Many people are aware of the currently circulating predictions about our world ending in December of 2012 — based on the Mayan calendar. But most people are probably not aware of previous predictions of Armageddon.
These predictions go far back in time. History notes that on December 31, 999, many people thought the world would end that day. Many flocked to Mt. Zion to await the coming Armageddon. Obviously, it didn’t occur.
Hundreds of years later, soothsayers in London predicted a flood that would destroy the city on February 1, 1524. Countless residents fled to higher elevations to escape the impending disaster. When nothing happened, the fortune tellers quickly said that they had made a mistake in their calculations and that London would not be destroyed for one hundred years, in 1624.
In 1736, another seer predicted the end of London on October 13th of that year. Once again believers fled to higher ground and once again nothing happened.
London seems to have had more than its fair share of Armageddon predictions. On February 8, 1761, an earthquake hit the city, a rare event, causing a soldier to predict the end of the world for April 5th. Once again crowds swarmed out of London. When no catastrophe happened, the soldier was overpowered and placed in an insane asylum.
In 1843, farmer William Miller told crowds in New England that the world would end on April 3rd. He was so convincing that mainstream newspapers published his prediction and the biblical references backing it up. Countless believers headed for the hills and waited for the cataclysmic event. At dusk a strange sound floated over the area, causing numerous people to be swept up into a mania. It turned out to be a prankster from a nearby village blowing on a large horn.
When nothing else happened, Miller moved up the day of reckoning up to July 7th. Miller made a tidy profit by selling “ascension robes” to the believers. When nothing happened that day, Miller moved up the date to March 21, 1844. There was a violent thunderstorm that day, but Armageddon did not take place. Miller moved up the date once again to October 22, 1844, and, incredibly, people still believed his prophesies enough to head for the hills again (one man even bringing his cows – wearing the robes — to provide milk for the saved children) but nothing happened. At this point many of the believers fell away, although Miller went on a lecture tour that included many new predictions for Doomsday. And he continued to sell his robes.
In 1925, a girl in California claimed to have been visited by the Angel Gabriel, who pinpointed February 13th as the date of the end of the world. On that date a crowd gathered to await Gabriel to lead them to the other side. When nothing happened, one of the true believers said that Gabriel did not reappear because of the distraction from newspaper photographers’ flashbulbs.
Later predictions would be based on the measurements of the Egyptian pyramids, asteroids, the apparent disintegration of the Roman Coliseum, and planetary alignments. All would be wrong.
Perhaps the most bizarre incident involving an Armageddon prophecy took place in 1806, in a rural village in England. In that village, a chicken laid an egg that clearly said “Christ is coming.” Many people took this as clear sign of Doomsday and local religious groups prepared for the End Times. A doctor heard of this event and travelled to the village to inspect the chicken and the egg. He easily saw that the message had been written in ink and then the egg had been reinserted into the chicken.
Time will tell if the Mayan calendar believers are right in their prediction concerning the end of the world. If it doesn’t happen, the proponents of the prediction will be in good company.
“The People’s Almanac #2” by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace