Forget 6-6-06: Every Day Is Doomsday

Christopher Columbus, who shattered the flat-Earth society's planetary vision, pegged the end of the world at 1656. The religious sect known as the Shakers believed it would come in 1792, while Jehovah's Witnesses have made several preparations for Armageddon -- first in 1914 and again in 1925.

Edgar Cayce, America's most renowned psychic of the 1930s, declared that Earth would be devastated in 2001 by a massive polar shift, leading to many natural disasters that would bring the world to an end. Cayce also predicted Atlantis would rise from its watery grave sometime before 1969.

The superpsychic of the 16th century, Nostradamus -- who has been credited with predicting everything from the rise of Hitler to Ted Kennedy's indiscretions -- predicted the world would end in July 1999.

From his oft-quoted predictions, known as Quatrains:

In 1999 and seven months,
From the sky shall come the grand King of Terror,
He shall resurrect the great King of the Mongols,
Before and after, Mars shall reign happily.

Randi -- who wrote a book debunking Nostradamus -- says that the French psychic made 104 predictions with a verifiable name, place or time and that all of them have been wrong.

Believers say that Nostradamus wrote of the rise of a tyrant from Germany known as "Hister," who would devastate Europe, and that this prediction was a chilling vision of Adolf Hitler, about 300 years before the Nazis' rise to power.

Randi points out that "Hister" is also a name that's been used for Germany's Danube River. "For all we know," Randi said, "the rise of 'Hister' might just mean a flood." That could be one way to explain fascism.

Other doomsday predictions -- while equally false -- have nevertheless led to grave consequences for those who've believed in them.

In 1997, 39 members of California's Heaven's Gate Cult committed suicide shortly after their leader, Marshall Applewhite, proclaimed, "The end of the age, I'm afraid, is right upon us."

End-time visions have also been associated with such apocalyptic movements as the Branch Davidians and Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that bombed a Tokyo subway with poisonous gas, in part to warn the world of a climactic nuclear war supposedly coming in 2003.

Doomsday visions have also been big moneymakers. Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth" was one of the best-selling nonfiction works of the 1970s, according to The New York Times, with publishers shipping out more than 35 million copies in 52 languages.

In the book, Lindsey boldly declared that "The Rapture" would begin before Dec. 31, 1981, based on Christian prophesy, astronomy, and a dash of ecological fatalism. He pegged the date to Jesus' promised return to Earth a generation after Israel's rebirth.

He also made references to the "Jupiter Effect," a planetary alignment that occurs every 179 years that would supposedly lead to earthquakes and nuclear-plant meltdowns.

When his biblical interpretation proved dead wrong, Lindsey revised his doomsday prediction to 2048, putting a new twist on the writer's adage of "publish or perish."

Assuming today's date of 6-6-06 is just a calendar quirk, "The Omen" hits theaters today. With any luck, on Dec. 12, 2012 (12-12-12), we won't have to sit through the sequel.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.

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