If, At First, You Don't Succeed, Fail, Fail, Again
The explosion of apocalypticism in our "modern" 20th & 21st centuries
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H. L. Mencken Quote

1994 - 2079 CE - Dr. Helen Wambach could just as well have taken her Ph.D. certificate in psychology and cut it up to make little decorative doilies when she dumped all her legit training to devote herself to past-life regression hypnotherapy. Did I say "past-life"? Sorry about the oversight, Helen was more ambitious than that. Past-life incarnations were old hat, yesterday's news. Much more exciting would be to re - er, progress people to their future lives and then call their imaginative meanderings "prophecies".

  Of course, Helen was a hypno-hyper who knew exactly what she wanted and to be sure she got it, she didn't just aimlessly ask people what sort of future they saw themselves in and when. No, she provided her subjects with a trés limited choice of only two time periods and then proceeded to look shocked and amazed when her subjects didn't pick anything before or beyond them. Fixating on the unsurprising gaps, Helen came to her hoped-for conclusion that some 90% of the world's population would be wiped out between 1994 and 2079 and proceeded to predict one disaster after another befalling humankind.

  They ran the gamut from the standard Biblical fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. to the trendily ecological: Pollution, destruction of the ozone layer, over-population and nuclear meltdown. Nuclear war figured in there, naturally, as did economic failure and widespread anarchy. She even tossed in a touch of the now de rigeur government conspiracy and new world order nuttiness. After her death, (which she didn't predict, oddly enough) her "work" was carried on by Dr. Chet Snow. He compiled a fun selection of the most thematically consistent "therapy" sessions into a book called, "Mass Dreams Of The Future". A great read for those desperate to believe that reincarnation is real... So long as one tries not to notice that, save for a vague allusion to a redesigned dollar bill, none of the breathless predictions listed within have come true.

Spring 1995 CE - The Roman Catholic newspaper "Queen of Peace" gave rapturous front page space to a 1917 Lady of Fatima vision prophecy thingy that promised the glorious triumph of the good. (i.e. "whatever we agree with") and destruction of the wicked (i.e. "whatever we don't"). Unfortunately for them - and the Fatima chippy - neither promise came through.

September 1995 CE - Rev. J.S. Malan of Cape Town prophesied that the Tribulation would start 'round about here. From the perspective of a privileged white guy in South Africa at the end of the age of apartheid, it probably seemed that way.

November 16, 1995 CE - Despite the efforts of Swiss, French and Canadian authorities to head them off at the pass, 16 more Solar Temple members were found blackened Cajun-style on a mountain plateau in the French Alps. In the typical Solar Temple tendency for over-kill, the bodies were found shot, stabbed, smothered and poisoned before being set ablaze. Two of the dead were little girls aged 2 and 4. Their daddy was identified post-mortem as their executioner. Well, y'know, the family that fries together...

1995 - 2025 CE - Max Toth, yet another in an ever-lengthening line of pyramidology buffs made the fluffy, cotton-candy, New Agey prediction that 1995 would usher in a "Kingdom of the Spirit". A very "Age of Aquarius", neo-hippie kind'a thang. I guess "spirit" is the operative word, since they tend to be invisible, intangible things... much like any evidence so far for Max's kingdom.

1996 give or take CE - Kenneth Wong graces the world with his opus "The Return of Jupiter: End of the world in the light of the Bible". In this epic, he predicts all manner of Biblical disaster looniness, like an underwater mega-earthquake that cracks open the Pacific oceanic crust and spews forth the Earth's molten core. Talk about your science made stupid, huh?

December 17, 1996 CE - California psychic Sheldon Nidle likes to think big. So, when he came up with an End Times prophecy, he opted for all the very latest special effects. No less than 15.5 million spaceships would be warping their way to earth with a full angelic escort trumpeting before them. After sixteen years worth of 24-hour a day death ray zaps and atomic booms, the ol' home planet would be no more. Naturally, when December 17 moseyed on through without even so much as a few dozen air-borne pie plates, a clutch of kazoo-tooting Bible geeks and a squirt gun, his fans were mightily disappointed. Shelly didn't get to be a well-known psychic for nothing, though and he coughed up an excuse in a wink. According to him, the End did come. And it came exactly when and how he said it would, too. We just didn't notice it, is all, because the angels (or was it the aliens?) put us into this big holographic projection to give us extra time to get saved. Mmnn, I think it's time Shelly tried laying off the Star Trek re-runs for a while, don't you?

