There was so much hype leading up to that night about Y2K that it was hard not to be curious about it, and so we watched New Zealand take on the new year, to see if anything would happen. We were chattering through the countdown, not paying full attention, and joking about what would happen if all the computers in the world suddenly shut down.
10… 9… 8…
We cracked a joke about having plenty of canned goods in our cupboards.
7… 6… 5… 4…
My cousin and I clanged our beers together and said with a smirk, “nice knowin’ ya!”.
3… 2… 1!
The lights on the television screen instantly went black after “one!”. My heart burst into a full on race.
“WTF?” My cousin shrieked.
“They were fucking right. My god, they were fucking right.” Panic was welling up inside of me. I felt beads of sweat form on my forehead.
“It’s not midnight yet here, we need to go get-”
“Oops, sorry folks. Technical difficulties.” A television anchor interrupted my cousin. We stared at the now lit-up screen in disbelief, watching party-goers in New Zealand woop it up with confetti and champagne. After a few seconds to take it in, we burst into laughter. We had truly thought we were fucked.
This is far from the funniest story about a failed apocalypse prediction. Although, I would love to be able to take the moonie for the most gullible idiot in the apocalypse predictions genre, I cannot. Too many people before me and since have stolen that award. It appears ridiculous apocalyptic prophecy is at the source of many of history’s most absurd and chuckle-worthy stories. Here are just a handful:
1. Comet Pills – In 1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet for 6 hours. French, Catholic astronomer Camille Flammarion, in the months prior, had theorized that all life on Earth could perish in the gases from the comet. Media helped fuel that fire by suggesting the gases were made up of cyanide. Christians were sure this was the second coming, while others threw caution to the wind and committed crimes they would not have otherwise. Some were even driven to commit suicide.
To fight the effects of the comet’s gases, some merchants sold comet pills, while others sold umbrellas ensuring customers that it would protect them. On the night in question, people celebrated and remained up all night, assuming the morning would not come.
2. The San Quentin Prophetess – Margaret Rowen was a Seventh Day Adventist who claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel who told her the world would end on February 13th, 1925. Having built up a following of around a thousand people, Rowen tasted a small amount of power and wanted more. With the help of a friend, Fullmer, a fake letter was planted at the Ellen G. White Estate (Seventh Day Adventist minister) which outlined the important new role as prophetess that Rowen was to fill. When Rowen’s apocalyptic predictions proved false, Fullmer admitted the letter was a fraud and continued on to write a piece about how Rowen was a fake and a liar. Her response was planning to murder him, and she ended up doing a short bit in San Quentin for conspiring.
3. Buttermilk and Brazil Nuts – Wilbur Glenn Voliva was a prominent flat earth creationist who offered a reward of $5000 to anyone who could disprove flat earth theory (Hey Deepak, remind you of anyone?). He preached against what he liked to call the “Trinity of Evils”, which were astronomy, evolution and higher criticism. The man was a poster boy for ignorance and when his prediction that the world would go “puff” and disappear in September 1935 failed, he turned his attention to longevity. He was sure he would live to be 120 because he consumed nothing but brazil nuts and buttermilk. He passed in 1942 at the age of 72.
4. Jehovah’s Witnesses – These guys are not just a goldmine of laughs for their door-knocking adventures, but also because they have predicted the end of the world 20 times since their founding. Each time a new prediction is announced, in true ignorant human form, they gain plenty new followers. They have predicted the end of our world would occur in: 1877, 1891, 1904, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1922, 1924, 1938, 1941, 1942, 1961, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1984, & 1989. I predict another prediction coming soon.
5. The Brotherhood of the Seven Rays – The Brotherhood of the Seven Rays is a secret occult society that was led by Dorothy Martin, a Chicago housewife. She predicted the world would flood and come to an end on December 21st, 1954. She claimed to have been given this information by aliens from the planet Clarion. Her failed prediction sparked psychological research which led to the founding and exploration of the theory of cognitive dissonance.
Ashtar looks a lot like Jeeby, no?
6. Ashtar, The Alien – George Van Tassel had a nasty habit of chatting with ETs. He would receive communications from one alien in particular named Ashtar. After his first chats with Ashtar, made possible through channeling and alien tech, George organized the first ever Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention, to be held at his compound… located in a community called Giant Rock, California. His growing numbers of followers in attendance at the convention, were privy to the information he had gleaned from Ashtar. This included the apocalyptic message that the Southeastern US would be destroyed by a USSR nuclear attack on August 20th, 1967.
7. The Quaker Quack – Herbert Armstrong, the son of a Quaker family in Iowa, falsely predicted the end of the world on 4 occasions. He founded the Worldwide Church of God which banned the use of doctors and was one of the world’s first tele-evangelists. He claimed to be Christ’s apostle and spoke out against many things, including cosmetics, long hair on men, masturbation and more. He had very differing ideas on Christianity than most, leading to his beliefs being called Armstrongism. He predicted the world would end and Christ would come back in 1936, 1943, 1972 and 1975.
As I said, this is just a small handful of the near-limitless resource of humourous apocalypse predictions in recorded history. Click here to read part 2.
Do you have a favourite apocalypse prediction story? Let me know in the comments!