Failed Doomsday Prophecies From Around The US

The world didn’t end and we knew it wouldn’t. Here we all are on this planet and it’s still spinning the way it should spin and we’re all still online with working Internet connections, just as we should be. Cue Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place.”

Now that the unfortunate chunk of history wherein we misinterpret the Maya people and make their culture popular for all of the wrong reasons has come to a close, perhaps now we can continue in earnest learning about the Maya people. After all, the Maya people did have beliefs and practices worth noting and discussing – but the world ending on December 21, 2012, was just never part of their ideology. Even if the Maya people had predicted that the world would end, what credence would that prophecy have deserved?

False prophecies always have been and still are rampant. The past is behind us and although there is much to be learned from history, great gains have been made that have led us to the present and these gains shouldn’t be undermined by overemphasis on past Doomsday predictions. At this point in technology, it’s incredibly unlikely that the end of Planet Earth will come without modern warning. Objects coming from space will be seen, man-made weapons can largely be tracked, and a number of natural disasters can be predicted before the fact. We’re not as advanced this year as we will be next year, but that same logic applies retroactively and should be used when considering the impact of prophecies made in the past. Before some of us attach ourselves to the next Big Doomsday Prophecy, let’s take note of some of the more popular End Times predictions that have come and gone while humans continued to procreate.We have documented apocalypse predictions at least back to 634 B.C., but let’s just take a look at the failed Doomsday dates of the last couple hundred years, give or take. National Geographic and Wired are just a couple of publications that have outlined some of these failed predictions nicely.

1843: The Millerites. William Miller, a New England farmer, predicted the world would end between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. The date was later changed to April 23, 1843. Thousands of followers went with him down this path and they all, for better or for worse, lived to see the light at the end of the rabbit hole. Some of the “Millerites” went on to form the Seventh Day Adventists.

1910: Halley’s Comet. A fear spread through the media and populous that the Earth would pass through the tail end of Halley’s comet in 1910 and that the End Times would be triggered.

1982: Pat Robertson. Televangelist Pat Robertson, from Virginia, told his “700 Club” TV audience that he knew when the world would end. In fact, he guaranteed that end to be 1982.

1994: Pastor John Hinkle. In 1994, John Hinkle, from California, predicted that the Biblical End Times would be upon us as of June 9, 1994.

1997: Heaven’s Gate. San Diego’s UFO cult, Heaven’s Gate, concluded that the Hale-Bopp comet’s falsely reported tail-end UFO was a signal that the world would end soon. All 39 members committed suicide on March 26, 1997.

2000: Y2K. People have long speculated the influence technology might have over the end of mankind and during the months leading up to the year 2000, these theories were everywhere. Nuclear holocaust and worldwide blackouts were just some of the End Times predictions made related to Y2K.

2000: Icy End. Richard Noone wrote a book in 1997 titled “5/5/2000 Ice: the Ultimate Disaster” and the idea took on, for some. He predicted we would suffer an icy death cued by the aligning of the heavens.

2008: Biblical End Times. The minister of God’s Church, Ronald Weinland, predicted in a 2006 book that 2008 would see the end of the world. Weinland went on to predict that the real date was May 27, 2012.

2011: Harold Camping. A radio minister from California, Harold Camping, predicted in May 2011 that the End Times would begin on May 21, 2011, and that the world would totally end on October 21, 2011.

And now, with the December 21 prophecies that have been tied to the Maya out of the way, I’ll continue in my series, “Life At The End Of The World: Destination Yucatan,” by exploring the Yucatan region and culture.

Why The Modern Maya Don’t Think The World Is Ending

If you want to meet Maya people, go to the Yucatan. More specifically, go to the city of Merida. Merida’s population is nearly at a million and 60% of all inhabitants are of Maya ethnicity. Roughly a third of the population of Merida speak Mayan – the Yucatec Maya language. Fighting for space for my body on the crowded sidewalks and space for my car on the congested streets, my time in Merida was spent in close physical proximity to the modern Maya, as comes with the territory when visiting the downtown area of a capital city in Mexico over a weekend.

