We’ve all heard of the prediction—loosely based on the Mayan calendar—that the world is slated to end on December 21, 2012. Now, members of a fringe religious group are preparing for an even earlier Armageddon, alerting their friends and neighbors that, according to the Bible, Judgment Day is just four days away. On May 21, 2011, they say, true believers will ascend to heaven while others will face destruction. While it is unclear how many people subscribe to this theory, it likely originated with Family Radio, a Christian network founded by Harold Camping. This is not the first doomsday prophesy for Camping, who warned of an apocalypse in 1994 and has made several similar predictions in the ensuing years. It is also not the first time individuals and groups have proclaimed the world’s impending destruction or the Messiah’s imminent return, only to grapple with the consequences when their forecasts prove incorrect. Find out more about some of history’s most famous non-apocalypses below.
634 B.C. According to ancient Roman legend, 12 mystical eagles told Rome’s founder Romulus that his great civilization would only last for 120 years. Panic gripped many Romans in the years leading up to their city’s 120th anniversary, which turned out to be entirely uneventful.
1284 Pope Innocent III prophesied that the world would come to an end in 1284, 666 years—the number associated with the devil—after the rise of Islam. He died in 1216 and never saw his prediction invalidated.
February 1, 1524 In June 1523, several London astrologers warned residents that apocalyptic floods would engulf the city on February 1 of the following year, causing some 20,000 residents to flee their homes and others to stockpile food and supplies. The day came and went without a drop of rain....