1997 CE - Shoko Asahara has always been one of those go-getter, type-A personalities who firmly believe that if you want an apocalypse done right, you have to do it yourself! His Aum Shinri Kyo cult first barged their way onto the public consciousness with lethal Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo and Matsumoto subway systems in '94 and '95. Attacks that left 19 people dead, and sickened thousands more. The nearly blind son of a tatami mat maker, Asahara studied Buddhism, yoga, acupuncture, Christian apocalyptic scripture and Nostradamus prophecies before blending the lot together with a love of bio-terrorism and a personal God-complex. The result was a doctrine saturated with Armageddon imagery and dedicated to a deadly agenda to make the dream come true. According to Sho, who claimed to have astrally projected himself into a post WW III future circa 2006, the End would be coming in 1997. Nuclear and biological warfare would devastate the planet, leaving virtually no one alive save (guess who?) the lucky legions of his cult.

  Not that he intended to leave this scenario to the willful whims of Fate, mind you. Sho, remember, was a pro-active kind'a guy and he wanted to make sure that if anyone was going to be spreading deadly bio-hazard around, it was going to be him. In addition to the subway attacks, members of Aum Shinri Kyo, acting under Asahara's orders, sprayed the American Embassy with botulism bacteria and spread other germs and toxins over a variety of Japanese government buildings. Their plan to kill scads of people this way only failed because the strains they were spreading around weren't quite virulent enough to do the job. Plans had also been made (though not carried out) for nerve gas attacks in the US as well. All this, in addition to more run-o-the-mill murders and kidnappings and so on, made up a good part of the Aum folk's daily schedule.

  Asahara is currently in jail and on trial for murder, attempted murder and a host of sundry nasty things. Yet, despite his incarceration and the complete failure of any of his prophecies to come true, the Aum cult is continuing to flourish and is growing every day. They continue to worship Asahara as a living Christ and regard his jail cell as sacred ground. Most unnerving of all, they continue to plan and organize for the next stab at Armageddon their jailbird deity has in mind.

  Update: On February 27, 2004, after a trial with a shelf-life almost seven times longer than the average antibiotic, Sho was convicted of everything shy of bad hair and sentenced to his own little necktie party. The verdict is still under appeal as Sho does his best cell-side impression of an overdressed daikon for the benefit of the court shrinks. Meanwhile, the cult, which now goes under the name "Aleph" ('cuz, no one could possibly know they're the same freaky poison gass guys, that way!), boasts more than 2,000 virulent bedbugs in Japan and Russia and despite being under surveillance by Japan's Public Security Investigation Agency, is as scary as ever. For the long and lively list of their limitless legal adventures, check out Rick Ross's page.

1997 CE - According to Mary Stewart Relfe ('member her?) Christ was to be making his big entrance about now. Of course, according to Mary, World War III, the Trib, Armageddon and the Rapture should have all happened, by now, too. Well, at least, the Antichrist had been punctual enough to make his scheduled appearance... in the form of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Oh, true, Anwar has been dead since 1981. But don't let that fool anybody! It's all just part of his clever Satanic plot for world domination... God told Mary so. So, it must be true!

1997 CE - Publish or perish is the modern scholar's motto, but Dr. Marion Derlette proved what an overachiever she was by attempting to do both. Of course, most scholars tend not to look at the Weekly World News as a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, but Marion was never given to such hoity-toity intellectual snobbery, herself. Consequently, she felt no qualms whatever in writing articles for the WWN, carefully explicating her theory that 1997 would mark the beginning of the end. After years of researching the history of apocalyptic prophecies, she was in an excellent position to pilfer the disaster scenarios of each and every one. Earthquakes, fire, floods... you know the drill. I especially liked the one where she insisted the continents were just gonna pick up and start drifting aimlessly around the globe like so many croutons in a clam chowder. '97 having come and gone, it doesn't appear that much came of her prediction. But, just in case, if anyone should see Monte Carlo floating by the US west coast, give me a call. I've always wanted to combine a European tour with a cruise vacation.

February 24, 1997 CE - Why anyone should interpret the signing of the Israeli/Palestinian Peace Accord as the beginning of the Trib is a complete mystery to me. But, mine is not to question why. The fact is, some folks did and of that crowd, those who were seriously into the Book Of Daniel set a whole lotta store by a 1260 day wait period 'till Armageddon. Presumably, they're still waiting.