Although Merida was created atop a Spanish-overtaken and demolished Maya community, the Maya culture today is preserved in Merida through museums, music, dance, art, fashion, markets, cuisine and language, as well as in other areas of modern Merida life. When the conquistadors set out to rule the land now known as Merida, the Maya were forced to learn Spanish and their books were burned. The stones from Maya buildings were used to build Merida – the walls of the cathedral downtown are made from these stones. Old Spanish city gates that were once a part of a massive wall still stand in Merida. The wall was initially erected to protect the city’s center from revolting Maya. The last major revolt was the Caste War of Yucatan (1847-1901). Today, an outwardly integrated city greets travelers and it is flush with Maya souvenirs and Maya experiences to take home.

%Gallery-173726%The words of Rigoberta Menchu were in my mind when I conversed with the local Maya about the popular Doomsday Prophecies:

“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.”

Before entering into these conversations, I already knew what I later found supporting evidence for in my discussions: modern Maya don’t think the world is ending on December 21. Careful not to speak in a way that would carry offensive implications of mystic misunderstandings, I asked the Maya I met about their own take on December 21 and all the hype. I asked the Maya on the street and in the market, I asked the Maya at restaurants and hotels. The answer was the same for everyone, there was no exception to this.

“We are entering into a new cycle,” they’d tell me. “This is just a new beginning,” they’d say without doubt.

I’m not alone in my findings. In a MINNPOST article, Phyllis Messenger, the president of the Maya Society of Minnestoa, is quoted as saying, “I have not yet run across any indigenous person who believes this is the end of the world.” The article’s author, Catherine Watson, goes on to make a good point when she reiterates the words of archaeologists with, “The Mayans probably didn’t fear the end of one baktun and the start of the next, archaeologists say. More likely, they celebrated it, much as we go all-out for really significant New Year’s Eves, like the ones when a century turns.”

Modern Maya aren’t worried because ancient Maya weren’t worried. The 13th baktun, a 400-year unit, is coming to a close and a new one is beginning. But because it is not a 14th baktun that is beginning but rather the first again (this method of tracking time is cyclical), the ancient Maya inscribed the date in zeroes. The lesson to take home from modern Maya: zeroes in this context represent resetting the clock, not unplugging it.

Make sure to check out the rest of my series, “Life At The End Of The World: Destination Yucatan,” which explores the Yucatan region, Maya culture and more.

December 21, 2012: An Introduction To The End Of The World

A charismatic and talkative man of Maya descent approached me one lively Friday evening just outside of La Plaza Grande in Merida, Mexico. With infectious enthusiasm, he discussed the history of the Maya in the Yucatan and Merida with me; his face gained color and animation as each topic rolled over into a new one. My Spanish isn’t very good, so my husband, who is half Mexican, translated that which I did not catch the first time around.

I had a bowl of Tortilla Soup for dinner that night. As I blew my breath onto each steaming spoonful, my husband recounted for me the story he’d just heard regarding the origin of the word, “Yucatan.” According to the man we’d just spent time with on the street, Hernan Cortes first told this story in a letter to Charles V, The Holy Roman Emperor. According to Cortes, when the Spanish first asked natives of the peninsula what the region was called, they responded with “Yucatan.” In the Yucatec Maya language, “Yucatan” translates as “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Nearly 500 years later, the truth is still lost in translation, muddled by time, language, personal beliefs and motives.

%Gallery-173647%With December 21, 2012, only a few days away, the hype surrounding it and its Maya roots has been amplified. Throughout my recent trip to the Yucatan, a stark contrast between the local and foreign opinion of this date was blatantly observable. As Jacob Devaney discusses in an article on the Huffington Post, prophetic fiction is powerful. Our tendency to take written words literally, no matter the gap between written and oral tradition, is also powerful. Our imaginations are worlds of their own, holding both the thread and ability to weave intricately detailed narratives with climaxes and resolutions that are tailored to suit our individual stories. When these stories happen to reflect the facts, they usually do so in varying degrees. The burden of proof for 2012 storytellers is often skirted by those who, to begin with, want to believe. What we have as a result is swampy literature thick with blurred lines between fact and fiction. Predictions for December 21 are abundant. To fully grasp both the intentions and present impact of the Maya, we must first become acquainted with the popular beliefs regarding this date.

