 25, 970 CE
- A group of Lotharingian numbers crunchers, who really should have found themselves another hobby, came upon the astounding discovery that this exact date marked not only the coinciding of the Annunciation and the Crucifixion, but also the day when Adam was created, Isaac was offered for sacrifice and the Red Sea was crossed! And as if that weren't enough to fit on their day-planners, these boys decided that it would also be the perfect moment for the big Archangel Michael vs. Satan Fight For The World Championship. For our Lotharingian nerds, April Fools came a week early that year.
- Halley's Comet did a fly-by and briefly scared the bloody chiliasm out of everybody, including that trouble-making monk, Adso, who quickly packed up and took a one-way trip to Jerusalem.
- Next in line for Bible bobbles, comes Bernard of Thuringia. Bernie was a well-respected scholar and numerology nut-job who got everyone's Byzantine toga in a knot when he announced this date as the definitive gute nacht, Krankenschwester. He also proved himself a foxy 'lil forward thinker by having the good sense to drop dead long before this exercise in post-Biblical disappointment came and went without so much as a Divine hiccup. Unfortunately, most others who would follow in the 'Nardman's wanna-be-prophetic footsteps, would not demonstrate such good timing.
- This was the year the fifth Lateran Council got together and said, "Enough, already!!!" and banned all apocalyptic prophecy throughout all Christendom... This lasted, oh, maybe, five minutes.
- A banner year for apocalyptic prophecies! Why this particular year ended up having such an extended busy season is a mystery. But it certainly kept the populace hopping. Moreover, the prophecies for this year actually ran along a "theme",... a bit like Rose Parade floats. "Great Floods Of The Coming Apocalypse" seemed to be the mania-du-jour and astrologers from one end of Europe to another competed to see who could come up with the most outstanding death-by-deluge scenario.
The Grand Marshall's Trophy for Best Use Of An Intimidatingly Pretentious Name To Lend Credibility Where None Is Warranted goes to Nicolaus Peranzonus de Monte Sancte Marie who figured that a conjunction of planets in Pisces that year was proof positive that Great Flood #2 was a'comin'. Pisces being a fish and all and fish being associated with water, it seemed like a sure bet at the time. Unfortunately, by the time 1525
rolled in it was obvious that Nicky had carped out.
The King's Trophy for Most Ado About Nothing goes to an enterprising pack of English astrologers who in 1523
came to the conclusion that the world would be doin' the Noah thang on February 1st, 1524
and that London would be soggy ground zero. Big on PR, our Brit boys made sure to spread the word far and wide so that panic could ensue on the largest possible scale. And ensue, mass panic did. Eventually, no less than 20,000 water-phobic Londoners went tearing off for higher ground - or, what passes for that in England - fleeing their homes without leaving so much as a forwarding address.
Adopting a "we shall not be moved" approach to the problem that any militia nut or earthquake-ready California resident would identify with, the Prior of St. Bartholomew's turned his church into a fortress and dug in with a two-month supply of food and water. The concept of vacuum-sealed containers being some 350 years off, it's a bit puzzling just what use the good Prior thought those provisions would be in a flood zone. In any case, when the Big Day arrived the populace was a bit peeved to discover that February 1st, 1524
turned out to be perhaps the only day in history when it did not rain in England. Not drop one. Unfazed, our fearless astrological experts merely shrugged, looked their calculations over again and then declared without the least hint of shame, "Oh, bugger, we've bobbled a digit. The real flood should be coming up in 1624
. Sorry for the cock-up, but no harm done."
Next up, the Three Hour Tour Trophy for Having Absolutely No Grasp Of The Concept Of Metaphor goes to the genius tag-team of Johannes Stoeffler, astrologer to the stars and Count Von Iggleheim, Biblical literalist and upper-class twit. In 1499
, Johannes, using the latest super-high-tech astrological methods, (i.e. he counted a bunch'a stuff in the sky, looked up what their funny names were in a zodiac book and added 'em up with values derived from whatever he'd had for lunch the previous Tuesday) came to the conclusion that the world would be coming to a gurgling halt on February 20th, 1524
. Backed by a truly boffo PR dept., Johannes was able to spread hysteria on an even grander scale than our English astro-boys could. Pretty soon, people all over the continent were running around in panicked circles and screaming every time the tide came in.
One of those who weren't quite so frantic was the aforementioned Von Iggleheim; who, instead, directed his attentions and his fortune to the practical business of building a three-story luxury town-ark. To give the fellow something of a break, he wasn't the only one to come up with this idea. In fact, the euro-boat building industry experienced an incredible boom for quite some years thanks to wealthy flakes with an eye toward long-term yachting. It's simply that no one else came close to Iggy's ambitious reconstruction.