February - May 1997 CE - Messianic Jew (i.e. Christian) and self-styled prophet Monte Judah had nothing better to do with his poor, neglected little brain cells than let them wallow in numerology and assorted psalms until they were dogma-logged straight through. Eventually, the closest thing to a genuine thought they could manage was one that placed the Trib in February and the Rapture in May. Appropriate choice, May... the month when all the squirrels come out in search of their nuts.

March 8, 1997 CE - A religious sect in Quebec, Canada calling themselves "The Vortex of the Star of David" publicly announced that the world would be finis on March 8. I understand the folks in Quebec can get pretty serious about secession, but really...

March 20, 1997 CE - Members of The Order of the Solar Temple went at it, again. Nothing like a festive murder/suicide to celebrate the Spring Equinox, after all. This time, however, the five adult Roman Candle-wannabes couldn't convince one couple's three teenage children to become body bag ballast with them. Thankfully, the parents allowed the kids to leave, but not before insuring they'd be psychologically scarred forever by being forced to ignite the incendiary device that would oven roast their elders.

March 23-26, 1997 CE - When last we saw Do and Ti, the founding fluffheads of Heaven's Gate, they were wandering aimlessly in a damp field someplace, trying to recover from a completely disastrous prophetic no-show. Most all their followers abandoned them then and there, and things were to get still worse before they'd get any better. Despite the fact that the duo had been assuring their merry band they were immortal, in 1985 Ti showed the poor judgment to drop dead from cancer. This was a problem for only a short while, though. Pretty soon, Do (a.k.a. Marshall Herff Applewhite) hit on the idea of telling his fragmentary flock that Ti had merely abandoned her earthly vehicle and ascended to a higher plane - the better to direct traffic from.

  It was around this time, too, that the group began attracting a fair number of computer geeks and turned to the Internet for both their main source of income (as web designers) and new converts. They advertised their doctrine energetically and used their splashy little website (mirrors of which still exist) to exhort 'net surfers to join their happy clan, now located in a sprawling manse in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe, CA. And what perks they offered! Not only were they pushing the same souls-from-space scenario, but now, those who joined could look forward to living like asexual robots, complete with bad haircuts, frumpy suits, identical tennies and - for the men - matching castrations! They could subsist on tiny amounts of really bad food with zero nutritional value, practice eliminating all their human behavioral traits, get up at four every morning to stare at their future home in outer space, watch Star Trek videos as a "training" tool, be stripped of every last vestige of their individuality and privacy and steep themselves as deeply as possible in the increasingly paranoid and apocalyptic doctrine of the Do-man.

  By '95, their online promos began to take on a creepier and more urgent edge. Their paranoia about the unbelieving world and their fear of failing to escape planet Earth before the creator aliens came to "spade it under" was coming to the 'fore, big time. Trouble was coming on at light speed and the Heaven's Gate crew definitely had their engines revved up and ready to go. The checkered flag was finally waved in the form of the Hale-Bopp comet. Or rather, in what the comet seemed to be "hiding". In November of '96, some pseudo-science-embracing dodo-bird took a picture of Hale-Bopp, then went on the radio with that paragon of legitimacy: Art Bell, insisting that a blob in the pic (which was actually a star light years away) was a Saturn sized space ship following in the comet's tail. To Applewhite and pals, this was the sign they'd been waiting for. Clearly, the space ship in the Hale-Bopp piccies was none other than their own beloved mothership, piloted by the ascended Ti who'd come to beam them up.

  I suppose it wouldn't be entirely fair to blame opportunists like Bell for what followed. The Heaven's Gate cult wasn't exactly a collection of super stable people. If the catalyst hadn't been a UFO/comet craze given birth on Bell's show, it likely would have been something else from some other source equally inane. In any case, the cult's response to the news is now a matter of record. Well documented, in part, by the cultists, themselves. They made a final video tape to send out to their friends and families (surely the grandest gesture of consideration any of them had made in that regard, in years) to let them know how much they were looking forward to their future as post-mortem ETs. In truth, they were literally dying to go. With the tapes packed up and mailed out, the thirty-nine HG-ers downed some singularly spiced pudding and apple-sauce, stretched themselves out on their cots with purple hankies over their heads and prepared to shed their own earthly vehicles.