The End Of The World

Some believe December 21 will be the day the world ends or the beginning of the end. Believers predict that the date will wreak catastrophe, particularly astronomical catastrophe. The arrival of the next solar maximum, interference at the hand of our galaxy’s center black hole, a collision with an unconfirmed hidden planet, an alignment of the planets, a pole shift and increasing disasters are some of the ways in which believers say the world might dissipate on December 21. Some have developed conspiracy theories on a massive government cover-up operation; an attempt at shielding the masses from the truth of the “end times.” Many who believe that the world will end on December 21 have linked their beliefs to the Maya calendar, claiming that the end of the Long Count calendar coincides with this date. In truth, the calendar does not end on December 21 – it simply moves into its next cycle. As expressed by Joseph L. Flatley on The Verge, this kind of information would normally go unnoticed were it not for our cultural preoccupation with The End. But rather than remain an ‘obscure piece of trivia,’ as Flatley puts it, the calendar’s ending cycle has been at the center of current mainstream and underground conversation.

According to the SETI Institute’s “Doomsday 2012 Fact Sheet,” some opinion polls are suggesting that a tenth of Americans are concerned about whether or not they will survive December 21. Teachers have reported that their students are fearful of the impending date. The mother of Adam Lanza, the young man responsible for the recent massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, has been identified as a “Doomsday Prepper.” The guns used in the shooting belonged to his mother, who had been stockpiling both weaponry and food for what she believed to be the approaching apocalypse. This date has been manipulated, exploited and profited from in most imaginable ways.

Professional scholars and scientists have worked to debunk the rumors and slow the rampant spread of doomsday theories. Maya scholars maintain that dark predictions for December 2012 are not referenced in any classic Maya accounts. Astronomers have disputed apocalypse theories tied to this date, explaining that the theories at hand conflict with basic astronomical observations. But the date holds significance even for those who don’t believe that it will usher in the end times.

A New Beginning

Some New Age beliefs imply that this date marks a period of time during which we will all undergo positive physical or spiritual transformation. Every Mexican I spoke with during my recent trip, including those of Maya descent, believed that this date simply marks a new beginning. December 21, our winter solstice, represents the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter. Of course in this sense, the date will be “a new beginning” just as it is every year – the beginning of a new season. But perhaps the date will represent another kind of new beginning – a new beginning for the modern perception of the Maya civilization. For far too long, the great achievements and fascinating facets of Maya culture have been overshadowed by fear-mongering hoaxes. Perhaps with the coming and passing of December 21, we can continue where we left off on our journey of Maya exploration and understanding.

This is just the first post in a series on what I learned in the Yucatan about December 21, Maya Culture and the general region. Stay tuned for more.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Hotel News We Noted: December 7, 2012 (Special Edition)

end of the world renaissance hotelsWe write today with bad news. Judging by the amount of press releases in our inbox, the world will end on December 21, as predicted by the Mayan calendar, and nine days before, on 12-12-12, the publicity world will relish their last ever chance to send out far too many press releases about a holiday that may or may not happen.

And what reporters would we be if we did not bring you such news, interspersed with our favorite “Hotel News We Noted” of the week.

An Over-The-Top 12/12/12 Wedding at Jumby Bay
Book a wedding date to remember at Rosewood’s exclusive Antigua resort. Book the Once in a Lifetime Package and receive accommodations for three nights for 80 of your closest friends, private “White Night” party, cocktail and wedding reception, ceremony and more. Want to know how exclusive this place is? It once denied access to Princess Diana. Rates start at $230,000 for a three-night wedding event for up to 80 persons (40 rooms).

A 12/12/12 Promo You Can Afford
In honor of 12/12/12, Affinia Hotels in NYC and D.C. are treating guests to a special low rate of $112.12 for Sunday night stays available for booking on Dec. 12 between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. only. Those looking to extend their stay beyond Sunday, can also receive 12 percent off any additional nights booked. This limited-time offer is available for travel from Jan. 2, 2013 – March 31, 2013. To book visit www.affinia.com/Dec12 and use promotional code TWELVE.

Gamble The Day Away
Packages to top gambling destinations on the last triple-digit date of the century are considered very lucky. OneTravel.com has packages bookable by December 9 available for as little as $437 per person for four-night stays in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.End of the World Cocktails at Renaissance Hotels
Celebrate doomsday with decadent cocktail treats at Renaissance hotels throughout the U.S., or, if you’re like us, celebrate in your living room with these delicious recipes!