Well, we all know the old saw about the best laid plans... On the morn of February 20th, as the rich and powerful, like our Iggles, boarded their various ships, barges, dinghies and arks, a gentle rain began to fall on the poor and destitute left to certain drowning on the dockside. Gripped with a sudden socialist revolutionary passion (not to mention stark, staring terror) the boatless peasants went completely postal and ran riot all over the pier, trampling hundreds to death in a mad stampede to get onto anything that could float. The opulent Von Iggleheim ark must have looked especially attractive to would-be stowaways because they quickly over-ran the ship. In the confusion they started mixing up their Bible passages and before they could get their chapters and verse straight, ended up stoning poor Von Iggleheim to death. Both the cost and the carnage resulting from the sorry escapade were simply horrific and the fact that the promised deluge never even materialized did not exactly add a silver lining to it, either. Johannes somehow managed to sneak out of town before the riots broke out. He then proceeded to endear himself to absolutely no one by announcing that his latest calculations placed the End of Everything in 1528
... as if anyone cared.
- The Reformation brought with it a whole new crop of wacky propeller-heads and it would be hard to get any wackier than Thomas Müntzer, German priest, would-be revolutionary and chronic malcontent. Madman Müntzer was not only an end of the world obsessive, he was also one of those types who think they personally are imbued with the power to bring on Doomsday with their own do-it-yourself apocalypse. Seeing the Devil in every nook and cranny and viewing even Martin Luther as a wanton little bleeding-heart liberal, the M-man decided it was entirely up to him to *****-slap God into bringing on the Last Hurrah.
Spouting off ad-nauseum about the imminent end of everything, he went a'wandering to cities all over Germany and Switzerland, preaching for the extermination of the rich, the powerful and the papists... not necessarily in that order. By 1525, he'd set up a church in the town of Mühlhausen and decorated it with a festive banner declaring war on the forces of evil, which in Müntzer's mind, included just about everyone currently breathing. He managed to attract some 8,000 people as nutso as he was and when the actual army showed up demanding they surrender or die, he poo-pooed their threats with an assurance to his followers that they had a 100% guaranteed victory, courtesy of God. He himself, Müntzer continued, would stand right in the line of fire and catch the cannon-balls in the sleeves of his cloak. After 5,000 of Müntzer's merry band were mowed down like weeds, he, himself was found hiding out in a cellar, his cloak oddly cannon-ball-free. The authorities wasted no time giving him due process... which, in those days meant several weeks of torture and a public beheading.
- Johannes's second guess. I don't really need to go into - No, I did not think so.
Pentecost, 1528 CE
- This exact date was picked as the kaput-of-choice by radical reformer Hans Hut, who set about gathering 144,000 "saints" for the gala event. He had the bad luck to get slapped in prison and died there (as happened frequently to "guests of the state" back then) in 1527.
- It seems obvious that the faithful of Vienna had endless fun with their local Bishop, Frederick "Tell Me Anything, 'Cuz I am Dumb As A Danube Barge Pole" Nausea. (okay, the nickname part was my own addition, but the "Nausea" is real... honest!... could I make that up?) Anyway, Freddie began to embrace his inner hysteric when townspeople began reporting events to him that got stranger by the day. Comets streaming through the sky with bloody crosses, flaming castles and multiple suns in the heavens, black bread falling from out of the blue, that sort of thing. The corker was when he was told the one about the eight year old girl in Rome who was lactating warm water like the Trevi fountain. As far as Bishop Nausea was concerned, forget the four horsemen, those were all the signs of the coming apocalypse he needed. Oh, those wacky Viennese!
October 3, 1533 CE 08:00 GMT
- A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Or so learned German bible student and math wiz, Michael Stifel when his homework assignment to study the Book of Revelation inspired him to do some extra-credit calculus. This led to his horror-stricken discovery that the world was just about to be expelled for coming in sinful without a note. Dubbing himself "Stefelius" since the possibility of earning the Latinized title through tenure seemed out of the question, he made sure to announce this discovery; date, time and all, to his entire hometown of Lochau. When the date came and went without so much as a drop-drill, the p.o.'d citizenry responded by flogging the bloody weinerschnitzel out of the poor kid. And students today make such a fuss out of detention ...
- Most people would have the common sense not to jump on a bandwagon that's already been run off the road. But, nobody ever accused Jan Matthys of being like most people. Inspired by the pointless martyrdom of Thomas Müntzer and the apocalyptic ravings of one Melchior Hoffman, who was fixated on 1533 as the really-and-for-true date of the Second Coming, Jan managed to wrest control over the town government of Münster (behold the power of cheese), boot out all the Lutherans and Catholics and turn the place into an armed and increasingly screwy Anabaptist camp. Railing day and night about cleansing the ungodly from the face of the earth, banning all books that did not have "Holy Bible" scrawled on the front, sacking the local cathedral and cooking up his own pet date (Easter of '34) for the Welcome Back, Jesus! party, Jan ran the town as only a wiggy despot could.
