This is a list of predictions about the end of the world which, clearly, never came true. For the sake of fairness I have included five predictions based on religious beliefs, and five based on science or pseudo-science.
Montanus was an early “heretic” in Christianity who predicted that the end of times were upon the world. Joined with two “prophetesses”, Montanus claimed to be the embodiment of the Holy Spirit and began to preach a third testament. Montanus’ beliefs became fairly widespread and caused a great deal of confusion and dissent within the early Christian church. Tertullian, the Christian writer (pictured above) rejected mainstream Christianity and converted to montanism. Montanus was eventually condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.
Interesting Fact: Montanus taught that Turkey would become the “New Jerusalem” and that all of Christianity would settle there before the final judgement.
Charles Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist church believed that the world was going to end in 1794. This view concurred with that of the Shakers who also predicted that year as the end. Despite his error, Charles’ brother John also later made a prediction of the end times; John predicted that 1836 would be the year that the Great Beast would come to earth, marking the beginning of the end.
Interesting Fact: Despite being a founding member of Methodism, Charles Wesley begged an Anglican minister to bury him in an Anglican graveyard, stating: “Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England.”
Jehovah’s Witness Predictions
The Jehovah’s Witness religion has made a number of predictions about the end of the world. The first was 1914 – they based their prediction on prophecies from the Book of Daniel. After the end did not come, they changed the meaning of the prediction and stated that it was the date that Jesus would begin to rule invisibly (yes – invisibly). Some other years that the group have predicted the end of the world to come are: 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994, etc. One member of the cult actually built a house for the Jewish prophets to live in when they returned to earth as part of the end times.
Interesting Fact: Charles Taze Russell (pictured above pretending to understand Ancient Greek or Latin) – the founder of the cult sold “Miracle Wheat” at extremely inflated prices, promising wheat of miraculous proportions.
The Great Disappointment
Between the years of 1831 and 1841, William Miller (a Baptist minister), predicted the return of Jesus and the end of the world based on prophecies in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:14). “My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.” The day came and went and the Millerites kept their faith. After further discussion, the date of the end of the world was changed to April 18th. Again the day came and went. Again the date was changed – this time to October 22, 1844. Miller continued to wait for the end until his death in 1849.
Interesting Fact: The Millerite religious movement eventually became the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They believe that the prediction was correct, but that it referred to an event in Heaven not on earth. They continue to believe that to this day. Members of the Bahá’í Faith also believe the prediction – they think it referred to the coming of a forerunner of their own religion, the Bab.
Joanna Southcott was a self-proclaimed English mystic, born in 1750. She was originally a Methodist, but she became convinced that she had supernatural powers and declared herself the woman spoken of in Apocalypse — in the King James Version, Revelation 12:1-6: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”. Joanna predicted that she would give birth to the Messiah – hailing the end of the world, on 19 October, 1814. The world didn’t end on that date, but two months later it did end for Joanna who died. Her followers kept her body for some time in the hopes that she would raise herself from the dead. They finally handed her over to authorities when she began to decay.
Interesting Fact: Joanna left behind a sealed box which she claims contained a series of prophesies. The box is not to be opened until 24 Anglican Bishops gather together for that purpose. Will the secret of Joanna’s box every be revealed?
1910 Halley’s Comet
Even though Haley’s Comet had been visible many times before without any reported deaths, the passing of the comet on May 18, 1910 was thought to be a deathly threat to people because of poisonous gas coming from its tail. It is not only religious misapprehension that can cause apocalyptic panic. This may have been the first time science caused this grave fear.
Interesting Fact: Mark Twain was born in 1835. Haley’s comet had made an appearance this same year. He has been quoted as having said he would “go out with comet.” Mark Twain died in April of 1910.
Respected meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that on December 17, 1919 a conjunction of six planets would “cause a magnetic current that would pierce the sun, cause great explosions of flaming gas and eventually engulf the Earth.” This prediction led to some mob violence and a few suicides. It also caused Albert to lose his job as a “respected” meteorologist and he ended up working for a local paper writing the weather column.
Interesting Fact: The study of meteorology dates back to Ancient times with the first book on the subject being written by Aristotle in 350 BC. The book was called “Meteorology”.
The Jupiter Effect
The Jupiter Effect came out in 1974 and was written by two astrophysicists, John Gribben and Stephen Plagemann. It was about all nine planets aligning on March 10, 1982 to create a gravitational pull that would cause a huge increase in sunspots, solar, flares, and/or earthquakes. Many credophiles took this as a prediction. Although author Gribben even came out and said it was a theoretical “what if” festival without much of any real substance behind it, people believed it was going to happen and would not be deterred.
Interesting Fact: While the effect did not cause major catastrophe, there was some influence by the planets, with high tide calculated at 0.04 millimeters higher than normal.
The comet Hale-Bopp was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months. Amateur astronomer, Chuck Shramek “observed” a companion object following the comet. He then called the Art Bell radio show to report his findings. This led many to believe a variety of “end of the world” theories. The internet helped spread the word even faster. The Heaven’s Gate cult felt this was their signal to commit mass suicide in March of 1997. The cult believed the companion object was a spaceship coming to pick them up only to be reached by leaving their Earthly vessels behind.
Interesting Fact: You can watch a fascinating video clip of the Heaven’s Gate cult on youtube. The video is here.
Nostradamus, arguably the best-known seer of all time predicted July of 1999 to be the chosen date of Armageddon. A “great King of Terror” was to descend from the sky. When that didn’t come true the doomsayers began spreading rumors that the Cassini space probe was going to crash on Earth. The Cassini probe was filled with radioactive fuel. If this was spilled in a crash it would fulfill the prediction in Revelation 8:11 “And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” And of course, no one can forget the years leading up to 2000 in which doomsayers the world over predicted catastrophe for man due to the Y2K bug.
Interesting Fact: Nostradamus was, by profession, an apothecary – which, in modern terms, is a pharmacist.