If, At First, You Don't Succeed, Fail, Fail, Again
The explosion of apocalypticism in our "modern" 20th & 21st centuries
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Kay Nolte Smith Quote

July-ish 1999 CE - The very best thing Ed Dames, Head of the Beverly Hills-based Psi Tech, Inc. ever did to diminish LA's reputation as the mixed-nut capital of the United States, was to move to Hawaii. A repeat offender on the Art Bell show and semi-fixture of tabloid TV, Eddy pushes what he calls "remote viewing". How this works is never very clearly explained, but the idea is to kind'a, sort'a concentrate reeeaaal hard until you get images of the future... or a migraine... whichever comes first. Eddy's tours through the remote peek-a-booing world revealed a small, but notable collection of disasters. First on the bill, he mixed up the plotlines of "Outbreak" with "Black Sunday" and came up with bio-terrorists at Yankee Stadium... or possibly Shea Stadium. I guess it all depended on how the teams were ranking. Next, millions were scheduled to die due to a super-ultra-mega solar flare that Ed playfully nicknamed the "Kill-Shot". And last, but certainly not least, three assassins from Iran were to kill an Israeli leader and tick off WW III.

  Eddy knew that all of this was destined to happen because, not only had he seen into the future, he'd seen into the mind of Satan! Yes, that's right! The Evil One, his own bad self has been the subject of Ed's recent remote recons. A feat that put him in so much deadly, horrifying, soul-searing peril that he could talk all about it on the radio and post audio files and transcripts about it on his website and... (gasp!)... absolutely nothing happened to him. I don't know about all this remote viewing, but I think Ed just might feel a bit better if he laid off remote thinking for a while.

July, 1999 CE - I'm assuming that the Taiwanese "God's Salvation Church" (y’know, the ones who relocated to Garland TX) didn't hold very high hopes for their east/west Junior Jesus hook-up because they had World War III penciled in for this month. Also on the social calendar was another one of those ever-amusing UFO rescue shuttles dropping out of hyper-space to snatch up the TGSC faithful. All those interested in jumping aboard before the world went boom were encouraged to hop quick like a bunny to Lake Street Beach in Miller, IN. (Well, you know how testy those aliens can get when they're kept waiting.) It would seem, though, that both the war and the interstellar puddle-jumper have been grounded due to unfavorable reality conditions.

July, 1999 CE - Thought we'd never be getting around to Nostradamus, didn't you? Well, unlike the famed prognosticator, I deliver on my promises. To be fair, though, Nosey never did make any actual promises. He just wrote a whole lotta bad poetry, titled them "Centuries" and allowed the French literati to assume what they would. Being the clever little monkey he was, he knew he could count on them to assume a lot. Take quatrain X-72 for example:

"The year 1999, seven months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror:
To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols,
Before and after Mars to reign by good luck."

  It's as close to gibberish as one can get while still using a recognizable language. But the N-man didn't have to worry about that. Already considered a top prophet of his day, he knew that all he had to do to keep his gullible employer Catherine de Médicis happy was to write up a few vague lines now and again that could be interpreted as a grisly fate for Queen Liz of England. Buzzwords like "doom" and "terror", "king" and "blood", "heaven" and "hell" figure prominently in his doggerel. As do names of planets, nations, oceans, elements and common devices used on coats of arms. Toss enough of them together in enough combinations and people are bound to read things into them that the author could have never even imagined.

  He seldom got hung up on exact dates, though. And that's what makes the quatrain above so interesting. Sans dates, any one of Nosey's quatrains can be creatively pulled and twisted and yanked about like silly putty to conform to almost any world event you'd care to mention. (A quality his works share with the Giza pyramid, as I’m sure you've noticed.) Stick a precise set of numerals on it, though, and you limit the number of prophetic "hits" possible with that particular doodle. Besides which, Nostra was cozy with the Médicis and they were far less interested in the far-flung future than in their own immediate fate and fortune. Rule #1: Keep your employer happy. So, despite what his modern-day fans would have people believe, Nostradamus's actual long range "prophecies" were few and far between and mentioned dates that he'd never come close to having to personally account for. Like the one above.