After Easter came and went without any sign at all of the Big J, poor Jan's credibility began to falter a tad. Fortunately for his rep, he chose that moment to wander casually outside the city's walls and was promptly hacked to bits by an army of ******-off Catholics and Lutherans.
The cult that Jan gathered around him did not fall to pieces as easily as he did, however. There to hold the fearless band of fruitcakes together was another Jan, yet: Jan Beuckelson - and he made Jan Matthys look like Mr. Rogers. Remember what I said earlier about how hard it would be to get any wackier than Thomas Müntzer? Well, leave it to Jan Beuckelson to go for the gold. A former tailor who was clearly a few stitches shy of a hem, Janny B. immediately set the tone for his whole administration by getting naked and running through town squealing in a state of ecstasy. He followed this first official act of duty with the announcement of a brand spanking new Godly order that made just about everything from having sex out of wedlock to wearing brown socks with black leiderhosen punishable by death. In his envisioned post-apocalyptic "Kingdom of a thousand years" (Where have I heard that one, before? Hmnnn....) everyone would be pure, pure, pure... three... two... one... Hot on the heels of that announcement, came another one proclaiming polygamy as God's Will-du-jour. In no time, JB was whooping it up with a growing pack of nubile teen-age frauleins and anybody who had a problem with that was promptly put to death in the town square.
Within a very short time Jan B.'s claims to fame went from leader of the pack, to King of the World, to Messiah of The Last Days and he took to strutting around town dressed like a Mardi Gras float surrounded by his groupies while insisting all the rest of his followers maintain a vow of abject poverty. Fun civic activities like mass beheadings, preaching blood-soaked vengeance on all who opposed the cause and eating rats to stave off dying from famine became part of the Münster daily routine until the Catholic/Lutheran forces were finally able to break through the city's defenses and put an end to the party. Short work was made of all the cult's leading members, save Beuckelson himself, who was led around the town in chains (fully clothed), then slowly tortured to death. The authorities then hung the lot of them in cages from the church tower as a festive commemorative touch; one the townsfolk were so proud of, they've kept them on display (well, on the inside of the museum) to this very day.
February 1535 CE
- Hendrik Hendriksz, self-styled prophet and hopeless exhibitionist introduces history's first group "streaking" incident when he leads a co-ed bunch of birthday-suited Anabaptists in a 1K run through the streets of Amsterdam, all the while shrieking something about the Final Judgment... or something... Best the bystanders could report, since nobody was paying much attention to what they were saying.
- Talk about wanting to cover one's bases. Astrologer Pierre Turrel used as many different computational methods as he could get his hands on and cooked up four different dates over a span of 277 years on which the End might fall. Obviously unable to tolerate rejection, he made sure to keep the list unpublished until after he'd shuffled off his mortal coil. 1537 was the first date mentioned. Strike one.
- Strike two.
Germany, 1544 CE
- German astrologer Mussemius (just doesn't have the same ominous ring as "Nostradamus" does it?... And yes, we'll be getting to him later, keep ya' shirt on) got the bright idea that lil' baby Jesus popped into the world while there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Virgo - the symbolism of which, I am not even going to touch. He concluded then, that the Antichrist would be strolling on when Jupiter and Saturn were in Pisces - the symbolism of which reminds me of a really old, crass Adam and Eve joke that I am not going to touch, either. Obviously, the date came and went without the least concern over Mussemius's astrological calculations and the real joke was entirely on him.
- Back in 1400, French cardinal Pierre d'Ailly squandered uncounted hours scrawling out his master plan for the final l'adieu, which he was dead certain would be coming in on schedule 6,845 years after the firing of Creation's starting gun. All of which serves as a prime example of the programmer's maxim, "garbage in, garbage out".
July 22, 1556 CE
- French astrology mavens got starry-eyed over a whole mess of astronomical oddities and decided that they added up to a Merry Magdelene's Day doomfest. All the signs and portents portended it, so, it simply had to be true. What could be more reliable than an astrological prediction, after all?... Well, apparently nothing,... if you're relying on predictable failure.
- There's really nothing like a good, old fashioned total eclipse of the sun to get those apocalyptic juices flowing, and the eclipse of 1572 was certainly no exception. The skies went dark, the panic set in and much knees bent running around ensued. It's one way to pass a dull afternoon, anyway.
April 28, 1583 CE
- English astrologers went at it, again when they predicted global gloom and doom brought on by a great wind. I'd say they managed a self-fulfilling 50%.
- Yet another astrologer cruisin' for a Parousia, Cyprian Leowitz predicted this year as the last in the series. Already on Pope Paul IV's top 100 list of Writers He'd Most Like To See As Kindling, Cy was really hoping for a breakout prophecy that would make his reputation for all time to come... however brief a span that might be.
