If, At First, You Don't Succeed, Fail, Fail, Again
The explosion of apocalypticism in our "modern" 20th & 21st centuries
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1992 CE - In Dorothy Miller's book, "Watch and Be Ready: Nineteen Ninety Two Millions Disappear" the Christian author asserted that, "the last trumpet would sound" this year and signal the Second Coming. Maybe Jesus is more of an oboe kind'a guy?

1992 CE - A Canadian prophecy teacher who rose to riches by tapping into the bottomless Doomsday market, Doug Clark became a hugely popular fixture of the Trinity Broadcasting Network with his show, "Shockwaves to Armageddon". From Bible prophecies to the Jupiter Effect to World War III, Dougy pilfered just about every known apocalypse fad he could get his hands on. His shows were filled with the stuff eschatology addicts can never get enough of: Graphic descriptions of carnage and destruction, natural disaster and mass death, the total collapse of civilization, near-unimaginable suffering and a shortage of non-diet Coke.

  The public ate it up. They bit down hard on his packaged tours to the Holy Land, too. His last big tele-prophecy was that 1992 would bring WW III and the end of it all. Instead, it was 1990 that brought the end of his career when his Holy Land tours turned out not to be everything - or really anything - that he'd promised. He went on the lam from the US Postal Inspector who'd issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of mail fraud. Canadian Immigration finally nailed him in 1995 and he was shipped back to the States for trial and a two year stay in a Federal pen.

October 28, 1992 CE - Truth doesn't always come out of the mouths of babes. In fact, more often the mouths of babes produce wild flights of fancy, mindless repetition of things they know will please their elders, gurgly noises and spit. An example of all four was put on display back in '92 when twelve year-old Bang-Ik Ha of the Korean Tami (or Dami) Church declared that he'd been given revelations of an Oct. 28 Rapture from Jesus, himself. The kid was immediately launched to celestial celebrity status within the Hyoo-go movement, a fanatically apocalyptic Christian sect based in Korea, but with members world-wide.

  In truth, Ha was just one of a shopping cart-full of prophets, witnesses, signs and portents offered up as proof of the coming End Times by Lee Jang Rim. Rim was author of the wild-eyed terror-tract, "Getting Close To The End". An immediate best seller in the Korean Christian community, it allowed Rim to set himself up as a major cult leader, promising glorious Rapture for the faithful and horrific, agonizing death for unbelievers and the unworthy. And that last was a serious sticking point; being unworthy. Believing wasn't enough for the Hyoo-goers, the quality and intensity of one's belief and one's willingness to suffer and sacrifice for it was to be the determining factor. If Jesus found your faith extreme enough, then you'd be bound for Heaven. If, on the other hand, you were found at all lacking, hyoo-go straight to Hell. (sorry, I had to do that)

  This qualitative fanaticism led to a long string of bizarre and destructive weirdness. As the launch date approached, thousands of cult members in Korea, the US and many other parts of the world quit their jobs, schools and real life responsibilities. Debts piled up, personal care was forgotten, homes and even families were abandoned. Friends, relatives and total strangers alike, who didn't share the cult's beliefs were openly vilified and promised eternal torture in Hell. Several pregnant women were reported to have had abortions "so they wouldn't be too heavy to be lifted up to Heaven"; mobs in Korea gathered in the streets to build huge bonfires of all their worldly possessions, children were kidnapped and squirreled away in mountain hideouts and several people committed suicide. Marathon prayer vigils became the norm; cult members would sway rhythmically for hours on end and howl their supplications to literally larynx-rupturing levels; True Believers were measured by how much blood they could spit up during their ravings: The more, the holier. Little kids didn't get out of this insanity, either. Children were expected to attend "martyr training" where punishment for lowering their hands from prayer position or falling asleep or asking to go to the bathroom, involved beating with sticks.

  At last, when the big day arrived, Hyoo-go devotees flooded into their churches to await their airborne future, laughing at the throngs of reporters and TV newscasters gathering outside. They reveled in their certainty that these sorry infidels would be burning in agony mere moments after Jesus came to vacuum up his special flock off the face of the doomed earth. Their revelry was short-lived though. Jesus had been set to appear at the stroke of midnight. But, by 12:01 the crowds began to fall silent, by 12:05 they were really starting to feel stupid and by 12:15 the party was officially over. The cult leaders were almost immediately set upon by mobs of fuming followers determined to whup their behinds straight into the next millennium. Law suits were pressed, nervous breakdowns were had and as a final capper to the debacle, Rapture rouser Lee Jang Rim was tossed in jail for fraud. Nearly four million dollars that he'd swindled from his cultists had been discovered invested in bonds... scheduled to mature in 1995.

