Ever since there was a world to predict, someone has been predicting its end. You might have noticed that the world did not end on the 23rd of September, 2017. More likely, you didn’t even know that someone had predicted this. Whether from religious fervor, technological uncertainties or even the profit motive, there’s no shortage of doomsday predictions. We narrowed the list down to 10 for easy digestion. And the world just keeps on spinning.
Year: 66-70 AD Predictor: Simon bar Giora Simon bar Giora was a peasant leader of a Jewish sect closely allied with the Zealots who led an uprising against Rome in the first century AD. The uprising was to be the Final Battle of the End Days, followed by the rule of the Jewish Messiah. In actuality, Simon bar Giora was paraded back to Romein humiliation, later thrown to his death from the Tarpeian Rock. The Romans also destroyed the Second Temple at Jerusalem.
Year: 1000 AD Predictor: Pope Sylvester II Fast forward almost 1,000 years and the Catholic Church was getting in on the End of the World act. It’s not clear that the predictions originated with Pope Sylvester II, but his belief in them certainly helped their spread. Europe was plagued by rioting and droves of pilgrims beat a path toward Jerusalem, expecting the end of the world to come 1,000 years into the Christian era. Pedants who insisted that the new millennium didn’t begin until 1001 were doubtless ignored.
Year: 1033 Predictor: Various Christians Some people figured out that the Christian Era, if it begins with the death of Christ, didn’t actually begin until 1033. This, of course, freaked everyone out a bit once they did the math. Consider this “Millenium 2: Electric Boogaloo” or “Millenium 2: On the Move” depending on your preference for sequel naming conventions.
Year: 1658 Predictor: Christopher Columbus In addition to initiating lasting contact between the two hemispheres, Christopher Columbus was also in the End of the World prediction game. His tome Book of Prophecies predicts the end of the world no later than 1658. Precursors would include the spread of Christianity around the globe, the finding of the Garden of Eden, the wresting of the Holy Land from the Saracens and Last Roman Emperor would be chosen to lead the battle. And yet, here we are.
Year: 1918 and then a bunch of other years, but eventually they stopped with 1975 Predictor: Jehovah’s Witnesses Yes, The Watchtower people who disturb your Saturday afternoon naps originally had very firm ideas about the End of the World. At first it was 1918 but, when that came and went, the goal posts moved, eventually making it to 1975, when they stopped trying to nail down a date. They’re obviously still waiting, but they’re just not scheduling the time anymore.
Year: 1967 Predictor: Jim Jones Jim Jones is best known as the guy who actually got people to drink the Kool-Aid (not really, though—it was the cheaper alternative Flavor Aid). He predicted the end of the world through nuclear hellfire in 1967. Despite being wrong about this, people still followed him down to South America and drank the cyanide-laced Flavor Aid.
Year: 1969 Predictor: Charles Manson And while we’re on the subject of 1960s death cults, why not talk about the biggest one of all, the Manson Family? For those not in the know, the Manson Family were trying to start an apocalyptic race war with all those murders. They would then hide in caves for 1,000 years, waiting for blacks to win the race war. Charlie and company would then emerge to help the victors, who would be incapable of governing. Yes, this is really what they thought. A “dune buggy attack squad” was also involved. Oh yeah, and this was supposed to start in 1969.
Year: 1999 Predictor: Nostradamus If you were a kid with HBO in the 1990s, you were more than a little freaked out by Orson Welles at his fattest waxing apocalyptic in The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. Nostradamus was the stuff of legends back when 1999 was still way off in the future, with his prediction that the “King of Terror” would end the world in July 1999. Eighteen years later, the prediction is far less unnerving and Prince’s song is still a righteous jam.
Year: 2000 Predictor: Everyone There was the whole Y2K thing: The fear that a computing choice to use two-digit dates (i.e. “99” instead of “1999”) would unleash a reign of nuclear misfires, ending humanity. A Family Guy episode is oddly the best record of this particular paranoia. Jerry Falwell and the guys who wrote the Left Behind series also predicted that this would be the event triggering the end of the world.
Year: 2012 Predictor: People who don’t understand Mayan astrology The Mayan “long calendar” came to an end in 2012, which doesn’t predict the End of the World anymore than December 31 does. But fruity Western New Agers led by Graham Hancock, the McKenna Brothers and Grant Morrison decided that meant the End of the World and the easily spooked got shook. By all accounts, the world is still here and humanity has by no means ascended to a higher spiritual plane.