The end of the world is as old as the world itself. We round up our top 10 favorite Doomsday predictions that didn’t happen.
Though the Mayan calendar had scheduled an impending apocalypse for this year, 2012, the end of the world has actually been on its way for centuries. We take a look at the 10 best (and strangest) Doomsday predictions that never happened.
Top 10 Doomsday predictions
1. Mount Vesuvius buries Pompeii (79 A.D.)
The infamous Italian volcano has erupted more than 50 times over its hundreds of thousands of years of activity, but no eruption was more earth-shattering than the one that engulfed Pompeii in the year 79, History.com reported.
The deluge of volcanic ash “shrouded the city in a darkness … like the black of closed and unlighted rooms,” according to one witness, echoing the predictions of Roman philosopher Seneca that the Earth would go up in smoke, according to National Geographic.
2. Plagues and fires (1666)
According to the Bible’s Book of Revelation, the number 666 is described as the “mark of the beast”—which put Christian Europeans into a tizzy as the year 1666 approached, according to Time Magazine. The 1599 plague that ravaged Europe didn’t help matters much.
Then, on Sept. 2, 1666, a fire started in a London bakery, destroying more than 13,000 buildings and tens of thousands of homes over the course of three days, Time reported. However, the disastrous fire claimed only 10 lives: the work of the Devil, perhaps, but not exactly Earth-ending material.
3. Halley’s comet cuts it close (1910)
The arrival of Halley’s Comet, named after British astronomer Edmond Halley, wows the Earth every 75 years or so. However, 1910′s arrival of the brilliant star caused more panic than excitement, National Geographic reported, as many speculated that the comet’s tail contained a gas “that would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet,” according to French astronomer Camille Flammarion.
In fact, the 1910 comet came especially close to the Earth, whose orbit carried the comet’s 24-million-mile-long tail for six hours on May 19, Wired reported. A close call, but the planet stayed intact.
4. Jehovah’s Witnesses prophesy Christ’s Kingdom (1914)
Founded in the 1870s, the Christian offshoot long predicted that 1914 would be the year Christ’s kingdom came to earth, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The group’s central doctrine was the foundation for their “door-to-door warnings that a bloody end of the world is imminent,” wrote the Times’ John Dart, though 1914 came and went without Christ’s arrival.
5. Pat Robertson’s prediction (1982)
TV Evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson is known for saying some far-out things, Ranker.com reported, but his 1980 announcement on his Christian
Broadcast Network show “The 700 Club” may have taken the cake.
“I guarantee by the end of 1982 there is going to be a judgment on this world,” Robertson had said, predicting Armageddon followed by seven “nightmare years” of suffering, according to Ranker.
After misjudging that apocalypse, Robertson revived his Doomsday prophesies: In 2006, the evangelist said God had warned him of large storms and tsunamis, USA Today reported, and in 2008 predicted “worldwide violence” and a stock-market crash by 2010, according to Fox News.
Not the Apocalypse, but hey, not too far off.
6. Heaven’s Gate Hale-Bopp suicide (1997)
Heaven’s Gate, a cult founded by Marshall Applewhite, believed that the earth was going to be ‘wiped clean’ by aliens, and that a UFO riding the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet would transport their souls to the next life, the Daily Mail reported.
Their Doomsday predictions turned tragic when 39 members of the sect committed mass suicide on March 26, 1997, in an upscale mansion in San Diego, California. It was one of the worst mass suicides in United States’ history, according to the North County Times.
7. “The True Way” Taiwanese cult (March 31, 1998)
Hon-Ming Chen established his “True Way” cult in Taiwan, blending beliefs from Buddhism and Taoism with UFO conspiracy theories, according to UGO News.
Chen believed that God would appear on American cable television on the morning of March 31, 1998. He relocated his cult to Garland, Texas—because the town’s name sounded like “God Land” to them—to wait for the Rapture to happen, Ranker reported.
When God did not appear on TV as he had predicted, Chen offered to let his disciples crucify him, which they declined, according to UGO News. Many members of the “True Way” disbanded, several returning to Taiwan because of visa issues, according to Ranker.
8. Y2K scare (January 1, 2000)
In 1984, a computer-trade column warned that a computer calculation error on Jan. 1, 2000 would lead to mass chaos and send machines and technology worldwide grinding to a halt as they reached 00 due to their use of two digits for years (i.e. 98, 99, 00), National Geographic reported.
“People traded off the natural fears some people have of technology,” Tech Republic wrote. “Mix that in with religious fear and fervor of those who were expecting the Second Coming 2,000 years after Christ’s birth (even though Jesus was probably born in 2 BC), and there was just more hype to cash in on.”
Worldwide, people prepared for apocalyptic scenarios and rushed to buy computer software and hardware that would reportedly fix the problem.
The acronym TEOTWAWKI (or The End of the World as We Know It) circulated on Y2K prep websites, and conspiracy theories abounded, but in the end, we all made it into the new millennium unscathed.
9. The Large Hadron Collider’s Big Bang (2009)
Scientists at the CERN in Geneva built a particle accelerator that would allow them to study the world’s smallest known particles, according to the organization’s announcement. Their plan to have subatomic particles called “hadrons” collide led some critics to believe the experiment would cause a black hole that would ultimately destroy the earth, the Telegraph reported.
The concerns came to a head when a group of independent scientists tried to sue the CERN in 2008 to put a stop to the Hadron Collider tests, according to the Telegraph.
However, the experiment went forward, creating temperatures a million times hotter than the center of the Sun (which hadn’t been reached since the first billionths of a second following the Big Bang).
No significant chunks of the earth were harmed.
10. The rapture (May 21, 2011)
Radio preacher Harold Camping was the latest figure to predict Judgment Day, which he was expecting on May 21, 2011 based on his application of numerology to readings of the Bible, according to National Geographic.
The 89-year-old retired civil engineer had broadcast his doomsday warning around the world, even dispatching his disciples to spread the word. Though millions waited with bated breath (and news organizations and comedians scoffed), Jesus did not come to collect the faithful as Camping had said.
I guess we’ll just have to wait until the end of 2012.