7 times people thought the world was going to end

Apocalypse enthusiasts await the end of the world in 2012.

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Apocalypse enthusiasts await the end of the world in 2012.
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Jean Philippe Arles/Reuters

  • People thought Halley’s Comet would crash into Earth in 1910.
  • Various conspiracy theorists and religious leaders have incorrectly predicted the date of the Rapture.
  • People thought the world would end when the Mayan calendar “ended” on December 21, 2012.
  • So far, no theories or predictions about how the world will end have proven true.

Thankfully, no conspiracy theories or predictions about how and when the world would end have proven true so far, though many have caught our attention worldwide. But many people still find doomsday predictions intriguing, even if they don’t really believe that a hidden alien planet is going to crash into Earth and herald the apocaplyse.

Here are seven times that theories about the world ending became the subject of public fascination and pop culture.


French astronomer Camille Flammarion thought that Halley’s Comet would “snuff out” all life in 1910.

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Halley’s Comet in 1910.
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Professor Edward Emerson Barnard/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Library of Congress reports that mass hysteria branded Halley’s Comet “the evil eye of the sky” in 1910, prompting the sales of anti-comet pills and gas masks in the event that it hit the planet and triggered an apocalyptic explosion. It harmlessly passed between Earth and the sun in May of that year.

A “periodic” comet that appears about every 75 years, it passed by again in 1986 and is slated to return in 2061.


Chen Hong-min founded the Chen Tao movement, deemed himself a prophet, and said that God would appear on channel 18 on March 31, 1998.

The founder and leader of the Taiwanese religious group Chen Tao (meaning “True Way”) moved to Garland, Texas, where he said God would appear and bring him and his followers away in spaceships disguised as clouds on March 31, 1998, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. He also said that God would appear on channel 18 to announce this plan on March 25.

When that didn’t happen, he said at a news conference that his predictions “can be considered nonsense,” AP reported.


The “Y2K bug” caused widespread concern that computers around the world would fail and cause the collapse of civilization in 2000.

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A South Korean shopper purchases a Y2K emergency kit in 1999.
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Lee Jae Won/Reuters

Stores sold Y2K emergency kits with nonperishable food before New Years Day in 2000, when people thought computers that operated government records, utility systems, banks, and anything containing some kind of computer chip would crash and cause apocalyptic chaos.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, about $300 billion was spent upgrading computer systems to withstand the supposed millennium bug. While it didn’t prove necessary, it did result in better computer systems.


Some worried that the Large Hadron Collider could create a black hole that would destroy the world when it opened in 2008.

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The Large Hadron Collider.
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Pierre Albouy/File Photo/SCIENCE-CERN/Reuters

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). When it opened in 2008, there was speculation that the swift movement of subatomic particles in its tunnels could create a black hole that would swallow up the Earth.

CERN scientists reassured the public that even if a small black hole was created, it would disintegrate immediately, according to LiveScience. The world hasn’t been swallowed up yet.


Preacher Harold Camping predicted that May 21, 2011, would be “Judgment Day.”

Radio and television preacher Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on May 21, 2011. He said that only three percent of the population would survive by way of God bringing them into heaven, according to The Washington Post.

Family Radio, the Christian radio network that hosted Camping’s show, spent $100 million in order to disseminate his message, VICE reported.

When the world didn’t end, Camping said that the Rapture had been an “invisible judgment day.”


People thought the world would end when the Mayan calendar “ended” on December 21, 2012.

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People believed the village of Bugarach in France would survive the 2012 apocalypse.
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Patrick Aventurier/Stringer/Getty Images

A 2012 Reuters poll found that 10% of people worldwide thought that the Mayan calendar could predict the end of the world, and 10% of people reported feeling anxious that the world might actually end on December 21, 2012.

The popular theory stemmed from the fact that the Mayan calendar supposedly ended on that date after 5,125 years. According to legend, the village of Bugarach in France would be the only place on Earth that would be spared. A disaster movie called “2012” was released in 2009 starring John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor, further advancing the theory.

Scientists were quick to debunk the doomsday prediction.

The whole thing was a misconception from the very beginning,” Dr. John Carlson, director of NASA’s Center for Archaeoastronomy, said according to an article posted on NASA Science. “The Maya calendar did not end on December 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date.”


Christian numerologist David Meade said he used the geometry of the pyramids of Giza to calculate that the world would end on September 23, 2017.

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Meade said the pyramids of Giza could predict the apocalypse.
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Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock

David Meade, a conspiracy theorist who calls himself a Christian numerologist, wrote in his book “Planet X – 2017 Arrival” that a hidden planet called Nibiru or Planet X would collide with Earth and destroy it on September 23, 2017. He said that the date was written in code in the pyramids of Giza, Metro UK reported. The date came and passed without incident.

For good measure, NASA also debunked the existence of any Planet X.

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