May 21, 2011: 10 Times People Predicted the End of the World (and Were Wrong!)

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A Brief History

On May 21, 2011, Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping had predicted that the world as we know it would end, with the return of Jesus Christ and the advent of the “Rapture,” followed by months of fire and brimstone resulting in the destruction of Earth. If you were paying attention on that date, you will note that the end of times did not in fact begin on May 21, 2011! Many people have predicted the end of the world or the end of the world as we know it, and so far, each has been wrong. Today we will discuss 10 of these failed predictions. How will we know when the correct prediction or warning is made? Give us your predictions on how and when the world will end. Also feel free to tell us about any of your favorite end of the world predictions or stories. (Hint: There are a bajillion such predictions. Scientists today also make predictions about the Sun going supernova or other events that mean the end of mankind or the end of the world.)

Digging Deeper

1. Harold Camping, May 21, 2011.

As you will see over and over again, the prognosticators of doom and gloom repeatedly revise the predicted date of the end of the world when the first prediction fails to come true. This radio preacher that reached 150 markets was no different, as he had previously predicted the world would end in 1994, changing his prediction to May 21, 2011 when he was proven wrong the first time. In October of 2011, he suffered a stroke and retired from broadcasting, dying in 2013, still with no end of the world except for himself! Camping made millions of dollars in donations from terrified people over the years because of his repeated predictions of the imminent end of times, another of the common themes among such “prophets.” By 2012 Camping admitted he had no idea when the world would really end and declared his previous false predictions as “sinful” and that none could actually predict the time of the end of the world. No kidding, Sherlock!

2. Al Gore, 2006 for 2016.

In 2006, former Vice President of the United States and environmental activist Al Gore produced a motion picture, An Inconvenient Truth, warning of the perils of Global Warming (aka Climate Change) that would soon destroy coastal regions because of predicted ice melts resulting in rising seas. Gore claimed humankind had only 10 years to radically alter our way of living or the planet would be doomed (reaching an irreversible “tipping point”) as far as supporting human civilization goes. Of course, as we now know, he was quite wrong, at least about the timeline. Gore earned a Nobel Prize and 2 Oscars (Academy Awards) for his dire warning in his book and movie (by the same name). Gore, who is now divorced, was a millionaire (worth about $2 million) when he left office but profited mightily from his book and movie. As with many ex-politicians, Gore commands lavish speaking fees that have allowed him to amass a fortune of perhaps $100 million. The movie alone cost $1.5 million to produce and reaped $50 million in box office income. In 2017, the sequel to the 2006 documentary called (unoriginally!) An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, was released but after the failed predictions of the first film, this sequel only made $5.4 million at the box office, though easily covering the $1 million cost to produce. Among Gore’s failed predictions from the first film was the European Ice Age, the rising sea levels that would inundate Florida and many coastal areas, massive flooding in China and India, and droughts leading to starvation killing 100 million or more people per year. Gore’s failed predictions do not mean that Global Warming/Climate Change is not real or is not a problem for the future of humanity, but certainly he was terribly wrong about the timeline.

3. William Miller, October 22, 1844, et al.

Starting in 1831, this religious leader began predicting the end of the world, with his first “due date” being 1844. Miller said Jesus Christ would make His second coming in 1843, triggering the events of the Apocalypse that would result in the world ending on October 22, 1844. Of course, he was wrong, and as with many “religious leaders” his followers largely ignored the obvious failure and many stuck with him as he continued to issue incorrect predictions, despite the “Great Disappointment” of 1844. (Why people were “disappointed” the world did not end, I do not know!) Miller continued to believe the imminent end of the world and continued to be wrong. The Millerite religious movement evolved into what we know today as the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863. The Church has about 25 million followers world-wide.

4. Pope Sylvester II, January 1, 1000.

When the leader of the Christian Church says the world is going to end, a lot of people take the prediction seriously. Sylvester II was Pope from 999 when he made his prediction until his death in 1003, so at least he got to see that he was in error. In fact, many Christians also predicted the millennium would mark the end of times or the beginning of the end, not really thinking through the fact that our dates are an arbitrary concoction based on when Christ may or may not have been born. In fact, even given the assumption that Jesus Christ was a real person we do not know the exact date of His birth, so the entire AD/BC system of numbering years is inherently flawed. For whatever reason, people continued to focus on the magical idea that the Second Coming (and hence the beginning of the end) would be somehow tied to a millennial year such as 1000 or 2000. We can confidently predict that if people are still around in the year 3000, someone will be predicting the end of the world!

5. Christopher Columbus, 1656.

Not only a famous explorer and slavery monger, this Genoese hero to modern Italians (and especially Italian Americans) also was apparently something of a prophet, as he predicted the end of the world in his 1501 book, The Book of Prophecies. This manuscript, written during the third voyage of Columbus to the New World, was not published until 1991 (University of Florida Press), long after his prediction was already known to be wrong. It seems a common hubris of people with an inflated sense of their own value is thinking that they possess insight that other people do not possess, or in other words, the power of prophecy. Columbus may have though his “discovery” of the New World would inevitably lead to finding the actual Garden of Eden and other discoveries that would trigger the Second Coming of Christ and the subsequent apocalypse.

