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Andrea is a contributing writer to The Hudsucker when she’s not rescuing stray cats or working as a graphic designer for an advertising agency way less glamorous than the ones in Mad Men. She loves pizza a lot. Follow her on Twitter as @pizzzaa.

The Mayan Apocalypse and Other Disappointments

Unless you’ve been living under a rock without Facebook and History Channel, then you know this past December 21st was supposed to be the end of the world, this time courtesy of the Mayans. December 21st came and went and aside from a few people arrested in China and countless memes, we got nothing. Not fire from the sky, no earthquakes, no colliding planets. Where is the destruction the Mayans and Roland Emmerich promised us? DOES THIS MEAN I HAVE TO KEEP GOING TO WORK AND CLEANING UP THE KITTY LITTER? I don’t know about you but I’m pretty disappointed.

Man wearing sandwich board sign on street. Image Credit: Getty Images/Alan Powdrill

Man wearing sandwich board sign on street. Image Credit: Getty Images/Alan Powdrill

What exactly was the fuss all about?

The Mayans were a highly developed civilization from pre-Columbian America, they had sophisticated knowledge in astronomy, mathematics, architecture and a written language. The Mayans measured time in 3 different calendars: The religious calendar, the secular calendar and the Long Count Calendar, the one related to all this end of the world nonsense. In the Long Count Calendar a Great Cycle is a period of time of around 5,125.36 years. Paired with our calendar, the end of the Great Cycle falls on December 21st, 2012. Just like our calendars end on December 31st and then a new year begins, a new Cycle began after December 21st. The end of a Great Cycle would’ve definitely be an important event for the Mayans but not the end of times by any means.

Somehow, End of the World theorist and crazies, which are kind of the same thing, tied this event with different apocalyptic scenarios, which went from the inversion of the magnetic poles to a collision with a rogue planet. While the Mayan Apocalypse wasn’t really believed outside of the Apocalypse loving crowd, there were still a few arrests in China and end of the world ceremonial parties for tourists in Mexico, Guatemala and other Mayan territories. Even the people at NASA had to take a break from exploring the universe and managing Curiosity’s Twitter account to post articles debunking Mayan Apocalypse myths.

Did anything happen? No. December 21st was a day like any other with the exception of Facebook being extra annoying.

Other times we’ve been fooled

The Mayan Apocalypse is not the first time we’ve been promised rapture and got nothing, do a search for Failed Apocalyptic Predictions and the Wikipedia list is too long to count. Here are some of the times we’ve been let down, Apocalypse-wise:

  • Y2K computer crash – January 1st, 2000

The arrival of the year 2000 gave way for a lot of nice apocalyptic craziness, the Y2K bug being one of them. It was thought that, because many computer systems stored years as 2 digit numbers, on January 1st 2000 computers would have the date show as 01/01/00, they would think it’s 1900 and society as we know it would come to an end. Because of the deep connection our world has with computers, everything from the financial to the military system would collapse. The banking system would come crashing down, we wouldn’t be able to get money from ATMs, planes would fall from the sky and nukes would go off because oh my God the computers think we’ve suddenly travel back in time.

Companies and organizations worldwide upgraded their computer systems, a UN-backed International Y2K Co-operation Center was formed and whatever crisis that could’ve happen was averted. There were plenty of glitches reported as result of the Y2K bug but nothing of significance happened. We partied like it was 1999 without the world ending or any other major problems.

  • Comet Hale-Bopp Apocalypse – 1997

Back in 1997, comet Hale Bopp was passing close enough to the Earth that it was visible to the naked eye. A comet in the sky is enough to send Apocalypse-lovers into a frenzy but amateur astronomer Chuck Shramek decided to help by doctoring a picture of the comet to make it look like it had a planet-like object trailing it. The picture reached the then young internets and UFO lovers still riding that X Files high took it as evidence a space ship was coming to Earth hiding behind the comet. The comet picture and its UFO rumor spread like wild fire without anyone contesting the validity of the photography. You must remember this were simpler times before the massification of Photoshop. Meanwhile, Marshall Applewhite, leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult took the comet and it’s accompanying spaceship as clear signs of the Apocalypse and convinced 39 cult members to commit suicide so their souls could board the coming spaceship or something. Hale-Bopp came, lit up our sky and then it went away, no Apocalypse.