- As if poor old astronomer Regiomontanus did not have enough troubles just being dead, by the mid-sixteenth century he was also the favorite subject of endless crank prophecies and hoaxes of the bizarro variety. Sort of the Disney-on-ice of his day. One particularly entertaining prank was pulled by a crew of mystic-minded weirdoes who insisted that the late Reg-Master had predicted the end of the world for 1588. The proof, they insisted, was in some quatrain... somewhere... they were just looking at it... really!... oh, darn, if the place wasn't such a mess, they'd find it and show everybody. Well, you know how it is. Norfolk physician John Harvey knew exactly what it was: A great, honking pile of leech droppings. And he said so, quite publicly... Though in a more elegant kind of Elizabethan-ish way. Still, why listen to a voice of reason when the alternative allows for a good, healthy bout of terror-crazed gyrations and pointless hysteria? In the end it all worked out; in 1588 the public had its little moment of excitement and by 1589 Dr. Harvey got to say, "I told you so" with endless satisfaction.
- Martin Luther; either you love him or you hate him. Tireless reformer against Church corruption on the one hand, woman-hating, anti-Semitic, delusional basket-case whose basic life's motto was, "If it makes people happy, it must be of Satan" on the other. Back around 1500, Luther became convinced that he was living in the ever-popular End Times and that the world would be coming to a bloody, gruesome, gore-drenched, bile-washed, bone-shattering, sinner-roasting, screeching halt in no more than 100 years... Ah, that Luther,... ever the pipe dreamer.
- According to Dominican Monk Tomasso Campanella, the sun would be colliding with the Earth in 1603... Not that there's anything wrong with that. In Tommy's reality, Sol was simply a hunk'a hunk'a burnin' love set to come barreling down in the home world's direction for to sear all our sins away. Naturally, he concluded that this was a very scientific theory and even pestered Gallileo to work out the wandering gasball's traveling speed. The end result of this loving solar thwap would usher in a monarchy of the Messiah, or something, complete with a host of bizarre sci-fi gizmos that would have turned Jules Verne green with envy. The failure of this collision to occur did not seem to put the least crimp in Tom's ramblings. Of course, after the Church slapped him in prison for heresy, he had a good three decades of creative writing time to fill.
- Combining really bad poetry with nutty numbers crunching, Eustachius Poyssel (who, with a name like that, was likely acting out from years of schoolyard trauma) pegged 1623 as the year the unbridled awfulness of it all would come to a merciful end.
- Flood warning number two according to those Brit astrologers from a century before. This time around, though, nobody went running for the raingear.
1652 - 1690 CE
- Some people simply cannot adapt well to change. A stunning example of what can result from a serious lack of coping skills took place in Russia at the end of the 17th century. It all started when Czar Alexis I got his favorite abbot, Nikon appointed Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. Nikon had both a taste for Greek Orthodoxy and big plans for church reform and he put the two together in a liturgical combo-platter that a large-ish percentage of priests and laity had no intention of touching. In the big schism that followed, the theological stick-in-the-muds dubbed themselves "Old Believers", dubbed the Tzar and the Patriarch "Beasts of the Revelation" and convinced themselves that Moscow would fall, the world would end and their chances of ever getting a decent borscht again would drop to zero. Seeing themselves as living in the Last Days and deciding that anything was better than falling victim to the Antichrist, some 20,000 Old Believers responded to the crisis by setting themselves on fire. The new-fangled Russian Church responded to their response by pronouncing them all "excommunicated". Now, see, that's where reason and faith part, because reason would have pronounced them all "dead".
1654 CE - In 1578
, an amateur astronomer by the extremely cool name of Helisaeus Roeslin, came to the not really adequately explained conclusion that the world would be going up in great balls o' fire in exactly seventy-six years. A wise span to choose if you want to avoid the embarrassment of having your Doomsday prophecy fail while you're still around to be laughed at for it. When the big year came around, Helisaeus's prediction was given further credence by that ever-popular sign of impending doom, a solar eclipse. Soon, church bells were ringing, the populace was praying and physicians were advising people to stay indoors. (Presumably, there are few things more injurious to one's health than going outside in the pouring brimstone) For all the excitement and certain portents, though, 1654 was followed by 1655 right on schedule and fireball-free.
- Oh, the things that you never get to read in your High School history books! Take Christopher Columbus, for example. One gets the impression that Chris was spending way too much time out in the tropical sun without a hat. Because 'round about 1501, the famous scourge of the Flat Earth Society began writing bizarre letters and making very strange pronouncements which included, but weren't limited to, referring to himself as "Christbearer".
Feverishly penning his Book Of Prophecies, in which he combined Biblical myth, personal biography, allusions to a Judgment Day circa. 1656 and assertions that he was Joachim of Fiore's missed-but-not-forgotten Messiah, he babbled on with lyrical incoherence about fate, Divinity and how all that broke down in regard to his personal financial portfolio. He even took to signing his missives with a peculiar and not clearly defined mystical symbol, which could only hope to be translated as, "The Explorer Formerly Known As Columbus". Despite his certainty that he was born for higher things, "TEFKAC" royally botched his stint as Big Kahuna of the New World, nearly drowned after losing all his ships at sea, lost a significant chunk of his fortune and eventually died a grumpy old geezer with a serious reputation for being a four-star flying crackpot.