  Even so, the quatrain is oblique in the extreme. Just look at the "From the sky will come a great King of Terror" line. That, alone, has been open to Nosey-fan interpretations that have ranged from a nuclear missile strike, to a killer meteor, a killer comet, an alien invasion, the seven-headed Beast of the Apocalypse and a parachuting flock of Flying Elvis's. And "the King of the Mongols"? That's been twirled around to fit Communist China, (which has no kings and is not Mongolian, but don't let's be picky) the USSR, (ditto) and after that fell, just plain ol' Russia (ditto deux)... Or it could mean that the Mongolian King Bar-B-Que in my neighborhood is going to become a wildly successful International fast-food chain. The "Mars" comment seems built for "god of war" interpretation... Or it could have something to do with the Mars lander, or Mars, Pennsylvania, or the late, lamented comic actor Kenneth Mars, or a popular American candy bar. As for "reigning by good luck", well, that's pretty much what ran out for the Nostradamus fans when July '99 came and went without a Mongol, a Martian or any other world-shaking doom-bringer in sight. Not that this slowed any of these folks down, mind you. Instead of just calling it a day, they made a wild-eyed grab for an alternate calendar and called it an extra fortnight freebie. (scroll down to Aug. 11)

Monday, July 26, 1999 CE, 5:00PM Tokyo Time - Japanese prophecy author and devoted Nostradamus buff Akio Cho pushed the prophetic envelope by pegging this precise moment as the Big Sayonara. Akio is just one of a small army of Doomsday scribblers packing Japan's bookstores these days, spurred on by the wild success of pot-boiler hack Tsutomu Goto, whose 1974 tome, "Nostradamus's Great Prophesies: The Obliteration of Mankind in 1999" practically flew off the shelves. Make no mistake, Nosey is a hot commodity in the Land Of The Rising Sun, where these promises of Parousia have helped inspire such top notch types as Aum Shinri Kyo and Kofuku no Kagaku. Ah, quality.
(Thanks to Chris Nelson for the info on this)

August, 1999 CE - A Vietnamese cult going by the interchangeable titles of "Universal and Human Energy" and "Spirituality, Humanity, Yoga" (or "SHY") were quite certain that the world was going to come to a crashing halt in August. Though, that may just have been wishful thinking considering what the humidity is like in Vietnam in the summertime.
(Thanks to Chris Nelson for the info on this, too!)

August 6, 1999 CE - More from those fun-loving Davidians! This time, they insisted that David Koresh would rise from the dead to judge the sins of all the people of the world. (Somehow, I just can't help but think that having David Koresh judge the world's sins is like having Dennis Rodman judge People's Best and Worst Dressed Celebrity lists.) Anyhow, last I looked, I hadn't received any celestial court order in the mail to appear before "Judge Koresh". But, according to a letter from Ed McMahon, I may have already won $10,000,000!

August 11, 1999 CE - Sun Magazine just doesn't have the same flair for the absurd that its role-model, the Weekly World News has. Still, they did manage to be first in line to prophesy about the August solar eclipse. Seems a shame that they then blew the moment by falling back on the tired ol' Rise-o'-the-Antichrist-who-starts-WW III war-horse.

August 11, 1999 CE - Already backing away nervously by mid-month from the July due-date for Nostradamus's Day o' Doom, some Nosey fans jumped on the ol' Julian Calendar in hopes of getting a second shot for their favorite Frenchie fortune-teller. "Say, what?" you ask? Well, there's a thirteen day gap between our current Gregorian Calendar and the Julian version that Nosey would have been familiar with. Couple this with a faboo total solar eclipse (visible from Europe) and the Perseid meteor shower that was due to come together in August and Bam! you've got a prophetic match made in heaven! Solar eclipses are classic portents of evil, going back thousands of years and meteor showers have been assigned various meanings, good and bad. In fact, it should be noted that it was a spectacular shower back in 1833 that helped give rise to the apocalyptic fever of Millerism. So, no matter what else happened that day, the cosmic light show would still work out as a "gimme".

  As it turned out, there was a tornado touchdown in Salt Lake City on Aug. 11 and, as one would expect, lots of Nostradotties latched onto the event like leeches, insisting it was Nosey's pegged portent of doom. The fact that the tornado hit an area nowhere near an eclipse zone and that a similar cyclone had blown through the same location back in 1968 without either a quatrain warning or an ensuing apocalypse tends to go oddly unmentioned. Try to bring it up, moreover, and it just gets dismissed with a sniff and a retreat back into the excuse that them thar astronomical thingies was all Nosey meant, anyway.

