A look back at previous Doomsdays
December 20, 2012 2 Comments
A couple of years ago, I was riding home in a cab one night with an extroverted driver who engaged me in a bit of conversation. As we headed west on Winnipeg’s Grant Ave., he began to tell me how the world was going to come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar and, somehow, the Obama presidency in the U.S.
I gently demurred by simply smiling and saying that I was hoping to be around to see the arrival of 2013. I kept the impression that he had perhaps listened to a little too much late-night talk radio to myself.
Now, here we are. It is Dec. 20, 2012 in Winnipeg, and Doomsday is supposedly just around the corner.
As I write this, I’m toggling back and forth between this screen and another tab with a webcam image of the Auckland-Waiwera Motorway in Auckland, New Zealand‘s sprawling northern suburbs, where it is already late in the afternoon of Dec. 21, 2012.
As of 9:36 p.m. Winnipeg time (4:36 p.m. New Zealand time), traffic appears a bit heavy in the northbound lanes, but that’s likely due to routine rush-hour traffic rather than an impending Apocalypse. In fact, the Kiwis seem to be in no panic.
In all likelihood, it will be the same here in North America on Friday afternoon: heavy rush-hour traffic, but no global destruction.
The world has seen many Doomsday predictions come and go over the years, with little deviation from the normal on the day in question. Here are just a few.
Oct. 22, 1844: The Millerites, a Christian sect in the U.S., anxiously awaits the arrival of Jesus Christ, with some climbing hills or scrambling to their rooftops for the event, supposedly foretold by the Book of Daniel. By day’s end, many are disappointed, particularly those who sold or gave away all their belongings which they figured they would no longer need. The event is remembered in history as the Great Disappointment; none being more disappointed than the movement’s leader, Baptist preacher William Miller, who was forced to endure taunts such as “Have you not gone up?”
Feb. 6, 1925: “Friday at midnight, Jesus will make his appearance riding on a cloud in the heavens, and with a great fanfare of heavenly trumpets will slowly descend to Earth,” Elder P. W. Province of a California group of renegade Seventh Day Adventists confidently predicted, adding that “the wicked living and the wicked dead shall be killed eternally.” The trumpets never sounded. The movement’s leader, Margaret Rowen, later attempted to murder one of her disillusioned financial backers and ended her days in “the late 1940s or 1950s” living under a pseudonym.
Jan. 20, 1976: Maybe it wasn’t the end of the world he was predicting, but clairvoyant/unemployed housepainter John Nash’s prediction that his “city of sin” hometown of Adelaide, South Australia would be destroyed by an earthquake and giant tidal wave led the state’s premier and a group of reporters to stand on a beach waiting for the great disaster. While Nash took refuge in the safety of Melbourne, 400 miles away, the Premier and the reporters waited on the beach. And waited. And waited some more. The most they saw was “a six-inch ripple on the surf”. Tidal wave or not, it’s probable that Nash needed safe refuge. “The people who have sold everything have threatened me if the disaster does not occur,” he complained to a reporter.
Mar. 10, 1982: In 1974, a book called “The Jupiter Effect” came to the conclusion that a rare clustering of planets on Mar. 10, 1982 – the closest together the planets had been in 179 years — could change the speed of the Earth’s rotation by precipitating solar flares, thus causing violent earthquakes worldwide. Critics noted that the planets had a minimal effect on the Sun, and they were right. The leading U.S. news story that day: No great disasters; just reports that the CIA was conducting covert operations against Nicaragua’s left-wing government from neighbouring Honduras.
Oct. 28, 1992: The world was supposed to end with the blare of trumpets and the appearance of white-robed angels, or so thought members of a South Korean sect who expected the world to end on this date. Some sold their possessions, others left their families or deserted military posts to await an end that never came. The leading news that day: Just another day on the campaign trail in the States.
Then there were, of course, Comet Hale-Bopp and the tragic circumstances for a U.S. cult, Harold Camping’s various End of the World predictions and the Y2K craze, none of which brought about the end of the Earth.
I expect we will all continue to be around next week and next year. To all readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings and, if I don’t write again before 2012 comes to an end, a Happy New Year.