1993 CE - Benny Hinn, bizarro televangelist so far out of orbit you couldn't pull him back in with a tractor beam, prophesied that '93 would be the year the faithful would be Raptured up like dust bunnies in a handy-vac. He also prophesied, in his inimitable, loving Christian way that two years after that, God would destroy all those sinful, evil awful, vile, icky homosexuals... Mm hmn, me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

1993 CE - In 1968, Stanford Biologist Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" hit the stands and immediately caused a stir. His contention that the human race was breeding itself out of existence by polluting the planet and over-taxing the earth's resources had merit. The issue of over-population is a serious one that we, as a society, can't go on blissfully ignoring. But, he overstated the problem a touch when he picked 1993 as the year the world would reach maximum capacity. Then again, anyone who's been stuck in rush hour traffic in recent years just might be inclined to agree with him.

1993 CE - As I was writing this list, I said to myself, "Self," I said, "why the heck haven't I heard a peep from the Baha'is in all this time? Darn it, how they just don't get the kind of recognition they deserve, these days!" And well, lo and behold, up pops Neal Chase, noted Baha'i leader, with his cheery message of Armageddon in 1993. Can you beat that timing? Heck, not with a stick! Well, Neal, under the Provisions of the Covenant, (and I have no idea what that is, but it sure does sound important) prophesied that Saddam Hussein (a.k.a. the then all-purpose Antichrist-du-jour) would drop an atomic bomb on New York City. (a.k.a. every Bible Belter's favorite expendable metropolis) As cause is followed by effect, this would touch off WW III and the battle of Armageddon and... well, you've heard this story many, many, many times before.

  When exactly none of the above took place, Neal claimed a 100% accuracy rate anyway and reiterated all the same enriched potting soil for 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. Oddly enough, his website abruptly stopped being updated in early '98. I assume he either gave up and went looking for a more fruitful obsession elsewhere, or else he's tucked cozily away in some hospital's well-upholstered guest suite scribbling out his next prophecy in crayon, with his toes.
ALERT: Neal Chase Update! Just click here!

November 14, 1993 CE - Perestroika, schmerestroika, there were some advantages to the old Soviet Union. No Russian Mafia was one. Better spy movies was another. And, most relevant to our discussion, no loony mass suicide cults romping freely across the Ukraine. In the first days of November 1993, Russian authorities managed to track down and arrest Maria Tsvygun (a.k.a. Maria Devi Khrystos, a.k.a. Maria Devi Christ, a.k.a. the Mother of the World, a.k.a. the Messiah, a.k.a. "YUSMALOS", [YUS = Yuoann Swami, MA = Maria, LOS = Logos] a.k.a. the Living God) and her hubby Yuri Krivonogov. (a.k.a. Swami Ioann, a.k.a. John the Baptist, a.k.a. the prophet of the Living God)

  The pair were the leaders of a spiff new cult called "The White Brotherhood" whose doctrine consisted primarily of worshipping Maria as the incarnated Christ, promising apocalyptic destruction for the unbelieving world and martyring themselves in a really ripping, massive blood-bath set for November 14, 1993. And I do mean massive. Forget Jonestown, a scant few weeks before their arrest, the White Brotherhood had an estimated membership of some 150,000 suicide wannabes. Mostly teens who, for some reason, couldn't rebel in a normal way, like listening to old Kiss songs backwards or getting their nipples pierced.

  Maria and her cult made no attempt to hide their self-destructive intentions. Quite the opposite, they passed out and pasted up flyers in cities all over Russia that advertised exactly what they had in mind, and when and where they planned to do it. The group's conversion methods were not what one would call "benign", either. They ran the gamut from screaming wildly at people in public places, to violently breaking up meetings of other religious groups, to vandalizing churches. Eventually, this became a much-needed advantage for the over-worked, understaffed, completely stressed and (from what I understand via recent statistics) significantly alcoholic Russian police, who appreciated having both a means of finding cult members easily and ready-made excuses to lock them up before they whacked themselves.