London, 1656 CE
- A rumor began circulating amongst the punctuality-obsessed that this year would mark the end of everything. The reason seemed obvious: Since Noah's Flood had occurred 1,656 years after Creation (well, did not it?!) it was clear that God would be scheduling Flood #2 to arrive promptly 1,656 years after His kid's birthday. Now, who could argue with logic like that?
- Apocalypticism finally reached North America as a fine European import. New England cleric, Michael Wigglesworth was touched by the muses (or just plain touched) and penned his 224-stanza epic poem romantically titled, "The Day Of Doom". The day in question being, "real soon now"... as always. Though a shade too early for the New York Times Best Sellers List, it was, nonetheless, an immediate hit. If only poor ol' Wiggy had written it today, he might have made a fortune on the movie rights and merchandising.
- The new century got off to a flying start by giving a great, big thumbs down to Reverend Baxter's millennium.
- Lacking that future fixture of the check-out line, the tabloid rag display, Pennsylvania grocer Lee T. Spangler began filling his idle hours at the cash register by telling his customers about his spiffy end of the world vision. Pretty soon, the local papers were printing his fire and brimstone babblings and in no time, the prophetic produce peddler found himself with quite a following. Certain that the world would come to a spectacular fiery finish in October, Spangler and his fans were quite put-out when the month came and went without so much as a heat wave.
- Only backward, primitive people who lived in the Dark Ages feared the appearance of Halley's Comet, right? Well, best two out of three. The regularly scheduled passing of the famous planetesimal sent people all over the world into a tizzy. Mystic minded folk were bewailing it as a sign of imminent doom, while the more modern, "scientific" crowd were popping "comet pills" to ward off the dangers should Earth pass through the object's "toxic" tail.
It was over this event that Oklahoma began to assert itself as a bastion of American "rationality" with the appearance of a religious sect calling themselves the Select Followers. The SF determined that the only way to save the planet was to appease the angry ice chunk by giving it what it had clearly come for... a virgin sacrifice. Fortunately, the police got wind of the scheme and rescued the poor girl in time. The comet apparently decided not to take the slight too personally.
- Probably the single most important and hyped-to-hades date in the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses, 1914 became the target for Charles T. Russell's Armageddon almost immediately after the 1881 date went up in smoke... or rather, did not. Dropping pyramidology like a big, chiseled rock, Charlie fell back on the old End-Timer's standby; he picked out odd quotes from the Book of Daniel, assigned them random numerical values, totaled them up and spat them back out again as the "definitive" date for the Big Good-bye. It was during this period that the JW's really got themselves organized and their shiny, new Doomsdate helped them to win over oodles of followers.
Probably the single best advertisement the sect ever got was the outbreak of World War I. Truly, nothing cheers the heart of an apocalypse fan more than hearing that millions of their fellow human beings are about to be slaughtered like pigs in an abattoir, and the JWs were simply twirling in ecstasy at the news. Unfortunately, 1914 insisted on turning over into 1915, then 1916, etc. Still, the war was coming along swimmingly. The death rate was just (if you'll excuse the expression) rapturously high, and the atrocities, what with the trenches and the mustard gas and the attacks on civilians and all, were very nearly Biblical. Fortified by all this devastation, Charlie Russell gave one last try for a definitive cosmic kaboom.
- It was a date poor Charlie Russell never did get to see. Despite his bolted-to-the-baseboard belief that he would never, ever die,... die he most certainly did on October 31, (Halloween! Another holiday the JWs don't celebrate) 1916. Before he went the way of all things, though, Charlie reset his apocalypse clock for 1918 and his followers dutifully fell in behind the re-drawn line. Hard as Charlie's supposedly impossible death hit them, the reality of the times gave the flock reason to hold out hope.
Besides the protracted nightmare of the war, 1917 also brought the Spanish Flu, a hideous disease that seemed to have come out of nowhere and perversely struck down those who were the most strong and vital. As the pandemic tore its fatal swath across the globe, killing some 30,000,000 people, the JWs took heart. It seemed they had good reason. I mean,... did all that calamity look like the signature blood-drenched, poxied hand of God, or what? Yet, before 1917 ran out, the flu ran its course and disappeared, and the only thing that came to an end in 1918 was the war. As the rest of the world celebrated the new peace, these became dark days indeed for the Doomsday deprived Witnesses...