  • Halley’s Comet Apocalypse – 1910

People just get really scared with shiny things in the sky, don’t they? Back in 1910, Halley’s comet was set to reappear and while Parisians were already blaming it for a great flood that had devastated the city, The New York times went ahead and made things worse by publishing French astronomer Camille Flammarion’s declarations that a poisonous gas in the comet’s tail “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet”. Several astronomers tried to calm the public stating the comet posed no threat to life on Earth but people panicked anyway and rushed to purchase gas masks and “comet pills”, whatever that was. The New York Times reported that “terror occasioned by the near approach of Halley’s comet has seized hold of a large part of the population of Chicago” and the Atlanta Constitution reported that people in Georgia were preparing safe rooms and covering keyholes with paper.

Halley’s comet passed by the Earth in May 1910 with no poisonous gas killing mankind, the Chicago Tribune announced “We’re Still Here” in case anyone hadn’t noticed.

  • The Millerite Apocalypse – March 21st 1844

William Miller was an American Baptist preacher who predicted the Apocalypse to happen sometime between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844. Miller based his conclusion on this biblical verse:

“For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state” (Daniel, 8:14).

Basing on the Day-Year Principle, where a day represents a year, he concluded the verse meant that there was a 2300 year countdown to the end of the world. He then took the historical event of the 457 B.C. decree to rebuild Jerusalem by Artaxerxes I of Persia, which conveniently enough, happened 2300 years before 1843. Such scientific findings where enough to convince over 100.000 people who became Miller’s followers. They got their own name and everything, the Millerites. March 21st, 1844 came and went and without any Apocalypse happening and while some left the movement, the Millerism continued to be a thing and members predicted other Apocalypse dates and kept waiting for the world to end.

  • The European Flood – February 1524

In 1499, German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Stöffler calculated that on February 20, 1524 all six of the then known planets would be in conjunction in the constellation of Pisces, which is represented by a fish and fish live in water so obviously, that meant that on that date a vast flood would engulf the world and human civilization would come to an end. Logic is neat!

Stöffler’s prophecies spread across Europe and came to the ears of German nobleman Count von Iggleheim, who allegedly built himself a three-story ark on the Rhine. On February 20th, it started raining and crowds of people began to panic and tried to get into the Count’s ark by force, many were killed in the riot including Von Iggleheim. Stoffler went back to mathematics, physics and other things less likely to cause deaths.

Celebrities and the Apocalypse

Us normal people weren’t the only ones going on and on and on and on about the Mayan Apocalypse. On December 21st on Twitter, Zach Braff wondered “What does one even wear to a Mayan Apocalypse?”, Milla Jovovich asked if Europe and Asia were “still there” and plenty other celebrities tweeted about their surviving the End of the World.

CBS reported back in 2011 that Adult Entertainment Studio “Pink Visual” was building an underground bunker in preparation for 2012, to “survive the apocalypse to come in comfort and luxury”. Now that December 21st has passed and nothing happened I don’t know what they’re going to do with it and I don’t ever want to find out.

I gotta say in celebrity-related Apocalypse news, Lil Wayne takes the cake with this quote: “The world is about to end in 2012… ’cause the Mayans made calendars, and they stop at 2012. I got encyclopedias on the bus. … The world is about to end as we know it. You can see it already. A planet doesn’t exist – there’s no more Pluto. Planes are flying into buildings – and not just the Twin Towers. Mosquitos bite you and you die. And a black man and a woman are running for president”. He said this back in 2008, I wonder if he’s still sore about Pluto not being a planet anymore.

What about the future?

No new Apocalypse prediction has caught on as of yet but Isaac Newton did predict that the world would end on 2060 basing on his bible studies and some have “recalculated” Newton’s prediction to 2013 or 2014. Will the Newton Apocalypse become as popular as the Mayan one? A not so wise man once said “… fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me twice – you you can’t get fooled again”, I have a feeling we will get fooled again, until the next Apocalypse everybody.

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