People are paranoid. It's the only reasonable explanation for why everyone is so concerned about the end of the world. We treat Earth like a bag full of found money that we're afraid someone is going to claim. Of course it doesn't help that various religious texts are also delivering up depressing predictions right alongside the good word. Why do we think the world is going to end this time? Because the Mayans said so. Duh. Or, at least, that's kind of what they said, right? Well, no. Not really. It's not that we don't enjoy an End of The World party as much as the next unlikely-to-be-raptured person, but isn't it a bit strange that people need NASA scientists to debunk a prediction related to a civilization that's been gone for almost 2000 years? Technically, the apocalypse is inevitable. You know, the Sun is going to burn out, explode, incinerate the Earth, what have you. Though that's billions of years in the future, which is apparently just too boring for some people.
In celebration of how odd and apocalypse-obsessed people are, we've determined 10 of the wackiest end-of-the-world predictions.
1. The Prophet Hen of Leeds
That's right. In 1806 a prophetic hen was discovered in Leeds, England. It conveyed its barnyard wisdom using the king's English on the side of its own eggs. Of course it was discovered that the owner of the hen was using acid to write "Christ is coming" on the side of the eggs, and then shoving them back into the chosen fowl.
January 1, 2000
The world is going to end because some computer systems will operate incorrectly when the date changes to 01/01/2000, which will cause Sky Net to go active, and why is Arnold Schwarzenegger in politics? That's weird. Or something like that. It sounds absurd because it is. Though it was a credible problem, with preparations having to be made at the government level, it was hardly the sort of cataclysmic event required to destroy all civilization. But hey, it was the late '90s and things were strange. Sometime around 1995 everyone bought a cellphone and immediately became permanently attached to it. People had just met the Internet, and the .com bubble was making overnight ballers out of everyone without having actually done anything. It was kind of like the '80s, with less cocaine. So let's just forgive our younger selves and move on.
March 21, 1843 - March 21, 1844
In the early 1800s, a preacher named William Miller became convinced that (drum roll!) the world would end on exactly October 22, 1844. In a somewhat prophetic use of the printing press and the media, Miller was able to convince hundreds of thousands of people that through careful study of the Bible, he had cracked the code and figured out a dooms-date. When the day came and went with nary a whimper, it picked up the strange title of The Great Disappointment (or The Great Relief, depending on how you look at it). Not to be discouraged, a large portion of his followers went on to form the Seventh Day Adventist movement that persists to this day and is considered by psychologists to be a textbook example of cognitive dissonance.
4.Large Hadron Collider
September 10, 2008
CERN's massive particle collider on the Franco-Swiss border was initially met with suspicion from the general lay public when it began to be circulated that firing it up would destroy the world, and that the head scientist was a witch. Alright. Maybe we made up the witch part. But c'mon, people. If you're concerned about whether you have anything to fear from the LHC, get a real-time update here.
5. The Predictions of Harold Camping
May 21, 2011
In 2011, many gullible but well-meaning idiots sold all of their worldly possessions and hit the road in order to fill people in on a date that they believed the Almighty would reclaim the Earth: May 21, 2011. They got their information from a former minister, author, and Christian-media mogul named Harold Camping. This wasn't even Camping's first prediction; 20 years ago he calculated that the world would end in 1994. Just like William Miller, Camping got his dates from careful study of the Bible. The above video is of a man in Times Square after the rapture is supposed to have begun. He is a believer who gave his entire life's savings to Camping's Family Radio Network. Third try is a charm, Harold.
6. Heaven's Gate Suicides
March 25 - March 26, 1997
It's possible that the members of the Heaven's Gate cult caught a one-way ticket out of the universe on the back of near-passing comet, Hale-Bopp ... wait, no it's not. Though that's what they believed was going on when they all drank poison-laced pineapple juice, subsequently coining the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid," which means to buy into the BS. They did so to escape a mysterious apocalypse that they said would wipe the Earth clean. At 38 people, it is the largest mass suicide in U.S. history.
December 21, 2012
According to some people, there is a large terrestrial body barreling through space that will either collide with Earth very soon, or swing so close that it distorts the Earth's magnetic field with cataclysmic consequences. Believers have of course collaborated the idea with the end of the Mayan calendar. The idea was first postulated by a Wisconsin woman named Nancy Lieder who said that extraterrestrials told her about the coming event via an implant in her brain. Suddenly a prophetic hen seems reasonable.
8. Pat Robertson
Robertson is a media mogul and former Republican presidential candidate who has regularly blessed us with hilarious and crazy comments about a number of things, which of course include doomsday. Among our favorites are his recent remarks about how President Obama will bring about the economic collapse of America, and subsequently the world, because he is at odds with the American majority. Robertson supposedly got his information through a conversation he had directly with God, who apparently has a decent sense of humor after all, because despite Robertson's heavenly council, which sounded suspiciously similar to what Robertson would say himself, Obama was re-elected.
9. Jehovah's Witness Prophecies
1877, 1964, 1916, 1966...you get the picture
The entire movement was founded on an end-of-the-world prophecy that they subsequently shared with the world by — you guessed it — going door-to-door. So far, they've been off the mark every single time, but it hasn't prevented their ranks from swelling. And who knows, a broken watch is right twice a day.
10. Manhattan Project
July 16, 1945
Believe it or not, before the U.S. detonated the world's first nuclear weapon, there was speculation among scientists that the device might SET THE ATMOSPHERE ON FIRE AND DESTROY THE EARTH. But we did it anyway. 'Merica! To be fair, the calculated risk was "negligible." But when you're talking about the destruction of the entire planet, what exactly does that mean? Your odds of winning the lottery are negligible, for instance.