  Said vehicles were found a few days later by the police, after a former cult member received one of those cheery videos and alerted authorities. The bizarre find naturally made the news, but the story has proved to have better legs than that. Though their numbers came nowhere near that of Jonestown, their actions provided none of the protracted media circus of Waco and their deaths had nothing like the gory, lurid horror of the Solar Temple toasties, Heaven's Gate has somehow risen to become a fixture of pop culture. An object of simultaneous repulsion and ridicule, whose actions have been analyzed by psychologists and social historians even as they're turned into tasteless T-shirts and jokes on late night TV. Perhaps the absurdity of their behavior stands out in all its high comic relief because the fantasies they lived and died for were of such recent vintage. They lacked the patina of respectability that two millennia of familiarity conveys. Dying for a Biblical concept is one thing, dying for a concept born from too many sci-fi movies and conspiracy rants is something else. The Heaven's Gaters became pop media roadkill and if they seem less tragic than absurd to us, it's only because they accepted as factual information what most of us understand is fluffy entertainment. In a sense, they paid the ultimate price for not getting the joke.

April 10, 1997 CE - The great thing about the religion biz is that it helps keep off the street those members of society who otherwise couldn't hold down a real job. Prime examples; Bob Wadsworth of the Biblical Astronomy Newsletter and Dan Millar, Biblical "researcher" and 'net kook extraordinaire. These two buckaroos have actually learned how to make something like a living out of doling out a fermented fruit cocktail of fairground astrology, Evangelical Christianity and Flat-Earth Society falderal. They churn out one wiggy Biblical prophecy after another, none of which actually pan out in any tangible way.

  This year, their big magilla was over comets Hale-Bopp (thought the Heavens Gaters had it all to themselves, didn't you?) and Hyakutake and the super-neato-far-out-cool way their paths crossed to form... well, a cross... right smack dab through the constellation, Perseus. More specifically, through the Medusa's head that Percy is supposed to be holding aloft. This was thought to be important because in Arab and Hebrew mythology that head is referred to as either a demon's or Satan's. Well, I bet you can figure out the rest. Naturally, these two geniuses warned all their readers to look toward the Middle East or the Vatican for the Antichrist's big entrance, since April 10, 1997 would be the date His Evilness came out to play. It seems their calendars were running about nine days slow.

September 12, 1997 CE - Yet another example of religion-as-commerce, Stan Johnson of the Prophecy Club markets Biblical pseudo-prophetic info-bytes and wild-eyed conspiracy, New World Order hysteria over radio, the Internet and even a few sorry little TV stations across the USA. Back in '97 he came to the conclusion that the Trib would be starting promptly on September 12. His reasoning (and I use that term in the broadest possible sense) appears to have been based on a near-random reassignment of Biblical dates courtesy of the aforementioned Bobby Wadsworth and a series of visions from the late Dumitru Duduman, transplanted Eastern Bloc Bible babbler, exemplar. Using a sprinkling of tortured Numerology, threatening portents of WW III and loads of nonsense about Jews sacrificing a red heifer on the Temple Mount, (like any Jew today couldn't just go to a nice Kosher deli if they want a brisket) Stanley made his case for the beginning of the end. All of which, his readers could hear more about in his ninety-minute cassette tape, on sale at a bargain price for a limited time only!

October 1997 CE - The Reverend Kenneth Hagin, whose ministries even include a Bible correspondence school, determined that, not only was the End a'comin', it was coming first to St. Louis, MO. From there, it was apparently supposed to spread out like a big carpet stain across the USA.

October 20, 1997 CE - A group of Jewish extremist headcases calling themselves the "Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement" have dedicated themselves to the completely counterproductive goal of rebuilding the ancient Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. The fact that the Dome Of The Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque currently occupy that space doesn't seem to faze them a bit. Even though relations with the Moslems are tense enough as is without deliberately tearing their favorite sacred sites down, the jokers of the TMaLoIFM are bound and determined to get their way. They even went to the lengths of threatening to air-lift the new Temple's cornerstone in by helicopter on Oct. 20, 1997. Of course, this news sent a thrill through Christian apocalypse addicts world-wide. They were certain this act of sectarian nose-thumbing would touch off WW III, the lingering deaths of billions and the Big J's Final Touchdown. Well, leave it to Israeli PD to be the party-poopers. They deployed thousands of officers throughout Jerusalem and made sure that not so much as a spit wad made an aerial assault on the Mount that day.