  Of course, it doesn't take a prophet to figure out when an eclipse will fall... though it certainly could have used one to tell that the calendar would get a complete make-over. Funny how he missed that bit...

August 18, 1999 CE - Charles Criswell King (a.k.a. "The Amazing Criswell") is probably best known today as that weird guy who does the intro. in "Plan 9 From Outer Space". But, back in the '50's and '60's, he was one of the best-known psychics in America. A New York-based newscaster whose bizarre show-closing predictions were a light joke until one of them came true, Criswell parlayed the resulting media fanfare into a whole new career. For Cris, unlike most of his fellow would-be Oracles, prophesying the future was just entertainment and he delivered it with a highly warped and intentionally humorous flair. His Doomsday prediction for Aug. 18, 1999 (made in 1968) was a perfect example. In his melodramatically delivered words:

"The world as we know it will cease to exist... on August 18, 1999... We will cease to exist before the year 2000!... And if you and I meet each other on the street that fateful day, August 18, 1999, and we chat about what we will do on the morrow, we will open our mouths to speak and no words will come out, for we have no future,"

  It just doesn't get any better than that.

September 2 or 3, 1999 CE - Though stuck in the Tokyo lockup on murder charges, Aum Shinri Kyo leader Shoko Asahara continued to exhort his followers to prepare for a September Armageddon. Technically, the End was supposed to begin around the 2nd or 3rd, but, well,... you know how it is with Doomsday and deadlines. It's anyone's guess what jolly pranks his free-floating flock have planned from here on out... Though a gas mask might not be a bad addition to a travel kit for anyone riding those Japanese subways.

September 9, 1999 CE - Not content to wait until January 1 for their digital Doomsday, some Millennium Bug-a-boos grabbed onto this date as a possible moment for the world's computers to go into collective meltdown. It's all those nasty nines, y'see. September being the ninth month and all. So, numerically it reads as 9-9-99 or, for our Euro-pals, 9-9-99. And, I guess it would only follow that in China and Australia that would be 66-6-6. Oooh, just bad news any way you look at it. Unfortunately, for our damp-eyed doomwishers, the computers looked at it as 09-09-99 and absolutely nuthin' happened.

September 11, 1999 CE - Philip Berg of the Kabbalah Learning Center, is a rabbi to the stars, whose celebrity students list includes such well-known Jews as... Madonna and Courtney Love. Heaping together Jewish mysticism and New Agey metaphysics into a kind of spiritual kasha, Phil (a.k.a. Feivel Gruberger) makes a point of attracting the needy and easily led of the rich and famous. He's also not above using impending doom as a means of attracting and keeping followers; such as his assertion that a great ball o' fire was scheduled to plow right into our planet on Sep. 11 (No, not that Sep. 11! Check the year... tsk, tsk, tsk...) and the only salvation we could hope for was if enough determined souls enlightened and purified themselves with his teachings beforehand... Oh, yes, and made the appropriate monetary contributions, of course.

September 11, 1999 CE - Bible Code biddy and talk radio fan Bonnie Gaunt was so gosh darn tickled at having deduced the date of the Rapture that she phoned up Chicago DJ Ira Glass to babble all about it over the air. Bonnie was so certain that she was due to be zapped up to heaven on this date that she decided to put her whole life on hold and not even buy so much as a pair of shoes, in anticipation of the big event. An interesting side fact is that although she was certain she, herself, was on the Lord's pick-up list, she was equally certain that both of her darling grown sons were not. No, they would be left behind to burn in eternal hellfire... and it didn't seem to bother her in the least. Like most delusionals of Bonnie's type, what matters most is not that the world might be ending and billions (including supposedly beloved family members) could die in protracted, merciless agony, but that she's got a ticket to ride. Bonnie's blatherings, once on public view at her own site and that of an ardent Bonnie admirer and 'Net Kook, appear to have been the only things Raptured away on the due date; disappearing in a mysterious puff of 404 Errors by the dawn of September 12th.

