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The Best Apocalypses in History

The end of the world is near—again! For centuries, doomsdayers have prophesied the apocalypse. But there's a tiny catch: None of the end-of-world predictions ever come true.

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There have been hundreds of doomsday prophecies through the ages, but none have ever come true.


Every year, new apocalyptic predictions waft through the dark fringes of the internet and the tabloid media. In the past couple of years, the world was predicted to end in a supervolcano eruption, an asteroid impact, and a new ice age, to name just a few of the more popular doomsday prophecies.

Needless to say, none of them have come true.

Apocalyptic Predictions for 2024

Of course, the current global security situation is worrying. But especially in such a climate of uncertainty, the last thing we need is more armageddon fantasies to ramp up our anxiety.

At the end of the day, despite all of the recent heartbreak, humankind is still around, and thriving!

While there may not be as many end-of-the-world predictions for 2024 as in previous years, there is no shortage of fresh prophecies of disaster for the coming year. Here are some of the 2024 predictions finding footing among doomsday enthusiasts:

A Year of Living Dangerously

The Earth in space, as seen by the crew of Apollo 11.

Lost in space: Some anxiety profiteers out there want us to believe our planet will be beset by major disasters in 2024.

©NASA Johnson Space Center

Three popular sources for bleak 2024 predictions are the mystic Baba Vanga, the Irish publication Old Moore, and of course that famed purveyor of visions, Nostradamus.

The blind Bulgarian seer Baba Vanga died in 1996, but her followers claim she saw the events of 2024 as a time of rising economic tension, assassinations, leaps in computing technology, and most dramatically, a “mighty dragon” taking over the world. (Some sources say that many predictions were falsely attributed to Vanga after her death, so it may not be the perfect time to buy dragon insurance just yet.)

The Old Moore, an almanac started by an English astrologer in the 18th century, augers darkly with a warning of the possibility of assassination, the end of cash, the end of roads, and a massive earthquake that will be felt across national borders.

And the 16th century Russian occultist Norstradamus projected the Earth “growing more parched”, the occurence of “great floods,” and the onset of “combat and naval battle” with a vague reference to a “red” adversary. He really went out on a limb to predict that there will be the death of a “very old pontiff” in the coming year.

Death by Asteroid?

Some online doomsdayers have expressed concern about the chances that a particular rogue, or “lost” asteroid, labeled 2007 FT3, could smash into Earth in the near future. That chunk of space rock dissapeared off NASA´s tracking systems in 2007.

But the odds of that happening are infinitessimally small: NASA estimates the chances at 0.0000096 percent—1 in 10 million —and even that tiny possibility would not realistically present itself until the year 2030.

NASA recently issued a statement that clarified the situation: “there are no known asteroid impact threats to Earth at any time in the next century. NASA and its partners diligently watch the skies to find, track, and categorize asteroids and near-Earth objects (NEOs), including those that may come close to Earth.”

The Best Doomsday Predictions That Fizzled

If all this has got you worried, have a look at some of the more notorious doomsday scenarios in history that failed to materialize, just like hundreds of other prophecies through the ages.

While some of the listed events had tragic consequences for many involved, a look at the track record of prophets and prophecies is a good reminder that there is no need to panic.

After all, predicting the end of days is a tricky business.

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The Mayan calendar got some people worried in 2012.


The Mayan Calendar

The end of the world was predicted to occur on December 21, 2012, when one of the great cycles in the Mayan calendar came to an end.

In the run-up to the day, the internet abounded with predictions about an apocalypse happening on “12/21/12”.

Faced with the wealth of alarmist information available on the World Wide Web, even NASA was compelled to publish an information page about why the world would not end on December 21, 2012.

Camping and the Rapture

The world was also supposed to end on October 21, 2011. American radio host Harold Camping had arrived at the date for the apocalypse through a series of calculations that he claimed were based on Jewish feast days and the lunar calendar.

In addition to his claims about the end of the world, he also predicted that on May 21, 2011, at precisely 6:00 pm, God’s selected people would be assumed into heaven, in an event he called the Rapture.

Those who were not raptured, he said, would have to remain on Earth to wait for their doom five months later.

According to media reports, some of his followers quit their jobs, sold their homes, and invested large amounts of money in publicizing Camping’s predictions.

When the Rapture did not occur, Camping re-evaluated his predictions saying that the event would take place simultaneously with the end of the world. After October 21, 2011, the self-proclaimed prophet stated that “nobody could know exactly when the time of the apocalypse would come.”

The Black Hole from Geneva

Scientists use the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, to set up controlled collisions of particles at very high speeds.

The experiments have caused some to believe that the energies set free by the collisions will form a black hole powerful enough to consume Earth and all life on it.

No such black hole has been sighted yet, and several high-profile studies have concluded that no such dangers are associated with the experiments conducted at the LHC.

Detail of the large hadron collider at CERN

Detail of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.


Y2K and the Millennium Bug

Toward the end of the second millennium, people around the world feared that the world would end simultaneously with the beginning of the year 2000, or Y2K.

This prediction was based on the practice followed by computer programmers of abbreviating year numbers with two digits when developing software. For instance, “1999” would be coded as “99.”

At the turn of the century, computers would revert to “00,” assuming that the date was 1900 instead of 2000, leading to software errors.

According to popular belief, this so-called “Millennium Bug” threatened banking systems, planes, and even the safety of weapon systems, leading to all-consuming chaos on planet Earth.

However, at midnight on January 1, 2000, the world celebrated the new year, and no planes dropped out of the sky.

Nostradamus and the King of Terror

Renowned seer Nostradamus prophesied 250 years ago that a “king of terror” would come from the sky in 1999.

Austrian geologist and Nostradamus buff Alexander Tollmann decided to play it safe by sitting it out in a self-built bunker in Austria. Tollmann was convinced that the apocalypse was to come early in August, a fear that was consolidated by the total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999.

Three young women with eclipse glasses looking at the Sun.

Solar eclipses are really nothing to worry about—as long as you use proper eye protection.


The Great Flood and the Flying Saucer

Chicago housewife Dorothy Martin (a.k.a. Marion Keech) claimed to have received a message from planet Clarion in the early 1950s: the world was to end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954.

Martin and a group of followers were convinced that a flying saucer would rescue the true believers before the inevitable destruction of Earth.

The belief was so strong that some broke completely with their previous lives, quitting their jobs, leaving their spouses, and giving away money and possessions.

Social psychologists Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter infiltrated Martin’s group to study the effects of such convictions and the group’s reactions when the prophesied event did not occur. Their work, When Prophecy Fails, delivers the first instance of Festinger’s noted theory of cognitive dissonance.

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