October 23, 1997 CE - Hi, kiddies! It's time for another exciting episode in our continuing "ADVENTURES IN BIBLE MATH"! When we last left our intrepid Creation Pseudo-Scientists they had only just learned that a single day in the life of God lasts one thousand years in the lives of humans!!! Which explains why whenever there's a real sudden and unexpected disaster and thousands of people pray to God for rescue, they'll all just die, anyway. But six months later, their favorite team will win the Superbowl! It's a time-delay thing. Anyway, God, we discovered, is big on the concept of fair division of labor and since he had to slog through a six thousand year work week, he figures we should too. Now, when one combines that thought with the long-dead Bishop Ussher's notion that the world was created on Oct. 23, 4004 BCE (or just BC for the Bish) the result, obviously, is that Oct. 23, 1997 would mark the start of our day off. Sounds nice, huh?! Well,... except for the small detail that the world was supposed to end at exactly the same moment. But, what the hey, as long as we can sleep in, right?

December 31, 1997 CE - Yet another gem from the pages of the Weekly World News. This time, President Clinton was supposed to have held a secret meeting with top Bible scholars (they didn't say if it was before or after he met with top UFO abductees) to discuss a confidential Pentagon memo on the possible end of the world. Seems the memo went on at some length about world-wide earthquakes and shifts in the earth's crust, (must have come from the Pentagon's top secret Plate Tectonics Division) all of which was to build to a Final Cataclysm on December 31, 1997. This was seriously bad news, especially for Elvis, as he was supposed to come back from the dead to play a sold-out show in Vegas the next Veteran's Day.

Round about 1997/1998 CE - Our cup runneth over with Weekly World News items! In this issue, the WWN ran a warning from a Madame Vredeau, (and who wouldn't heed a warning from a lady with a name like that?) spokesperson for the International Association of Psychics. Claiming that very nearly all her brethren and cistern psychics had the very same vision of the End, the Madame recited a laundry list of signs and portents that would begin around late '97/early '98 and escalate to Doomsday 2001. All four basic horsemen were to gallop on through. Deserts would expand, oceans would shrink, saints and angels would poof onto busy streets and shopping malls and Rapture commuters up at random. Similarly, devils and demons would be popping out from under every bush to bother anyone left behind. Madness and bad tempers would be widespread and the Spice Girls might even be allowed to make a movie. Oh, the horror, the horror...

Anytime from 1997 thru 1999 CE - My, it's been a while since we've had a good Biblical Flood/divine UFO prophecy, hasn't it? Well, leave it to the Russian "scientists" of the Rerikh Academy to toss one our way. According to such low-wattage luminaries as Vladimir Sobolyov and Dr. Lev Chulkov, the world was set to tilt on its axis by a whopping 30º between 1997 and 1999. Nostradamus and a whole mess o' Russian saints said so, so it must be true. But, not to fear! Although places that Russians tend to really hate like Great Britain and Scandinavia would get sloshed into the briny deep, the pleasant resort locale of Siberia would remain high and dry (and, not coincidentally, available for rental lots at bargain prices!). Those who made it to the happy high ground would then be beamed up and away by friendly aliens from the fourth dimension in their moon-sized space ships. No need to worry about alerting Rescue U.F.O. at the proper time, either, since they already are keeping a watch on us. We just can't see them because they're hiding in the fourth dimension and only pop out now and again to be seen by very special people. Well, at least they won't be lonely, as they seem to be sharing the same space with garden faeries, gnomes, leprechauns and Elvis.

Ditto 1997 thru 1999 CE - Spiritual advisor of the Oglala Sioux, Floyd Hand prophesied that sometime between 1997 and 1999, the Star People would return to our world. They'd bring back with them fires, floods, earthquakes, drought, famine, pestilence, war and the total collapse of civilization, as we know it. Anybody else think a few T-shirts and a couple of souvenir ashtrays from the Great Beyond would suffice?

1998 CE - Guess what kiddies?! It's Bible Math time, again! This round, we get to see what happens when we multiply the spooky ol' number of the Beast by the Trinity. Any guesses? If you answered 1998, you go to the head of your Sunday school class! And if you figured out that this was supposed to signal the end of the world, you get a shiny gold star of Bethlehem on your report card. Mommy and daddy will be so proud!

1998 CE - A Christian group called Centro, based in the Philippines, decided that its members didn't have enough angst in their lives. So, to make sure they had enough to keep themselves busy for a while, they spouted off about Armageddon in '98 and let everyone know they should head for the hills. Someplace cozy and out-of-the-way, like in the jungle with all the malaria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Yeah, they'd be safe there, all right...

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