For centuries, people have claimed to know when the world would end. Last Thursday, the House of Yahweh group from Texas announced that the end of the world was to begin June 12, 2008 (today). Not exactly the gift I had in mind for my 20th birthday. However, this isn't the first time the group has claimed the end was nigh. Yisrayl Hawkins (pictured) had previously predicted that nuclear war would start September 12, 2006. When the date passed with no war, it was instead called the start of a nine-month gestation period for the "nuclear baby," which would be born June 12, 2007. The group now claims that this is the year the end is coming. For real this time. While I cower in my basement waiting for the nukes, here are 6 more doomsday predictions from the past to consider.
Margaret Rowan, 1925
Out in California, a young girl named Margaret Rowan claimed the angel Gabriel had visited her and proclaimed the end of the world would be February 13th at midnight. The message was brief, but powerful. Robert Reidt, a housepainter from Long Island, was especially taken by the proclamation, buying advertising space to spread the word and promote a hilltop get-together for the faithful. People swarmed to the hillside at the appointed hour, lifting their arms skyward and shouting "Gabriel!" again and again. Midnight came and went, with no one taken to the heavens. Reidt calmed the crowd by rationalizing that Margaret's prediction must have been made for Pacific time, as she was in California, and the faithful waited another 3 hours. After the extra time still produced nothing, the throng dispersed, and Reidt blamed the failure on the "Satanic" flashbulbs of the reporters that had shown up.
Dorothy Martin, 1954
Around Christmastime in 1954, Dorothy claimed peapod-like ships able to hold 6-10 passengers each would descend upon Oak Park, IL, and take those who believed away. Members believed that after the ships left, a new sea would be formed, cleansing the area of human life and creating a new order. No metal would be allowed on board, so all zippers and metal clasps were removed. Anxious for first contact, the faithful took an invitation by phone to a party as a sign, returning dejectedly after discovering it was merely a prankster. However, once the appointed time came and went, the followers did not see the error of their ways. Instead, they became more fervent in their beliefs, with members of the group researching ancient South American civilizations in search of their space saviors. The reaction of the group interested psychologists, who used the situation as a chance to study cognitive dissonance and understand what happens when a group finds something they thought to be true is actually false.
Church Universal and Triumphant, 1990
Located in Montana, the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) and spiritual leader Elizabeth Prophet became famous in the 1980s for claiming a nuclear holocaust would happen at the end of the decade. Members built shelters and stockpiled weapons and food in preparation for the predicted date of April 23, 1990. Nuclear war didn't occur, and disillusioned members left the group despite CUT's claims that their fervent prayer had prevented the disaster. Nowadays, membership has declined, staff and property have been downsized, and Elizabeth Prophet is in home care for Alzheimer's. The group still maintains the end is close.
Heaven's Gate, 1997
Heaven's Gate is remembered for the mass suicide tied to the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997, but the group's motivation is just as interesting. Believing the Earth was to be "recycled" (wiped clean and rejuvenated) after the comet passed, the group saw their bodies as vessels to help them journey away from the planet, and true "suicide" to turn away from the chance to reach the "Next Level." Members of the Marshall Applewhite's group replaced their last names with an "-ody" at the end of their first names, and funded the group by providing professional web development services through their business Higher Source. Preparing for departure, members donned matching black shirts, sweatshirts, Nikes, and armbands reading "Heaven's Gate Away Team". Leaving a press release on their website to explain their reasoning, suicide was conducted in shifts as the members anticipated joining a ship hidden beyond the comet as it passed by Earth. The group's website remains intact, a lasting record of their time on Earth.
Richard Noone, 2000
In 1982, Richard Noone published his book 5/5/2000—Ice: The Ultimate Disaster, in which he claimed the Earth's crust would shift horribly, causing massive earthquakes and volcanoes and ultimately ushering in a new Ice Age. This shift, a result of the alignment of the planets, was supposed to have huge repercussions, with oceans becoming "maelstroms of death" and three-quarters of the human race being killed. Noone's claims didn't come true, and while he doesn't seem to have written any other books predicting more destruction, 5/5/2000's 1997 revised edition can be picked up at Amazon.com for a cent. Any takers?
UNARIUS (UNiversal ARticulate Interdimensional Understanding of Science), 2001
Founded in 1954 by Ernest and Ruth Norman (who went by Ioshanna and Uriel, respectively), UNARIUS is one of the more flamboyant groups in this list. Believing Earth to be a "kindergarten for spiritually debased souls," followers study a weird mix of flying-saucer theories and past-life regression in an effort to move to the next level. A local access show was used to recruit new members in the 1980s, with messages (featuring Uriel's unique wardrobe) such as this appearing in the California area:
Ioshanna wrote of a 2001 mass space fleet landing. When that didn't happen, the organization decided to return to its roots. Roots, in this case, being a belief in a future extraterrestrial landing that will assist humankind.
This is by no means a complete list. To read more past prophecies and predictions, check out:
A Brief History of the Apocalypse
It's the End of the World As We Know It...Again
Apocalypse Now. No, Really, Now!