Five doomsdays that never happened

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According to internet conspiracy theorists, the world will end this Friday - a prediction based on an incorrect interpretation of Mayan theology, and a strange mix of New Age beliefs.

December 21 marks the end date in the civilisation’s “Long Count” calendar - and this date has become associated with wild predictions of alien visitations and apocalyptic events.

"December 21 will be just another Friday morning," says Dr Andrew Wilson, a University of Derby academic who has studied the origins of the December 21 myth.

But this bizarre theory is not the first to have people believing their days are numbered. Here are some of the other predicted doomsdays that never happened:

Rapture, May 21, 2011

Those terrified by this Friday’s predicted doomsday would do well to remember last year’s flop forecast of the Rapture by Evangelical preacher Harold Camping.

The now notorious 91-year-old American radio broadcaster was so certain that Jesus Christ would return to Earth and that billions of apparent ne’er-do-wells would perish in flames that he spent $100million advertising the event.

Former New York Subway worker Robert Fitzpatrick, 61, even sank his $140,000 life savings into warning that only 200million faithful - or 2.8% of the world’s population - would be saved

When May 21 last year passed and nothing happened, Camping revised the date of the Rapture and end of the world to October 21. Again, the date passed without infamy.

After months of silence, Camping, who had also once predicted the same fate for September 1994, “humbly” admitted: “We were wrong.”

Doomsday predictions throughout time
Doomsday predictions throughout time

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ prediction of the Second Coming, August 1914

The First World War – a conflict like no other before - was quickly noted as a watershed event in history.

But for Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time it was a little more important than just a particularly bloody war.

The door-knocking religious sect’s founder, Charles Taze Russell, predicted that the year would see the Second Coming of Christ.

The First World War, which began in August 1914, was interpreted as a sign of Armageddon and the end of days.

But 1914 passed without Rapture and the fighting between European powers lasted another three years and claimed 10million lives.

The Second Big Bang, November 23, 2009

Whereas most doomsday predictions centre on an apparent plan by God, some believe that the end of the world could be man-made.

When the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was completed in 2008, some groups feared the “doomsday machine” could trigger an all-consuming black hole.

Once fully switched on – heralding the largest ever recreation of the Big Bang particle collisions that created life – a black hole might emerge and swallow our planet up.

Doom mongers, one of which even sued the organisation behind the LHC, CERN, suggested that the Earth –and everything on it – would vanish from space in a twentieth of a second.

Eight seconds later, the moon would disappear - and eight short minutes after that, the Sun would be ripped apart, followed by the rest of the solar system.

But when, on November 23, 2009, particle collisions commenced in all four detectors, it produced much glee for physicists – but no life-destroying black hole.

Y2K, January 1, 2000

The Year 2000 was supposed to mark the moment that Britain’s 19th century anti-technology Luddites would be vindicated and our reliance on machines would come back to haunt us.

With the passing of 1999, it was feared that computers would be unable to move from a two-digit date (97, 98, 99 etc) and all manner of chaos would ensue.

It was predicted that planes would fall out of the sky, trains stop running, microwaves blow up and, perhaps most importantly, banks would fail.

Businesses spent billions updating software and systems to avoid the apparent peril of the “Millennium Bug”.

But in the end, after midnight passed, the headache for mankind was a result of drinking far too much on New Year’s Eve.

Many computer scientists now believe the threat was over-egged and that much of the costly updating was unnecessary.

The Great Fire of London, September 2, 1666

With witch-burnings and fears of satanic priests rife, the 1600s marked high times for religious superstition.

So it is perhaps not surprising that residents of London felt a little edgy about the approach of 1666 – with 666 being the biblical “mark of the beast”.

After all, 100,000 people had just died in the plague of 1665.

Panic about the end of days reached a crescendo when, on September 2, 1666, a bakery in Pudding Lane caught fire and the inferno quickly spread.

It burned for three days and destroyed more than 13,000 buildings.

But, in spite of the wide-scale destruction and hell-like appearance of the fire, only 10 people died.

It is also believed to have had the beneficial effect of preventing future plagues – by wiping out the disease-harbouring rats.

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