December 17, 1919 CE
- Oh, those portentous planetary alignments! If the Earth had really been cosmically whomped on each and every time one of these babies occurred, there'd be nothing left of the old home planet by now but a pitiful little trail of space debris circling around the sun like litter 'round a cat box. This small detail somehow escaped the attention of Albert Porta, respected seismologist/meteorologist who publicly announced one day, that the conjunction of six planets would "cause a magnetic current that would pierce the sun, cause great explosions of flaming gas and eventually engulf the Earth." This info-gem resulted in a world-wide panic, isolated outbreaks of mob violence and even a few suicides. When the conjunction junctured and the Earth wound up no worse for wear, Porta's career as a respected anything was over. Instead, he spent the remainder of his working life banished to writing the weather column for a local newsrag.
- Out with the old and in with the new. With the shy-of-immortal Charles Russell gone from the picture, J.F. Rutherford stepped in to take the Witness wheel. Assuming rightly that cult followers are long on trust and short on attention span, J.F. casually tossed out Russell's timeline and had all the JW publications re-edited. The old 1874 date for the return of invisible Jesus was erased from all the literature and in its place, 1914 was dropped in.
In the new and improved doctrine, the important thing to keep in mind was that the 1914 generation would not (entirely) pass without seeing the world's End. This point was emphasized in J.F.'s modestly titled tome, "Millions Now Living Will Never Die". So thrilled was J.F. at the brilliance of his logical contortion act that he made the mistake of jumping right in with his own apocalyptic deadline; one that was far too premature to be effective: 1920. He almost immediately started back-peddling, though, and upped the date a still-overly-optimistic tad.
- Noted literary scholar, historian, philosopher and all-around curmudgeon Henry Adams was determined to get human history to make some sort of sense... even if he had to put a stop to it all to do it. Henry was a true Victorian at heart, whose desire for order in the face of chaos guided his life. He finally attempted to put reality into nice, neat and orderly ages that built to a comprehensible climax in two notable tomes: 1909's "Rule of Phase Applied to History" and the 1910 opus "Letter to American Teachers of History". Both of these promoted the idea of history separated into four distinct ages: Religious, mechanical, electrical, and ethereal. His description of "ethereal" was somewhat vague, but his Doomsdate was not. He set it at 1921 with an air of authority that can only come from a man who knows he's never going to be around long enough to have to live the mistake down. Sure enough, Henry died in 1918, and his literary fans have since preferred to see his End Times prophecy as a comfortably metaphoric one.
- This was J.F. Rutherford's prophetic "tad". But, even by the dawning of January 1st, J.F. and his closest cronies were already starting to waffle, sermonizing to the faithful that this was, indeedy-dee, the big year... unless, of course, it wasn't. By the time the annum was halfway through, The Watchtower (the JW's main mag) was warning its members that the leadership had never, never, never suggested 1925 as the End Time and that anyone who said as much was a deluded tool of Satan. So there. Already becoming used to the game of musical chiliasms, the JW rank and file mostly just "bahh-ed" and went on glassy-eyed, god-peddling door-to-door.
Friday, Feb. 13, 1925 CE 12:00 AM PT
- Meanwhile, out in La-La Land, a young girl named Margaret Rowan announced to the world in general that she had a vision courtesy of the angel Gabriel. Along with being one mean trumpet player, Gabe was a bearer of final tidings. At precisely midnight on February 13th, which, not coincidentally fell on a Friday, the world would be going out on a high note. It was a brief message, but for numerous people, a powerful one. One of the overpowered was Long Island house painter Robert Reidt who wasted no time in depleting every last dime of his life savings to buy billboard space advertising an eleventh-hour hilltop get-together of the faithful.
On the appointed eve, people swarmed to the hillside, all dressed up like escaped extras from a bad Bible movie. At the stroke of midnight, they lifted their arms skyward and shrieked "Gabriel! Gabriel!" as if they expected the busy seraph to stop and sign autographs for them. By the time 12:05 came around and nothing happened, the crowds got a might restless. Reidt calmed them down with the suggestion that little Margaret (being out in the wilds of Los Angeles) must have been referring to midnight Pacific Time, and that they simply needed to wait another three hours for the final mo'. When the extra wait time produced nothing more than a lot of soggy, dew-drenched shoes, the disillusioned throng finally dispersed, leaving Robbie behind to yell at the few reporters who'd shown up. He insisted rather pathetically that they'd scared Gabriel away with their Satanic flashbulbs. Apparently, even the angels are wary of red-eye.
May 29, 1928 - September 16, 1936 CE
- Yet another early fan of pyramidology, the noted Giza gazer, Basil Stewart went looking for mystic meaning in the old rock pile and came up with the usual. Besides finding creative ways to make random measurements look like they presaged important world events of the past, Basil went on to show how they could also predict events in the future; however little there might be left of it. According to Bas, the world's days were numbered... in cubits, to be specific, and the above noted dates were going to be filled with all the trials and tribulations of, well, the Tribulation. In truth, 1928 turned out a rather good year. It wasn't until October of '29 that things got a bit grim. Bad as the Great Depression was, though, it couldn't hold a candle to World War II; an event the pyramid was strangely silent about... along with all the other events that have followed since.
