It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Even in a category as strange as “doomsday predictions”, not all are created equal. For centuries, people have claimed some kind of insight into the end of the world and, so far, the only common element is that they have all been wrong. This doesn’t stop new predictions being made all the time, though, and today we are going to be looking at some of the most bizarre ones out there.
1. Nibiru Cataclysm
The 2012 Mayan calendar nonsense is probably the biggest doomsday brouhaha we are going to experience in our time. There were so many “theories” coming in all at once regarding what would be the end of our civilization: solar flares, collisions with mysterious planets, giant killer ants etc. They all had one thing in common: they were all predicted by the ancient Mayans (except for the killer ants).
As some of you might recall, the world didn’t end in 2012 so, obviously, all predictions were false, but one of them is particularly noteworthy. Nibiru, also called Planet X, supposedly is this mysterious rogue planet that’s hiding somewhere at the outskirts of our Solar System that’s going to crash into the Earth.
This idea came from the mind of a single person, Nancy Lieder who first mentioned it in 1995. Where did she get her information? From aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system who are messaging her through an implant in her brain, of course. (Duh!) It would appear that those messages are arriving a bit scrambled, though, because Nibiru was actually supposed to arrive in May 2003. When it didn’t show up, the date was postponed to December 2012 and, since it didn’t come then, either, I guess we are eagerly waiting for the next appointment.
2. Isaac Newton’s 2060
This prediction isn’t particularly noteworthy as it’s based on the Bible (basic stuff when it comes to predictions) and, technically, it hasn’t been proven false yet (it will). What is noteworthy is the man who made it – Isaac Newton.
Even today, Newton benefits from a reputation as one of the greatest scientists in history so he is not the type of person you would typically associate with a doomsday prediction. However, the truth is that Newton was a devout theologian and he spent a lot of his time studying the Bible, looking for secret messages.
To his credit, Newton never actually published his doomsday prediction. It was mentioned in a posthumous publication called Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John. He arrived at 2060 because it is 1,260 years after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, but he doesn’t expressly say “The world ends in 2060”. This has given way to plenty of interpretations of his prediction and he even states that it might occur after 2060, but not before. It looks like we still have a few decades to go before we see if Newton was right or not.
3. The Seekers
I hope you didn’t think that Nancy Lieder was the only one receiving messages from aliens. Way before her, Dorothy Martin was getting secret information from beings on planet Clarion, telling her that the world ends on December 21st, 1954 after a great flood envelops the entire planet.
Martin founded a group called The Seekers who were preparing for this unavoidable event by leaving their families and giving away their possessions. Luckily for them, they would be saved by flying saucers that would come and take them to safety.
Fortunately for everyone involved, that flood never bother to show up so saving would not be necessary. In a unique twist, this prediction did have an unexpected consequence. Unbeknownst to Martin, her Seekers had been infiltrated by a group of psychologists headed by Leon Festinger who wanted to study doomsday groups. In particular, they wanted to see how these people coped with the imminent disappointment when their prediction turned out false. The results were then talked about in an absolute classic psychology publication titled When Prophecy Fails which, among others, presented one of the first published cases of cognitive dissonance.
4. The Prophet Hen of Leeds
Without a doubt, the most bizarre prediction on this list, mostly because it wasn’t made by a human, but rather by a chicken. The year is 1806 and we are actually talking about a small village next to Leeds. One farm has started attracting a lot of attention due to a hen which kept laying eggs with the words Christ is coming written on them.
Obviously, this prompted scores of people to assume that judgment day was near. It caused quite a furor among the population until a few gentlemen thought it would be a good idea to inspect this so-called miracle in detail. They came to see the hen one early morning and discovered the “miracle” in the process of being set up. What was really going on was that the owner of the chicken was writing on the eggs using some kind of acid and then shoving them up the chicken’s backside.
5. Halley’s Comet
Out of all the doomsday predictions, this one is the most understandable for two reasons. For starters, it was based on an event that actually happened – the passing of Halley’s Comet between the Earth and the Sun in 1910. And the second reason – all the panic was caused by an actual astronomer so the public had a legit reason to believe him.
People were concerned regarding the tail of the comet. They’ve been hearing that it contained cyanogens – substances so deadly that a single grain was enough to cause instant death. They wanted assurances that nothing was going to happen to them. What they got was the complete opposite. For whatever reason, one French astronomer called Camille Flammarion opined that the gas “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet”.
This is the kind of statement that really, really scares people. Unfortunately, it is also the kind of statement that sells newspapers which is why it was featured prominently in the New York Times. The anxiety and fear regarding Halley’s Comet lasted for several months and, in that time, sales for gas masks skyrocketed.