11.12am came... and went. Oh well, it's not the end of the world

Everyone from nervous, hasty converts to tin-foiled pilgrims looking for room in a mountain were left somewhat wanting, says Peter Popham


Even in the event of a no-show, one might have expected some fireworks, some apocalypse-grade hallucinations, as the credulous coaxed their fevered brains to provide what the universe had so signally failed to.

But as 11.12 am on the last day of the Long Count Mayan calendar came and went – and all the predictions of collapse, mayhem, kaboooooms and extinction disappeared down the cosmic pan – it was all a bit lame.

“Screeching gargoyles fly over the Maas river of blood!” came one excited message. But it was a lonely one, far outnumbered by those who thought it a great joke to pretend to be a solitary survivor, seeking out others. A new online dating gambit perhaps?

Over in Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai, several wealthy Chinese were left gazing at the three-ton, radiation-proof, spherical “Atlantis pods” in which they had each sunk £500,000, wondering what to do with them now.

China, in fact, offered the ripest manifestations of Doomsday folly. The Church of Almighty God, a pseudo-Christian outfit founded in 1989 which claims that a Chinese woman is the reincarnation of Christ, succeeded in signing up thousands of new members with its end-of-the-world predictions, persuading them to give up all their worldly goods. But as the deadline came and went, Chinese authorities arrested dozens of cult members and raided its offices.

As nothing happened at 11.12 there was no catharsis, except for the hapless inhabitants of Bugarach in south-west France. In recent days they had found their population of 200 doubled by international media crews bent on filming New Agers streaming towards the village’s mountain that is supposed to contain a coven of aliens and thus to be spared come the End of Things.

But there were no streaming New Agers, the survivalists were limited and the mountain was blocked off by mounted policemen. So the TV crews had to make do with filming a few locals dressed up as extra-terrestrials, another couple who had hiked all the way from Lille wrapped in tinfoil, and a chap playing panpipes.

Once the globe had failed to do whatever people were expecting, Bugarach was able to heave a sigh of baffled relief and get back to normality.

Of course, that would be premature. Even the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, conceded that it was “inevitable” that the world would end, though he placed that event four billion years in the future, by which time somebody else will be in power. His prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, was more cautious, saying only, “I don’t believe in the end of the world. At least, not this year.”

In our Barnum and Bailey world, the Mayan Armageddon was more than anything else a brilliant if fleeting business opportunity. Every #endoftheworld Twitter entry was crowned by a tweet sponsored by Domino’s, insisting that there was still “time for a last pizza”.

Professional doom-sayers are accustomed to ducking and diving as their predictions fail, and a new bunch are already telling us to be on our guard for that freaky geo-magnetic reversal in 2016, or maybe 2020.  While on Radio Four, Professor James Fox of Stanford University cautioned that, while 21 December was “one possible correlation” for the end of the Mayan calendar, Christmas Eve was another. That means three more days to bite your nails. And best still buy a turkey, just in casee.


After a couple of false Raptures, what's another non-Apocalypse?

To be wrong about the end of the world once is understandable. Twice is just embarrassing. The Californian Christian radio preacher Harold Camping saw both his doomsday scenarios fail to occur last year. The 90-year-old had claimed that God would call time on mankind’s tenure on Earth on 21 May 2011. When this did not happen he revised his forecast to 21 October.

Speaking after the second no-show from the forces of the apocalypse, he apologised to followers, who had failed to instantaneously fly up to heaven as predicted. Despite Camping’s inglorious record on previous predictions, a number of followers had given away their belongings and savings before the ‘final day’.

“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours!” said Mr Camping afterwards.

End days prophets have also included Martin Luther and Sir Isaac Newton (who based his prediction on an interpretation of scripture rather than physics) – although both men had the good sense to choose a date long after their death. Less prudent was Anabaptist Dutch tailor Jan Bockelson, who declared himself the “Messiah of the last days” in 16th-century Munster. When the end proved not to be, his genitals were nailed to the city’s gates.

Jonathan Brown

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album