- End Times aficionados par excellence, The Los Angeles Free Tract Society were fond of publishing pamphlets asserting that the Second Coming would be coming any second. One of these merry hand-outs contained a wild-eyed screed by Chicago preacher Nathan Cohen Beskin who painted elaborate paranoid pictures of the evil godless world sending its Satanic forces against a tiny band of saintly Christians in the Last Days. (circa. 1934) This "wagons-in-a-circle" fairy tale naturally climaxed with the Lord's Wrath being visited upon anybody outside Beskin's club, followed by a thousand-year opportunity to say, "Nya-nya! Told'ja so!". It seems his followers have had more time to work on those kindergarten taunting techniques than they planned on.
September, 1935 CE
- In an Associated Press story of August 16, 1931 (must have been a really slow newsweek) professional doomwallower Wilbur Glen Voliva went off on a Gog/Magog = Russia rant and insisted that the communist monster would soon attack the Holy Land and cause the whole wide world "to go 'puff' and disappear". Of course, the only thing that went "puff" and disappeared was *****'s prophecy.
- Marching in goose step with the rise of Fascism and white supremacy movements that were all the rage in the '30's, Herbert W. Armstrong founded The Worldwide Church Of God. With a doctrine that included such delightful attributes as racism, anti-Semitism and Anglo-Israelism, (The latter being the bright idea that when the Bible refers to the "Jews", it doesn't really mean the Jews. 'Cause those aren't really the Jews. It really means the "real" Jews... the Christians!) it should come as no surprise that millenarianism came with the package, as well. Although better known for their later, much-hyped 1975 Doomsday, Armstrong got the cult off to a brisk start right from the get-go with a quote in "Plain Truth", the church's official rag. Citing the Depression and the looming threat of war, Armstrong wrote of the year 1936, "We may expect to see heavenly signs of the sun and the moon becoming dark... which shall be followed by the 'Day of the Lord'." When no such day arrived, Herbie just did some Bible math and re-set his Armageddon alarm for 1975.
September 6, 1936 CE
- Some people are just slow on the uptake. That's the only explanation that can be given for George Riffert and his inability to learn from ol' Basil Stewart's mistakes. He did not even wait for Basil's full Trib term to run out, either, before jumping in with his own silly pyramid-prompted prophecy. Of course, '36 did have its ups and downs. It was decidedly not a good time to be a Jew in Germany or anybody at all in Spain. Still, as the old newsreels used to say, "Time marches on".
Halloween, 1938 CE
- Panic erupted amongst some of America's slower radio listeners when Orson Welles's broadcast his Mercury Theatre production of H.G. Wells's The War Of The Worlds. The story was presented in a newsy style, "interrupting" the broadcast of another show for a slew of increasingly frantic bulletins. It was pulled off with such an air of authenticity, that it convinced thousands of people the Earth (or, at least, New Jersey) was being invaded by Martians bent on global conquest. Numerous disclaimers were run during the course of the show saying that this was only a dramatization by an acting troop, but that just did not seem to stick to a lot of people's gray matter. Hysterics jammed up the roadways in a mad panic to flee from the evil aliens and pinheads galore called or stampeded the radio station and their local police. It got so bad that the next day, Welles was compelled to make a public apology for scaring the public witless... Though, arguably, that would have been a redundancy.
- Not to be entirely left out of the prophetic paranoia business, the folks down under managed to produce a Mr. Leonard Sale-Harrison. Lenny was a Bible teacher of otherwise little distinction, who managed to win himself fifteen spotlighted minutes of glory by declaring that the world would end on or about 1940-41. Of course, it cannot be ignored that he did have to come Stateside to find a suitable audience for his announcement. So, the Yanks aren't entirely off the hook for this one, either.
- Desperation and extremism go arm in arm like dance partners in the tacky Ballroom contest of Life. Neither seem to care which leads, but as soon as one really starts to cook, the other will swing in step to match it. For the Jehovah's Witnesses, nothing worked to drive up those desperation levels like five failed End Times prophecies and when World War II broke out, they simply could not contain their enthusiastic declaration of a sixth. Not that they intended it to be a failed prophecy, mind you. Why, if wishful thinking alone could bring on Armageddon, the JWs would have been able to give the cosmic zap to whole galaxies.
That's where the extremism comes in. So great was the need to convince themselves that their latest prediction was true, that the leadership feverishly sermonized the flock day in and day out, warning them not to marry or have children, go to college or seek a job. If they had a job, they were encouraged to quit. If they had homes and property, they were encouraged to sell (and donate the proceeds to the JWs) or give them away (to the JWs). All because the End was coming any minute now, and it might look bad-ish to intimate that you doubted God by actually trying to have something like a life 'till then.