  Maria and Yuri were finally caught when they couldn't restrain themselves from desecrating Kiev's St. Sophia Cathedral. As they merrily went about refinishing the interior decor with corrosive chemicals and fire extinguishers, the police moved in and soon had the pair in custody. With around seven hundred WB members, including the ring leaders, stewing in jail or the local nuthatch, the suicide fest was averted. Maria, who turned out to be a one-time Communist Youth League worker who'd pan fried her brains on a drug over-dose, was sentenced to four years in a women's labor colony. She was released without benefit of any psychiatric help on August 13, 1997 and wasted no time in trying to rebuild her extended family of teeny-bopper death worshippers. Their new target date was January 1, 2000. I have not, as yet, been able to find any updated info on how that little chopping block party turned out.

April 19, 1993 CE - You'd think that the name, "Ranch Apocalypse" might've given even the slowest government agent a clue as to the psychology of the homestead's residents, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. On the morning of Feb. 28, 1993 an ATF team royally botched a simple search and arrest warrant for Branch Davidian bossman David Koresh and got into a gun battle that left four agents and six Davidians dead and another twenty agents wounded. It also began a stand-off that would drag on for fifty-one tedious days and end in a blaze of inglory. What started it all? Federal agents were acting on information that the Davidians were stock-piling weapons (which was true) and that Koresh was abusing children. (True again. They were acting on evidence that included Koresh's own claims to have fathered children by girls as young as twelve. These abuse charges have since been coroborated by the surviving victims in statements made before Congress.)

  Since the public's last experience with the Davidians (see April 22, 1959) a few changes had taken place. Many members left after their faith had been flattened under the steamroller of reality, and the cult continued to stagger on through the years, weathering law suits, generally odd leadership and often bizarre power struggles. Things really began to take on a fresh coat of weirdness after the arrival of their new handyman, Vernon Howell. A ninth-grade drop-out and wannabe rock musician, Vern quickly made himself a presence at the Mt. Carmel compound, first marrying a fourteen year-old group member, then sparring with cult leader George Roden. Georgie was a borderline psychotic in his own right, fond of guns, drugs, porn and digging up corpses for faith healing "contests". After he and Vern engaged each other in a wild west-style shoot-out in the compound chapel, George was locked up for violating a restraining order and Vern wound up as leader of the pack. Two years later, Georgie would be permanently committed to a Texas squirrel factory for ventilating his roomie's skull with an axe. A year after that, Vernon Howell changed his name to David Koresh.

  The Davidians infatuation with the apocalypse had not dimmed one bit in all their years on the Texas plains and Self-Dubbed Dave intended to nurture that ardor. Tending it until it blossomed into the full-blown paranoia, doom fixation and zombie-esque obedience that TV viewers would eventually come to know, if not exactly love. The road they traveled was the all-too-typical one that cults are prone to: Isolation from outsiders, total immersion in a fear-based belief system, blind adherence to reams of rules governing diet, sex and marriage that changed frequently and never applied to the boss, stockpiling arms for their "glorious" role in the coming Armageddon and worshipping their leader as a Messiah/Christ/Lamb/God/ floorwax/dessert topping.

  By the time of the ATF debacle, Koresh had already been preaching the imminent ka-boom for years. In fact, he had even set a date for the event: 1995. But as soon as he heard noises that he and his pals were being investigated by the minions of Satan, (a.k.a. the government) he re-set his doom-timer to "any minute now". Theories abound as to whether or not the stand-off could have ever been ended peacefully. As bent on self destruction as Koresh was, he was just as dead-set on waiting for a divine sign before acting in any particular way. The problem for the FBI was that they were close to clueless on the matter of stand-offs with religious wacks. They had to rely on advice from two different groups of experts: Psychiatric specialists and Evangelical religious scholars. The problem with that, was that both groups were giving mutually contradictory advice and recommending mutually contradictory action.

  Eventually, the FBI had to pick just one and it turned out to be a seriously poor choice indeed. Assured by the shrinks that the cult members would give themselves up easily if they could be frightened out of the compound, tanks were rolled in to bash holes in some of the walls and tear gas was lobbed through the openings. Big, bad move. To Koresh and his apocalypse-panting proselytes, this was the divine sign they'd been waiting for. The End had clearly come. Within moments, tongues of flame were seen licking from the upper windows and before anyone could do anything to stop it, the whole place was engulfed in fire. Seventy-five people died in the conflagration, including twenty-one children. Only nine (all adults) escaped from the inferno.