Mayan Sacrifice
1/3 oz. Patron Silver Tequila
1/3 oz. Bacardi 151
1/3 oz. Grenadine
2 Dash Creole Bitters

Mix ingredients together in a mixing glass over ice. Shake and strain into shot glass. Ensure shot has sufficient red coloring.

Survival Punch
2 oz. Death’s Door White Whiskey
1 oz. Peach Schnapps
1 oz. Orange Juice
1 oz. Cranberry Juice
¼ oz. Velvet Falernum
Blood Orange Bitters, to taste
Rosemary Sprig

In a shaker over ice, combine all ingredients and shake. Strain using funnel into bottle. Serve full bottle with 2 rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Hallucination Celebration
1 1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe Superieure
5 oz. Champagne (fill glass)
Gold Flakes or Leaf

Sprinkle desired amount of gold flakes in champagne flute. Carefully add Absinthe. Fill glass with champagne. Garnish with gold flakes.

Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Goes To Africa
A few years ago, we told you that glamping was a thing. Now Four Seasons has gotten on the trend with the opening of Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Tanzania, the first of the brand’s properties in Sub-Saharan Africa (two additional properties are planned in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and an exclusive beach resort on the island of Zanzibar). This 77-room lodge features 12 suites with plunge pools, five free-standing villas, two restaurants and two bars. The hotel will offer a full-service fitness center and spa as well as opportunities for game drives. (Psst: Really want to get to Africa? We reported on another brand new lodge from the Singita brand last week.)

Hot Hotel Scene: Miami
We spent a night in Miami last weekend and explored some of what the hottest city on the East Coast has to offer, just in advance of its poshest event of the winter season, Art Basel, going on now. SLS South Beach, a Philippe Stark-designed masterpiece, is undoubtedly the center of Collins Avenue cool, with its Hyde Beach club, Jose Andres restaurant, and old school campground decor. We’ve also heard great things about The James Royal Palm, another boutique brand’s entrance into the Miami hotel world, and the soon-to-open B South Beach. We stayed at Hotel Beaux Arts, a unique hotel-within-a-hotel concept that’s a one-of-a-kind experience within the Marriott brand. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Port of Miami and downtown, this super high-tech hotel has rooms full of Bang & Olufsen amenities. While we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the sink, we sure did feel like a high roller, and, thanks to the in-house (well, in the attached JW Marriott Marquis) basketball court, movie theater, golf school, and virtual bowling alley, you could too. This would be an ultimate bachelor party destination.

National Geographic Magazine As An ‘Instrument Of Doom’

Vintage National Geographic Magazine CoverIt wasn’t long ago when you could visit the attic or basement of most any home in America and find stacks of yellow-spined back-issues of The National Geographic Magazine. Thanks (or no thanks) to digital advances, that scene isn’t as common today.

While there are still avid collectors of the esteemed magazine dedicated to history, science, nature, geography, travel and learning, there are far fewer than in 1974 when a science satire magazine, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, suggested that the sheer weight of all these collected periodicals would lead to the apocalypse.

In the March 1974 issue of The Journal of Irreproducible Results, George H. Kaub wrote the following:

This continent is in the gravest danger of following legendary Atlantis to the bottom of the sea. No natural disaster, no overpowering compounding of pollutions or cataclysmic nuclear war will cause the end. Instead, a seemingly innocent monster created by man, nurtured by man, however as yet unheeded by man, will doom this continent to the watery grave of oblivion.

But there is yet time to save ourselves if this warning is heeded.

PUBLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE MUST BE IMMEDIATELY STOPPED AT ALL COSTS! This beautiful, educational, erudite, and thoroughly appreciated publication is the heretofore unrecognized instrument of doom which must be erased if we as a country or continent will survive. It is NOT TOO LATE if this warning is heeded!

With his tongue firmly in cheek, Kaub warned of “earthquakes, hurricanes, mud slides, fire, famine, and atomic war all rolled into one” due to the fact that “no copies have been discarded or destroyed since the beginning of publication.”

You can read Kaub’s original letter as well as the equally funny rebuttals from National Geographic readers on The Journal of Irreproducible Results website.

[Photo Flickr/roberthuffstutter]