As 1940 became '41, then '42, '43, '44, '45, etc. without the world graciously ending as it was supposed to, the leadership once again began the laborious process of covering up any and all references to their crumbling prophecy. This time around, however, quite a few of the now spouse-less, childless, jobless and even homeless flock were not so easily pacified and many fled the cult in disgust. This did not provide much of an object lesson for TPTB, though. They knew full well that even if a failed prophecy scared people off, a new prophecy for a future date would rope still more people in. All they needed was the date.
November 1944 CE
- Orson Welles's radio play of H.G. Wells's "The War Of The Worlds" was translated into Spanish and broadcast in Santiago Chile, resulting in a South of the border version of the same idiocy that took place on the US east coast in 1938.
- Back in the nineteenth century, before there was a Jean Dixon or an Amazing Criswell, there was John Ballou Newbrough. A sometime gold miner, sometime dentist, sometime Mason and full-time spiritualist wackadoo, JB devoted most of his later years to creating his very own, personal religion, "Oahspe", featuring his very own, personal "Kosmon Bible". Paradoxically, though his Bible was saturated with Christian imagery, JB nurtured a deep loathing for established Christian doctrine and organized churches, and his scribblings (channeled to him by night owl-type spirit forces in the pre-dawn hours, don't'cha know) reflect this distaste. It's because of this, that JB's dubious literary endeavors continue to attract an unhealthily obsessive degree of attention from hyperventilating Fundamentalists even to the present day.
Of course, no spiritualist worth his ectoplasm could have a career without making some flashy prophecies, and one cannot get much flashier than predicting the end of the world. JB was more than happy to oblige. In 1889 he proudly proclaimed that the End would arrive in 1947. At which time, all the secular authorities and organizations would be overthrown, the American flag would be trampled underfoot, Europe dashed into chaos and hundreds of thousands of people killed by Newbrough's favorite personification of ultimate evil: Christianity.
The interesting thing about JB's cult, is that it managed to survive not only him, but also his failed Doomsday prophecy and a host of other dubious, even vaguely criminal dealings. Oahspeians today merely distance the man from his writings by reaffirming that, though JB himself may have been a nutjob and a con artist, his magnum opus still stands, as it was written by the Heavenly Spirits acting through him ...The fact that they only have his word on it doesn't get mentioned much, for some odd reason.
- The establishment of the State of Israel takes place. Considered a key prophetic sign of the Second Coming, many Christians started setting their watches for the End, which they were certain would come within the next 40 to 100 years.
February 1949 CE
- After not having learned a thing from the two earlier experiences with this problem play, a radio station in Quito, Ecuador decided to perform Welles's "The War Of The Worlds" for all their devoted listeners. This time, they did not even bother to run any disclaimers and as a result, the nation went bedbug nutso. Even worse was the public's reaction when they learned they'd been had. A mob stormed the station, pelting it with rocks and finally setting it on fire. Twenty five people were killed in the melee, numerous rioters were arrested and the offending radio station was charged with inciting the riot. And I used to think it got bottomed-out ugly at a Howard Stern book signing.
August 1953 CE
- Missing the pyramidologists so soon? Never fear, they're never silent for long and in the 1950's we even got them back-to-back! David Davidson, in his book, "The Great Pyramid, Its Divine Message" insisted that the world would come to a shrieking halt in this year's good old summertime. Meanwhile....
August 20, 1954 CE
- ...George Riffert, citing who-knows-what hot and grimy tomb chambers and passageway lengths, touted the summer of '54 as a hopeful new date for the Second Coming. Instead, it just wound up as the Umpteenth Coming 'n Going for Pretty Much Nothing.
May 24, 1954 CE
- Who knew that a few cracks in an old sports arena could precipitate a Doomsday scare? But, that's just what happened when engineers working on Rome's Coliseum discovered fissures in the stonework that made the ol' barn vulnerable to serious earthquake damage. Some wiggy would-be prophet announced it was a sign that the Last Judgment was at hand and suddenly, panicked crowds swarmed into St. Peter's Square pleading for Papal absolution before the End. The Pope's reply was something on the order of, "What'Silver Age matta' you, eh? I am a' da Pope! You think God, he's a' gonna end the world without a' telling me, first? Pazze! Get out'ta here!" ...Only in a somewhat more dignified, pontifical sort of way.
Unconvinced that they were getting their full papal money's worth with this answer, the crowds dispersed, but were back again bright and early on the appointed final morning to whine some more. This time, the pontiff just let reality do the talking and when the day came and went sans flaming final coda, the disappointed mob finally gave up and moved on.
- Aside from The War Of The Worlds mix-up, this year marked the very first time that Biblical Armageddon was set aside in favor of an apocalypse of the UFO variety. Dorothy Martin (who was known for years by the pseudonym, "Marian Keech" in Leon Festinger's seminal to