Top 10 Failed Doomsday Predictions
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Christopher Lozano.
There have been many predicted doomsday scenarios in history, but so far these have all been end of the world theories that failed. Whether it was the Prophet Hen of Leeds (a hoax where a chicken lay eggs with “Christ is coming” written on them), the theory that the world would end because Halley's Comet was passing by, or the founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith saying that the End Times were imminent (in 1835), these are some of the dumbest doomsday theories. WatchMojo counts down ten false end of the world prophecies.
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Script written by Christopher Lozano.
Top 10 Failed Doomsday Predictions
There’s nothing like a good doomsday prediction to bolster ratings or sell more newspapers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down the Top 10 False Doomsday Predictions.
For this list, we’re looking at some of the most outrageous prophecies that turned out to be hoaxes, lies, or just plain misinterpretations.
#10: The Prophet Hen of Leeds
Imagine how surprised you’d be if your hens suddenly started laying eggs with messages on them. We’re not talking cute Charlotte’s Web type messages here either; we’re talking eggs with the ominous phrase “Christ is coming” on them. Well, that’s exactly what happened in the English town of Leeds in the early 1800s. Being reasonable townsfolk, they assumed this message obviously meant Judgment Day was near. And just their luck, Sarah Connor wouldn’t be born for another hundred years. But in the end, it turned out that Mary Bateman, dubbed the Yorkshire Witch, was handwriting these messages with acid and putting them back into a hen.
#9: Wind Up in 56 Years
In 1835, during a casual conversation with god, Mormonism founder Joseph Smith learned that Jesus would return within the next 56 years, at which point the End Times would begin. Seeing as this meant more war and natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, people were worried. Luckily for all of us today, the world didn’t end in 1891. At least, not that we know of. Over the years, there’s been a lot of debate as to whether this statement of Smith’s should count as an actual prophecy or not. But don’t feel bad for Joseph Smith - he went on to have many, many more prophecies.
#8: Advent [aka Great Disappointment]
After extensively studying the Old Testament, Baptist minister William Miller determined that Christ would return to earth sometime between March of 1843 and March of 1844. William Miller, it turns out, was a very persuasive man and managed to convince over 50,000 to believe him. Many of his followers sold their possessions in preparation for the upcoming end of the world. Hopefully these Millerites kept their receipts, because the world didn’t end between those dates. Miller later claimed he’d made a simple math error and recalculated the date to be in April, and then in October of 1844. When the world kept on truckin’, Miller acknowledged his disappointment and resigned himself to seclusion, but was still convinced that Jesus’ return was just around the corner.
#7: Blood Moon Prophecy
“The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Or so says the book of Joel in the Bible. A blood moon results during a total lunar eclipse and is when light interacts with the atmosphere in such a way that the moon can sometimes appear red or orange. Christian ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz took the previous passage to mean that the world would end after 4 straight blood moons would coincide on several Jewish holidays in 2014 and 2015. In actuality, a tetrad, which is a series of 4 consecutive blood moons, is not that uncommon: 62 tetrads have occurred since the first century AD, according to the website EarthSky.
#6: Joanna Southcott
At around 42 years old, Joanna Southcott started to hear voices... usually not a good sign. These voices told her of upcoming droughts, crop failures, and famines. Claiming she was the “Woman of the Apocalypse,” she amassed over 100,000 believers. She also began selling “seals of the Lord,” pieces of paper which guaranteed Southcottians a place among those selected for eternal life. At 64 years old, proclaiming herself to be a virgin, Southcott revealed she would be giving birth to the next messiah – which is typically a sign of end days to come. But she died before her prophecy could come true.
#5: Halley’s Comet
Passing the Earth every 75-76 years, Halley’s Comet is believed to have been recorded by astronomers since Babylonian times. In 1881, spectroscopic analysis revealed that the tails of comets are made up of deadly cyanogen gas. Fast forward to 1910 when people realized that the comet was going to pass closer than usual and that the Earth would travel through its tail. When newspapers started printing inflammatory headlines, people got really worried. One unsubstantiated story even claims some Oklahomans tried to sacrifice a virgin in order to stave off Earth’s impending doom. The comet did pass by and we did pass through its tail, but there was no apparent effect.
#4: Planetary Alignment
There are several doomsday prophecies related to planetary alignments, which are periods of time when all the planets are roughly in a line. Mathematician Johannes Stoffler predicted a great flood would cover the planet on February 20, 1524, reportedly coinciding with the alignment of the planets. In 1974, astrophysicist John Gribbin and astronomer Stephen Plagemann believed the upcoming aligning of planets in 1982 would create massive stress on the planet’s tectonic plates and cause severe earthquakes. Richard W. Noone, an author with a suspicious name, predicted that the world would be covered in ice because of the 2000 alignment. All three of these predictions would end up coming true. No, wait, none of them did.
#3: Heaven’s Gate
In the 1990s, former music teacher Marshall Applewhite convinced his cult followers that a UFO was hidden behind the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. Applewhite and his cult believed that the Earth was about to be recycled and the only way to survive was to hitch a ride on that UFO. In order to do so, the group had to be released from their bodies so that their spirits could rise up. This lead to one of the most chilling and unsettling mass suicides in recent memory as ultimately 39 of the members killed themselves while wearing identical clothing.
#2: Y2K [aka Year 2000 Problem]
Also known as the millennium bug, this idea began to crop up as we got closer and closer to the year 2000. In order to save space, computers had been using two digits instead of four to signify years. This meant that there was no differentiation between the year 1900 and 2000. Some people began to worry that this could cause problems for many of our computer systems when the New Year arrived. Soon these hypothetical problems blossomed into full-fledged doomsday predictions. People worried that airplane control systems would shut down midflight or nuclear missile launch codes would somehow be deployed. Of course, nothing happened except for a few computers displaying the incorrect date.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Preparing for the Kingdom of God – Book 1”
- Montanism [aka New Prophecy]
- Large Hadron Collider Will Create Earth-Destroying Black Hole
#1: The Mayan Apocalypse [aka 2012 Phenomenon]
Unlike Abrahamic religions, the Mayans believed the world worked in cycles. These cycles consisted of the small stuff we’re used to today like hours, days, and weeks but it also consisted of “Great Cycles.” The end of one such cycle or count was set to occur on December 21, 2012. Many people misinterpreted this to mean that the end of the world was going to occur on that date. They thought Earth might collide with a hidden planet called Nibiru or there would be tidal catastrophes related to planetary alignments. None of this happened, since the calendar simply indicated that a new cycle was starting.