  Ever since, the tragedy and the cause of the blaze have been debated and exploited by right wing pinheads who love to tout it as an anti-government rallying point for militia crazies country-wide. There are even a few nutty propaganda films floating around, complete with hysteria-tinged conspiracy claims and poorly animated flame throwers tacked onto the tanks. The fact is, although the FBI's tank 'n tear gas maneuver seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do under the circumstances, none of their actions directly caused the fire. Footage shows several fires starting simultaneously from places nowhere near the tanks and recordings from FBI listening devices reveal the Davidians conversing about pouring fuel and starting a fire themselves. In their delusional little world, it all made perfect sense. They were to be the ones to touch off the inferno of Armageddon, but God would see them safely through the flames to eternal paradise. Well, you know the one about the best laid plans... Still, even now, there are surviving cult members who firmly believe that Koresh will be resurrected from the grave. They've set dates for the big event and everything, waiting for the moment he will rise up and lead his devoted followers to slightly time-delayed glory.

  ADDENDUM: And the botch played on... On August 25th, 1999 the FBI did a complete 180º on the tear gas issue, admitting that two of the devices lobbed into the compound were incendiary 40 mm military cartridges. The bureau's insistence that the cartridges in question were used a full six hours before the fire broke did nothing to elevate either their plummeting credibility or the mood of Attorney General Janet "Do I Look Like A Sucker To You?" Reno, who promptly ordered an investigation and then a raid on FBI headquarters. And although it turned out those two tear gas canisters didn't set off the Waco blaze, the over-due revelation of their use certainly lit a new fire under conspiracy kooks across the nation. All of which proves the greatness of American Democracy: There's enough idiocy to go around for everybody!

  (Note: For an excellent and unusually personal take on the Waco whack-out, I highly recommend clicking your ruby mouse button to read Dominion's, "Vernon Howell, The Branch Davidians and Me", posted at his ever-enlightening, "A Skeptical Blog".)

November 11, 1993 CE - Well, who needs CNN when we've got that bastion of journalistic integrity, the Weekly World News as our conduit for global info-tainment? According to that sterling publication, NASA scientists wrote a top secret (aren't they always?) report that a killer asteroid known as M-167 was headed straight for Earth and would be plunging smack into us with inexcusable rudeness in early November. The impact would wipe out all life as we know it, which would naturally make getting a decent turkey for Thanksgiving virtually impossible.

Between 1993-1997 CE - Augusta Almeida was yet another devotee of the Jesus-as-ET-and-UFOs-will-save-mankind school of non-thought. She must also have seen one too many episodes of This Old House, because she was obsessed with the idea of earth as the ultimate fixer-upper. In her scenario, the entire population of the planet would temporarily be relocated in an ET-assisted move called, "The Grand Lift". For the next four years, we'd find ourselves stuck in the cosmic equivalent of a Motel 6, while Jesus sub-contracted earth's total renovation to his friendly alien pals. As you may have noticed, they seem to be a bit behind schedule. Typical construction crew. No doubt they're still stuck on that big spa bath add-on in Alpha Centauri.

1994-ish CE - Clearly, homemaker, mom and registered nurse Nancy Fowler just wasn't feeling like she was getting enough attention in life. In the mid-eighties, she started raving about sacred apparitions of tacky holy icons and cozy chats with Jesus and Mary about sin, and redemption, and the hold-yer-breath-it's-a'-comin'-any-minute-now end of the world.

  Worked like a charm! Suddenly, Nancy's day-planner was booked solid with gullible los - excuse me, pilgrims just dying to get a look-see at the lucky new Marian confidante on the block and hear her pearls of second-hand wisdom. All the standard-issue stuff, of course: Terrible, awful, nasty things would be happening now that the End was so super-nigh. The evil and the atheist were soon to be toasted to a nice golden brown. And for the faithful, priority 1 was confessun and convertun and a'singun praises to the Lord on High. Plus, assorted other undignified groveling activities associated with saving one's sorry, sinful and unworthy little bum from the flames one would otherwise so richly deserve. She was smart enough to keep the date a bit vague, so that when '94 passed right on by, she was able to keep droning into '95, '96, '97 and '98 without a care.

1994 CE - One mo' time for Charlie Taylor. Poor Mr. T. seems to be slowing down a might, lately.

1994 CE - The last (so it seemed) of the Jehovah's Witnesses Doomsday prophecies. Every bit as successful as their eight others and resulting in the standard temporary down-turn in membership. Nothing close to the most disastrous of their divine non-events; still, like a puppy that's finally been whacked on the nose with a newspaper hard enough to learn, the JW leadership appeared to have finally gotten the message: Hard and fast dates for the Final Farewell were, perhaps, not such a good idea, after all. They managed to steer clear of indulging in their longtime End Time habit for a skosh over a decade, but like all addicts, they eventually fell off the wagon.