6. Cotton Mather, 1697, 1716, 1736.

As with many of the people making false, or more generously, mistaken predictions that prove to be wrong when the apocalyptic date comes and no end of the world follows, this famous Puritan minister and crackpot (he was a central figure of the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts in 1692) wrongly predicted the end of the world, was proven wrong and made a new prediction twice, all three times being wrong, wrong, wrong. On the other hand, Cotton Mather was instrumental in convincing Elihu Yale to finance the college that became Yale University, so he did have some positive influence. (By the way, Cotton’s father was named Increase Mather. Where did they come up with these goofy names?)

7. Jeanne Dixon, February 4, 1962 (and then 2020).

An American soi-disant psychic and astrologer, even her “name” was phony. Born Lydia Emma Pinckert in 1904, Dixon had a long running newspaper astrology column and reached her pinnacle of “success” by predicting in 1956 that a Democrat would win the 1960 Presidential election and that President would be assassinated during his first term. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and as with other false prophets, adherents chose to focus on the rare “correct” prediction and ignore the overwhelming number of wrong predictions, such as her failed prophecy of the world ending in 1962. (Which would have invalidated her Presidential assassination prediction…) In fact, during the 1960 Presidential election she claimed to have a vision of Richard Nixon being the victor. (Why do people believe these obvious liars???) Oddly enough, President Richard Nixon (took office in 1969) was a believer in Dixon and followed her predictions! (Later, First Lady Nancy Reagan followed astrological predictions and used them to influence President Ronald Reagan’s choices.) So ridiculous was the propensity for people to focus only on the seemingly correct predictions by Dixon, “The Jeanne Dixon Effect” was named in her “honor” to describe the phenomena of human gullibility.

8. Grigori “The Mad Monk” Rasputin, August 23, 2013.

Rasputin was a charlatan and charismatic hedonist that somehow ingratiated himself into the Russian Royal Family, most especially in the good graces of the Czarina Alexandra when he seemingly saved the life of the Prince (Czarevitch) Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. Rasputin was not even a real, ordained priest or monk, and was eventually murdered under bizarre circumstances (see our article “December 29, 1916: Sex Crazed Mad Monk Died Like A Boss During World War in 1916.”) Rasputin had predicted a terrible storm would cause an enormous fire that would wipe out mankind in 2013, which of course, did not happen.

9. Pat Robertson, April 29, 2007.

In 1990, Robertson, the current Chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and former Baptist preacher and television evangelist, wrote a book called The New Millennium in which he suggests the end of the world would come on April 29, 2007. The end did not come on that date, but this creep has a personal fortune of about $100 million made off his hate mongering statements about such things as the Haiti earthquake disaster of 2010 coming because Haitians had made a pact with Satan, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was punishment for abortion being legal in the US, and blaming the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the ACLU, Gay and Lesbian citizens, feminists, pagans and abortionists (another goof, television preacher Jerry Falwell agreed with Robertson). Jerry Falwell was another predictor of the cataclysmic end of times, predicting in 1999 that within a decade the Anti-Christ would make his appearance (being predictably a Jew) which would begin the end of the world. He died in 2005, too early to see his prediction fail to come true. Robertson also predicted that the Battle of Armageddon would not be the Battle of Megiddo but would instead be the Battle of Jerusalem. We will wait to see if he is correct. Robertson is also known for business dealing with murderous dictators and for calling for the assassination of the leader of Venezuela (now deceased), Hugo Chavez.

10. Isaac Newton, Edgar Cayce, Jonathan Edwards, Sun Myung Moon, et al, 2000.

Too many people to list have predicted that the year 2000, known as it approached as “Y2K,” would be either the end of the world or the beginning of the end of the world, heralded by the Second Coming of Christ, etc. Even the predictions about mass computer failings and the electrical power grid going kaput were all pretty much massively wrong. As much of the world waited for something cataclysmic to happen when the ball dropped on Times Square, nothing happened. Oh well… we should be used to this by now.

Bonus: Mayan Calendar, December 21, 2012.

All sorts of pseudo-scientists and pseudo-archaeologists claimed that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world in 2012, with a variety of mechanisms to bring about the big finish, including earthquakes, lightning, asteroids hitting the Earth, alien invasions and all sorts of terrible things. Real scientists and researchers denounced such claims, but many people believed the spectacular scenarios would come to pass. The major motion picture, 2012, starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet (among others) in 2009 was a big screen homage to such predictions. With an enormous budget of $200 million producers were counting on the 2012 hysteria to make a lot of money, and a box office return of $770 million vindicated that hope.

Bonus #2 and Bonus #3: Charles Manson, 1969, and Nostradamus, 1999.

Manson, the leader of his cult of The Manson Family and perpetrator of heinous crimes, planned on triggering the beginning of the Apocalypse he called “Helter Skelter,” a race war in which African people would kill the Caucasian people and he, Manson, would have to be relied upon to provide guidance and leadership to the supposedly inept Blacks. Nostradamus, perhaps the most famous “prophet” not found in the Bible or Quran, chose 1999, coincidentally right before the millennium, as we have stated, a common date to focus on.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Abraham, Peter. How to discern false prophets and fake miracles. Amazon Digital, 2013.

Columbus, Christopher. The Book of Prophecies: (Repertorium Columbianum).  Wipf & Stock Pub, 2004.

James, Terry. Deceivers: Exposing Evil Seducers & Their Last Days Deception. New Leaf Press, 2018.

Nostradamus. The Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus. CreateSpace, 2013.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.