One of the many ways people throughout history have chosen to enjoy their time on earth is trying to figure out when and how it will end. Some of these accounts are infuriatingly vague, and some are pretty explicit, giving the date and time that New York will be destroyed or that Jesus will show up on TV (but never a channel guide).
If you’re someone who is anxiously waiting for the end of the world (and maybe needs a hug), don’t be sad that none of these have happened. Arguably the coolest end of the world prediction is Ragnarök, from Norse mythology meaning, “The doom of the gods,” and there’s no set date for that. So while we sit and wait for the final battle between the Odin, Loki, Thor, and the Frost Giants, here’s a list of 25 Times The World Was Predicted To End But Didn’t.
January 1st, 1000 AD
Pope Sylvester II predicted, along with many other Clerics in Europe, that on January 1st, 1000 AD, the world would end. Riots occurred in parts of Europe and people made pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Apparently, they thought Christianity only had a shelf life of 1000 years.
February 1st, 1524
German Astrologer Johannes Stöffler told everyone the world was going to end on February 1st, 1524 in a great flood due to where the constellation of Pisces was in the sky. Despite many people moving to higher ground, general panic, and possibly an ark being built, there was no great flood, only a slight rain. Still about as accurate as current weather forecasters, then.
Due to completely understandable confusion between real life and mythical eagles (creatures, not the band), most Romans thought that the city would end in 634 BCE, 120 years after it was founded. This turned out not to be true, and the Romans ended up doing pretty well for themselves.
One of the Innocent Popes (the 3rd), who was generally not a great person, decided that adding 666 to the year Islam was founded would give us the date of the end of the world. Since no one knows when Islam was founded, and Pope-ironically-named-Innocent was sending crusades to wreck most of the Islamic world at the time, some liberties were taken with dates, but what he came up with was 1284. He was wrong about a lot of things, and that was one of them.
1656 or 1658
Christopher Columbus – you know, who sailed the ocean blue in 1492 – wrote a book of prophecies titled “Book of Prophecies” that was…weird. It included a list of things that must happen before the second coming of Christ, such as “The Garden Of Eden Must Be Found,” and “A Last World Emperor Must Be Chosen.” Despite neither of those things having happened yet, Columbus then went on to predict the end of the world in 1656 or 1658.
The tails of comets contain a poisonous gas called cyanogen. When scientists discovered this in the 20th century, there was panic about the coming of Halley’s Comet, as Earth passed through it’s long tail. Despite that fact that there is nothing to fear, in 1910 the passing of the comet was viewed as doomsday coming.
August 31st, 2013
Grigori Rasputin – yeah, THE Rasputin, the famed Russian mystic and faith healer to the last Tsar of Russia, inspiration for the song by the amazing disco group Boney M. – predicted over 100 years ago that the world would end on August 31st, 2013. He warned of a “Terrible storm” and that “Fire will swallow all life on land, and then life will die and there will be the silence of the grave.” Then, supposedly, Jesus would come hang out and comfort survivors for a few days and then go back to heaven.
Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses and also predicted that Christ would return in 1914. When that didn’t work, the religion he founded then went on to predict seven other times for Armageddon, but Armageddon hasn’t RSVP’d.
“The year 1999, seventh month / From the sky will come great king of terror,” wrote Nostradamus some 400 years ago. His devotees thought that perhaps that meant the end of the world in 1999. The most interesting thing that happened that month was that the 3rd Harry Potter book was released, and NO, it was not the book where Voldemort is resurrected.
March 23rd, 1994
Neal Chase, a leader of the Bahá’í faith, predicted that NYC would be destroyed via nuclear bomb on March 23rd, 1994, and that 40 days later the Battle of Armageddon would start. That’s just….oddly specific.
Followers of Mae Brussell, who call themselves Brussell Sprouts (proving they at least have a sense of humor), predicted the end of the world in December of 2015, claiming that a tenth planet known as Planet X, The Destroyer, Nirbiru, etc would collide with earth, and that all the world governments knew this was going to happen and it’s the biggest cover up in history since putting fluoride in our water. Don’t worry though, since we didn’t die last December, they’ve since updated their predictions to October or later 2016, so we all have that to look forward to.
You can say many things about Harold Camping, but you can’t say that he was a quitter or easily swayed. A Christian evangelist, the man predicted the end of the world over a dozen times, including twice in 2011, which he claimed was exactly 7,000 years after the Great Flood of Noah in the Bible. His followers sold their possessions and in some cases their homes. Billboards about preparing for judgement day went up all over the US, and bars held end of the world parties. Sadly, not only did the world not end, Camping died in 2013, and when/if Christ ever does return to wreck everything then give out lollipops, Camping won’t be here for it.
In the very late 1700’s, Joanna Southcott started hearing voices telling her the future. Not cool future predictions like who would win horse races and that someday we would have airplanes and iphones, it was the standard doomsday/famine/crop failure. She did, however, manage to get things sort of right in that the great Irish Famine lasted from 1799-1801 (Southcott lived in England), and between that and publishing her own books she eventually had around 100,000 followers. In 1813, she told everyone that she was pregnant – yet still a virgin – and her child was to be the messiah, the second coming of Christ, signaling the end of days. She died before a baby could be born, at age 64.
1666 was not a great year for London. For one thing, the year before the Plague had killed about 1/5 of London’s population. For another, many people interpret the book of Revelations to say 666 is the number of Satan or The Mark Of The Beast, so they thought that surely the year being 1666 marked the end of days (just ignore the one, it doesn’t matter). So you have a lot of people believing the world will end, and then, in September, you have the Great London Fire which burned for three days and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and buildings. Thinking the world was ending was probably a pretty fair guess at that point.