1994 CE - Author and minister F. M. Riley, operates a ministry by the almost pitifully hopeful name of "Last Call", out in Missouri someplace. Some years back, he wrote a little tome entitled, "1994 the Year of Destiny" in which he let his hopes and dreams for the End Times just get completely away from him.

Thursday, June the 9th, 1994 CE - Sometimes it seems that everyone in the US is determined to grab onto those fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhole spoke of years ago. As if it was some kind of right that comes along with American citizenship. L.A.-based Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church was no exception. He made his bid for a moment in the spotlight by announcing that he and God had been having these little tête à têtes lately and God let on that he'd be coming down in June to rip the evil right out of the world... I don't recall if he mentioned whether or not he'd be staying on afterward to see Disneyland.

July 25, 1994 CE - In May of 1993 the news of comet Shoemaker-Levi 9's imminent collision with Jupiter was made public. About two months later, self-appointed "Sister" Marie Gabriel Paprocski announced her stunning prediction that... a comet would soon be colliding with Jupiter! The Sis was so taken by her own prophetic genius that she bought full-page ads in major newspapers displaying her open letter to all the world's leaders, letting them in on the news. It was quite important to her that she get the word out because the impact would be the "biggest cosmic explosion in the history of mankind" and would surely spell doom for us all if we didn't shape up, sharp.

  Now, true, S-L9 did cause a ripping huge explosion on Jupiter, but why that should have bothered us earthlings any, Sissy didn’t bother to explain. She did, however, go into loads of detail about the myriad sins we needed to absolve our nasty selves of if we wanted to avert the disaster. It read like a laundry list from the Fruitcake Quarterly, ripe with all the typical puritan rants. Y'know the sort: "Indecent" TV shows, women's fashion, alcohol consumption, the liberal legal system and one novel addition, Britain's National Health Care, which she insisted was carrying out a secret agenda of forced euthanasia of the elderly. In the end, exactly none of her warnings were heeded, but the comet didn't seem to take much offense anyhow. No one's really heard from the Sis since. Most likely she's just temporarily squirreled herself away, waiting to reveal her next big prediction for, say, an evil-portending total eclipse in August or a November meteor shower of doom.

September 1994 CE - Harold Camping predicted the world would be coming in for the last round-up near Labor Day '94. So certain was he of the End that he laid it all out in his prophetic book, "Are You Ready?". For some reason, he never followed that tract up with the obvious, "Guess Not".

October 1994 CE - Not up to Jonestown levels - yet - though not for want of trying, the members of the International Chivalric Order of the Solar Temple made headlines for the first time on October 5, 1994. That was when the charred, poisoned, suffocated, stabbed and/or bullet-riddled bodies of 52 members (six of which were children) were found in two locations in Switzerland and one in Canada. It would later come to light that only a few months before, Temple members had ritually murdered a three month-old infant they believed was the Antichrist, by driving a stake through its heart.

  The Order of the Solar Temple was/is another mix n' match mythology Doomsday cult whose ideology is made up of pureed bits of Christianity, New Age mysticism, occultism, astrology, environmentalism, freemasonry, homeopathy and UFO obsession. They have a thing for fire, apocalyptic fantasies and seasonal solstices and equinoxes. And they believe that if they off themselves just right their spirits will zoom up, up and away to a paradisiacal planet orbiting the star Sirius.

  Like the Jonestown folks, they also seem to care little for the individual preferences of those members who don't particularly want to die on schedule. Of the bodies that were found in '94, (and yes, they've been at it again, since) forty-one were murdered and at least thirteen of those showed signs of struggle. On the bright side, at least the founders of the cult were among the dead discovered at the Canadian location: Luc Jouret, a homeopathic "doctor" who claimed he was Christ and Joseph di Mambro, a long-time con artist and headcase who'd done time in France back in '72 for posing as a psychologist.

  The Solar Temple appears to be one of those elite loon groups that specialize in attracting frail minded members of the upper classes. Their victims list included an architect, a psychotherapist (!), a Quebec finance minister, the son of Olympic gold medalist Jean Vuarnet and the mayor of Richelieu, Quebec. Proving, it would seem, that emotional neediness or an unstable personality can trump education and privilege any ol' time.

November 26, 1994 CE - The Baha'i's own Neal Chase went on the rant, again. Same stuff as before.

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