September 1999 CE - Stefan Paulus is a fellow who had so little to fill his empty hours that he fussed and fretted endlessly over the "hidden meaning" in bad French "prophetic" poetry. Well, actually he did have one other thing to busy himself with... he wrote a book about it: "Nostradamus 1999". It may seem a bit excessive to write an entire book around a piffle Nosey dashed off in four sentences, but Nostradimwits everywhere thrive on just that sort of thing. The lengthier and more circuitously tortured the logic, the better. The more that can be read into the original, the merrier. And Stef read in a lot. An aficionado of the killer meteor theory, he tossed in a Middle Eastern Antichrist, WW III, earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves, draughts, fami - well, you know, the usual stuff and nonsense. At least, he had the grace to look embarrassed about it whenever interviewed... Well, wouldn't you be?

October, 1999 CE - As I mentioned earlier, there was quite a run this year on Japanese Nostradamus pluggers. One of the more amusing was Toshio Hiji, who was convinced that the Big N divined an autumnal Stateside red alert of an alien invasion... led by Satan... obviously. Not to fret, though! A world-wide defensive force of righteous humans and good-guy angels were pegged to drive the Evil One and his ET minions back to the cobwebbed corners of Toshio's mind before Christmas.

October 22, 1999 CE - Fire, flood, famine, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, and the simply de rigeur polar shift were all to precede the death of the last humans on this date, according to the "secret" prophecies of Edgar Cayce. Of course, according to Eddy, we should’ve already been in the dying-off process a year earlier, as the first gaggle of volcanoes should have blown their tops on New Year’s Eve '98. Can't imagine how we missed it all...

Late October 1999 CE - Once again, the Weekly World News regaled us all with the latest word on imminent doom. This time, the warning hailed from "noted" economist and Bible scholar (the two go together so naturally, after all) Dr. Frieda Rastelle, who gleaned it from that essential source of up-to-the-minute info on International high finance and global market analysis, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  Yes, desert dwelling, goat herding, ascetic, monastic hermits though the Essenes were, it seems they had nothing better to do with their time than fill scroll after scroll with top financial advice for the late 20th century day-trader. Of course, in the devastating, economy-crumbling, civilization-toppling, yuppie-suiciding Great Depression Part Deux to come, the investment advice seemed to run along the lines of putting one's assets in a good, thick mattress, several months worth of canned food and a store of heavy ammo... My, just think what uniquely adorable Halloween treats all those thousands of tins of smoke-flavored SPAM Lite must have made!

November 6 or 7, 1999 CE - Let me acquaint y'all now with one-time journalist turned full-time conspiracy cuckoo Richard C. Hoagland; a character whose brief foray into freelance reportage of moon missions in the '70's has been magically translated on his current online bio to "former science advisor to CBS News and Walter Cronkite"! He's also the first (and so far as I know, only) winner of the "Angstrom Award", author of the hilarious "The Monuments Of Mars" and founder of a little group of like-minded marginals he's dubbed, "The Enterprise Mission". Read any of his obsessive scribblings and you'll quickly clue in to the fact that Ricky has never met a conspiracy theory he didn't love to bits and pieces. From science-suppressed Martian civilizations to "Miami Circle" silliness to his ravings blaming the crash of EgyptAir 990 on nefarious (most likely Satanic) NASA machinations, Rick is just a one-fella' fount of free-wheeling fruitloopery.

  Of course, as entertaining as all that is, he wouldn't be listed here if he hadn't also leaped with abandon into the doomsdating pond. And leap, he most certainly did, back in August of '99, blabbing on his website (which should, on no account, be missed) and on the all-purpose radio nut net, "The Art Bell Show" that a mysterious "inside source" had informed him that three killer meteor-like thingies would be plowing smack-dab into Earth on Novemeber 7th, 1999. Rick's reason for believing the "source"? The location of the impacts were the exact same ones shown in the movie "Deep Impact"! And, as if that weren't enough, the proposed doomsdate was the same as the slated season premier of "The X-Files"!... And, well, to be fair, after having watched that season's premier of "The X-Files", I can see where one would make the connection to unholy disaster.