The year 2000 and the Y2K bug was a serious worry for many people, who believed everything electronic would just stop when the date clicked over to 01/01/00. To be fair, this was a concern as most computers recorded dates in a series of two digits and hadn’t been taught about millenniums, but there were patches and fixes in place long before December. Still, some believed planes would fall out of sky, the power grids would go down, bombs would or would not go off willy nilly as they saw fit, nuclear power plants would melt down and luddites would wag their fingers at the rest of us for relying on computers too much. That obviously didn’t happen.
The Prophet Hen of Leeds laid eggs that said “Christ Is Coming” and generally caused a panic in 1806. Unfortunately, this turned out not only to not be the end of the world, but not even the hen making the predictions, as her owner was writing on the eggs and uh…returning them up the hen. Because it makes sense that when/if Christ does return, the message will surely be printed on eggs. In English. Said owner of hen – one Mary Bateman – was later hanged for murder of a couple she fed poisoned pudding, also in 1806.
March 31st, 1998
When Hon-Ming Chen founded his cult (the Chen Tao or True Way Cult), he went for the gusto, combining Taoism, Buddhism, a rule of each person having three souls, and UFO’s. At one point he moved his cult from Taiwan to Garland, TX because Garland sounded like “God Land” to them, and they wanted to wait for the rapture in God’s Land. The Rapture was going to start when God appeared on American Cable (morning cable) on March 31st, 1998 – because how else would an all powerful deity return to Earth other than AM cable? When that didn’t happen, Chen tried to get his followers to crucify him (literally), and they declined.
The Zeta Reticuli were supposed to come crashing into our planet and cause all sorts of a ruckus in May of 2003, but it appears we were stood up. Nancy Lieder became aware that she was a contactee for the Zeta in 1993 and has apparently been used in their genetics breeding program. When her 2003 alien invasion predictions didn’t come through, she claimed she made up the prediction to “fool the establishment.” Um…well..fool me once, and I’ll let you know? She still maintains a website and youtube channel, as well as a helpful map listing places you can safely flee to when Planet X enters our orbit and starts causing havoc. It should be noted that the way Lieder describes the Zeta, they bear a disturbing resemblance to Lord Voldemort.
2010 or 2011
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is partly on this list just because it had a really cool name, partially because they were a magic cult in Great Britain (active through the early 20th century) that studied and practiced the occult and metaphysics and fun things like astral travel and alchemy, but mostly they’re on the list because they predicted the world would surely end sometime around 2010/2011. They weren’t really specific on how, though.
Dec. 31st, 1988
Hal Lindsey is a current evangelical pastor who keeps predicting the date of the rapture of Christians, the second coming of Christ, and the end of days, despite Christ himself saying he wasn’t telling anyone (Matthew 24:36, for the curious). In his book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” published in 1970, Lindsey claimed that current events were leading up to the world ending on Dec. 31, 1988. That book – which by the way was made into a movie – spawned a trilogy of books on questionably fear mongering theology, including Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth and The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon. These days Lindsey is mostly keeping to vague “surely we are in the last days!” rhetoric.
It might seem as if Western culture and weird offshoots of Christianity in particular have the market on doomsday cornered, but let us look to our friends in the Eastern World. Aum Shinrikyo is a Doomsday cult from Japan founded in 1984. Aside from carrying out some chemical weapon based terrorism in Tokyo in the 90’s, this cult also predicted the world would end via nuclear war in late 2003. In 2007 they disbanded into two smaller groups.
June 3rd, 2016
No doomsday list would be complete without the Mayan Prophecy, though it’s pretty murky as to whether it meant the end of the world, or the end of an age and the beginning of a new, enlightened age. The original assumed end of all things date was December of 2012. However, when that didn’t happen, it was explained that due to differences between the Gregorian and Mayan Haab calendars, the date of doom was ACTUALLY June 3rd 2016. As of September 2016 in the US, we are neither completely destroyed nor enlightened.
April 23rd, 1843
In the mid 1800’s, a farmer in New England named William Miller announced that he had studied the Bible and figured out when God was going to destroy the world, and that date was April 23rd, 1843. Much like with Harold Camping, many of his followers sold or gave away their possessions and just hung out awkwardly all day waiting for awful things to happen, kind of like waiting for a sneeze, and then were oddly disappointed when awful things didn’t happen. Some of his followers did however go on to form the Seventh Day Adventists.
July 29th, 2016
The most recent “please enjoy by” date for earth that has now passed was July 29th, 2016. A fringe group of Christians calling themselves The End Times Prophecies released a video saying the magnetic poles of the Earth would suddenly flip (not Christ coming this time!), and that it would “make the stars race across the sky” and create a vacuum that would pull the atmosphere to the ground. Thankfully we have NASA and science to explain that Pole Reversal happens all the time (on a geological clock), and it takes hundreds of years. In other words, yes the poles are reversing, and it’s okay.
Al Gore has made some pretty dire predictions over the years. By now the ice sheets should be completely melted, Polar Bears should be a distant memory (they’ve recovered from the early 00’s decline, just like they recovered from the decline in the 70’s), India and China should be half underwater, and Europe should be in a full on Ice Age or sub tropical climate because we’re all using fossil fuels. However, just like Christian doomsday die hard followers, the dates just keep getting pushed back, and the popular culture is pushing on with predictions not yet come to pass.