With the most recent episode in the never ending saga of apocalyptic scares behind us – the December 21, 2012 so-called ‘Mayan apocalypse’ – one is left to wonder exactly why everyone’s so hell-bent on selling hysteria.
Indeed, when you consider the seemingly endless list of apocalyptic preachers and doomsayers through the ages, “The Boy Who Cried Apocalypse” actually becomes a rather humorous tale. So let us take a step back now to look at a fraction of 1% of the finest moments in our most recent apocalyptic scares (because, yes, there really are that many).
Maestro, if you will. Please queue up your corniest montage music.
10 Halley’s Comet – 1910
Although Halley’s comet makes an appearance in the sky every 76 years, National Geographic reports that “The comet’s impending arrival in 1910…stirred apocalyptic hysteria among Europeans and Americans…many of whom believed that the comet’s tail contained a gas ‘that would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet,’ according the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, as quoted in the book Apocalypses.
In 2062, let us please remember not to hold our breath.
9 Margaret Rowan – February 13, 1925
Had Margaret Rowan been right, many of us alive in the 21st Century would have never seen the light of day. According to Rowan, the angel Gabriel appeared to her in a vision to reveal that the Earth would meet destruction at midnight on February 13, 1925.ii
Was it a coincidence that February 13, 1925 was a Friday or could that have played into the psychology of the ‘vision’?
8 Jeane Dixon – 1962
Theories about strange planetary alignments tearing the planet apart seem to make their way in and out of many apocalyptic musings. In a modern world, it smacks of that perfect mix of science and science fiction to give it a strange ring of “Well, maybe it could be happen.”
When astrologer Jeane Dixon predicted the Earth would be destroyed on February 4, 1962 from a freakish planetary alignment that, well, could make that happen, that logic seemed realer than ever.iii
Fortunately, this galactic game of magnetic and gravitational pinball never took place and the Earth lived to see another day.
7 Charles Manson Race War – 1969
While no one other than Charles Manson and his followers really bought into this one (thankfully), it must be part of the list to illustrate, if nothing else, the destructive power of an unrestrained doomsayer.
In 1969, under pretenses of sparking an impending near-apocalyptic race war (dubbed Helter Skelter by Manson); the “family” (Manson’s followers) committed a string of senseless murders that culminated in the brutal murder of pregnant starlet, Sharon Tate.iv
6 Nostradamus – 1999
While many of Nostradamus’s predictions did in fact come true, he clearly missed the mark in his prediction for 1999 when he wrote:
There will appear, towards the North
Not far from Cancer, a long-tailed comet
Susa, Siena, Boetia, Eretria
When the Catholic church dies, daylight will return.
Clearly Nostradamus’s cryptic prose leaves room for interpretation. Yet author Ned Halley adds in The Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus, “This is one of Nostradamus’s many foretellings of Armageddon, to be signposted by the flaming tail of a comet.”
While we cannot be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt about the true meaning of basically anything Nostradamus said, a list of apocalypses just isn’t complete without his most indelible presence.
5 Y2K (Year 2000)
Several years behind the Hale-Bopp comet and the infamous Heaven’s Gate mass suicide of 1997 (which spurred some apocalyptic hysteria of its own); Y2K became the new face of doom in the years leading into the Millennium.
In short, the debacle centered on a simple yet prickly programming oversight: To save money in programing, a two-digit abbreviation system was employed to denote the year as opposed to a four-digit system. As the problem became clear, fears mounted that computers would go haywire when faced with the year ‘00’, confusing 2000 for 1900 and a pre-computer era.vi
“With 300 million interconnected computers worldwide,” writes Brian W. Fairbanks in Surviving Y2K: Staying on Top in a World Turned Upside Down, “computers now carry the burden of Atlas, balancing the entire globe on their shoulders. But now there’s a bug resting on those powerful biceps. On January 1, 2000, that bug will start to move, crawling on those ticklish arms.”
Through a consorted effort by the powers that be and billions of dollars in research and implementation, the bug was effectively squished and the big “what if” surrounding Y2K quickly became a “remember when?” to the relief of the world.
4 Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Black Hole Scenario
When you set out to uncover the structure of space‐time and demystify the fundamental constituents of matter, you may raise a few eyebrows.vii But when word caught on about the potential for the LHC to create a ravenous black hole, well it’s no surprise that doomsayers had ruffled feathers.
Of all the fears on this list, perhaps the LHC had just enough scientific oomph to legitimize the brief stint of concern that many people felt. Fortunately, when they finally fired the LHC up in 2010, the Earth wasn’t swallowed by a black hole.viii
3 ‘Doomsday’ Comet Elenin
An unwanted visitor from the outer solar system (the Oort Cloud) came into our galactic neighborhood in late 2010, prompting some marginal hysteria and interesting headlines.ix
“Also known by its astronomical name, C/2010 X1, Elenin somehow quickly became something of a “cause célèbre” for a few Internet bloggers,” wrote NASA on October 25, 2011, “who proclaimed this minor comet could/would/should be responsible for causing any number of disasters to befall our planet.”
NASA dispelled the rumors, adding, “There are no known credible threats to date.” Certainly, the tendency of doomsayers to grasp onto the “death from above” scenario always comes into sharper focus when a NEO (near-earth object) enters the scene.
Hopefully going forward, people will leave the predictions to the scientists!
2 Harold Camping’s Rapture
Harold Camping’s highly publicized predictions for Rapture on May 21, 2011 came undone when the date came and went like any other. A real headline maker, major news outlets covered the rise and fall of the prediction.
Writes Garance Burke of the Huffington Post: “Camping, a retired civil engineer, had originally forecast that some 200 million people would be saved when the globe was destroyed, and warned that those left behind would die in earthquakes, plagues and other scourges until Earth was consumed by a fireball.”x
In the end, Camping admitted the error of his prediction as doomsayers changed their gaze to the next big date, December 21, 2012.
1 December 21, 2012
In recent years, the grossly skewed and misinterpreted “2012 Maya apocalypse” cluttered the internet and airwaves with unrelenting speculation and prediction. Yet the slightest bit of research could have easily disproven even the most outrageous of 2012 apocalypse claims.
Perhaps the first step for those touting the 2012 Mayan apocalypse should have been to reanalyze the incorrect assumption that the Mayan calendar ended in 2012. In fact, a simple read in a text book reveals that the ancient Maya believed in cyclical time and thus, a Baktun transition into a new era.
A very complicated equation can be used to describe this incredible breakthrough in logic:
Transition ≠ End of Days
With no shortage of doomsayers, just a few of the catastrophic scenarios caught in the magnetic pull of misinformation included the Niburu (aka Planet X) collision fears, massive solar storms, a shift in the magnetic poles and a rare planetary alignment that would cause colossal tidal effects. NASA swiftly put those fears to rest in a series of statements and videos (for example, eeny, meeny, miny, moe) leading up to (and following) that most auspicious of dates.
In the end, with the passage of the date, this very tired story was put to bed once and for all. For those still in disbelief, feel free to read up on “Why the World Didn’t End” on 2012, courtesy of NASA.
List written by: Marlon Heimerl. Marlon Heimerl is a writer for HalloweenCostumes.com, a leading online retailer in Halloween costumes, accessories and décor.