  Anyways, not long after, Ricky started waffling, saying that the big kaboom might happen on November 6th or 7th, depending on how anal one chose to be about time zones. And even before the premier date bubbled uneventfully by, he had double-backflipped out of the 1999 part and tacked on the then-safely distant 2003* in its place. I'm still not completely certain what the reasoning was for the new date... Should have checked my local listings.
*Note: Ricky's refabbed page proudly pitching his 2003 date has (big surprise!) gone missing post-zippo kaboom. Could it be a sign of self-consciousness in the face of obvious failure... or merely the natural reaction of a man who tuned in to the premier of Enterprise? I mean, nutcase or no, there's only so much bad news a person can stand.

November 1999 CE - Another one of those pot-pourri believers, Richard Kieninger is into everything from Christian apocalypticism to pyramidology. Hoping to squirrel himself and his merry band of followers away to some safe place to avoid the doom he was so certain would be coming, Richie started the Stelle Group commune in 1963. His efforts to build a little Kingdom of God out in the plains of Illinois failed some years ago when his efforts to get into the panties of every available woman in the cult came to light. He was summarily booted out and has since started up a brand new cult in Dallas, TX modestly dubbed, "The Builders Of The Nation". Fueled by the knowledge and expertise gained over 3,000 past lifetimes, (most of which were spent in Atlantis) Richie (who calls himself "Eklal Kueshana" - which means absolutely nothing in any language spoken outside the confines of Rick's head) came to the conclusion that the fall of '99 would see the "wholesale obliteration" of the whole wide world. An event you'd think they'd at least have been charging retail prices for.

1999 CE Late-ish - Celebrity medium, psychic and New Age propheteer Ruth Montgomery didn't believe in leaving anything to chance where her Doomsday was concerned. So, she raided the mythic larders for earthquakes, tidal waves, fires, flood, draught, famine, pestilence, war, anarchy, astral bombardment and (of course) polar shifts to make sure planet Earth got it good. In keeping with her kitchen sink approach, the "spiritually prepared" were to be rescued by the standard heavenly aliens in their space ships and (in a minor twist on the ol' theme) turned into superheroes... Though she didn't specify whether the satin capes and spandex were included in the deal.

Sometime in the waning mo's of 1999 CE - In yet another Sun Magazine "exclusive", a Father Alexander McKenna droned on at great length about how the Virgin Mary had a cozy chat with him at Fatima. Apparently the two got along famously, gabbing on and on about imminent global nuclear annihilation, environmental disaster (well, the first would sort of ensure the second, n'est pas?) and the satanic infiltration of the Catholic Church. All the result of sin and war and hatred and, most of all, atheism. I guess ol' Mare goes by the credo, "better not breathin' than heathen".

Also in the twilight of 1999 CE - Another Japanese cult promising imminent Armageddon was Sukyo Mahikari. The group has enjoyed an explosion of popularity across Asia, Europe and Australia in recent years, doling out a doctrine of mix-mastered Shinto-ism, Emperor worship, Christian millenarianism, New Age oddness, old fashioned anti-Semitism and unflagging flock fleecing that would put any Scientologist to shame. Their belief that the world was due for a big apocalyptic blow-out sale by year's end took on a heightened level of scariness once ties were discovered between them and the Sarin gas-mad Aum Shinri Kyo sect. Still, whatever the Mahikari crew might have been planning (if anything) to make their doomdreams come true, nothing apocalyptish actually materialized before the stroke of 2000. I guess this means it'll be back to deep meditation and Chemistry 101, 'till the mayhem mood strikes again.

Crowding for space at the end of 1999 CE - Serghei Torpo, Russian prophet and Rasputan act-a-like is a former traffic cop who was fired for being a fall-down, stinking drunk. He now thinks he's Jesus Christ, has changed his name to "Vissarion" and shleps around in Bible-wear telling throngs of his devotees (yes, devotees - throngs of them) that he plans on starting his own private little kingdom, his "City in the Sun"... in Siberia. He prefers alluding to the End as being vaguely 2000-ish, rather than actually setting any hard and fast dates. Still, he already threatened that if mankind didn't believe in him, he was going to get very pouty and make nuclear plants go boom and then, pull an Aum Shinri Kyo by releasing a lethal virus that would have killed everyone off but his fan club... Well, at least until he ordered them to commit suicide. I don't know what the Russians are putting in their Vodka, these days. But, in the spirit of glasnost, I say they ought'a share.

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