(Photo by Len Matthews)
Christian radio host Harold Camping predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. Followers gave up their jobs, sold their homes, and stopped investing in their children’s college funds.
American Christian radio host Harold Camping stated that the rapture and Judgment Day would take place on May 21, 2011
Camping presented several arguments labeled “numerological” by the mainstream media, which he considered biblical proofs, in favor of the May 21 end time.
A civil engineer by training, Camping stated he had attempted to work out mathematically-based prophecies in the Bible for decades. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle he explained “… I was an engineer, I was very interested in the numbers. I’d wonder, ‘Why did God put this number in, or that number in?’
It was not a question of unbelief, it was a question of, ‘There must be a reason for it.'”
Family Radio spent over $100 million on the information campaign, financed by sales and swap of broadcast outlets.
On October 27, 2010, they launched “Project Caravan”. Five recreational vehicles announcing on their sides that Judgment Day was to begin on May 21, 2011 were sent out from their headquarters in Oakland, California, to Seattle, Washington. Upon arrival, teams were sent out to distribute tracts. The caravan subsequently made stops in many states in the U.S. and Canada.
Camping’s prediction and his promotion of it via his radio network and other promotional means spread the prediction globally, which led believers and non-believers to a variety of actions.
Some followers of Camping gave up their jobs, sold their homes, stopped investing in their children’s college funds and spent large sums promoting Camping’s claims.
About 5,000 ethnic Hmong gathered at a remote town in Vietnam’s Mường Nhé District in Điện Biên Province in early May, where they planned to await the arrival of Christ.
The Vietnamese government broke up the gathering and arrested some people, describing them as "extremists".
On May 19, 2011, the search term "end of the world may 21st" reached second position on Google Trends, based on the popularity of the search term in the United States.
The related searches "Harold Camping", "May 21 doomsday", and "May 21 rapture" were also represented among the top 10 positions.
Following the failure of the prediction, media attention shifted to the response from Camping and his followers.
On Sunday, May 22, Camping emerged briefly from his home, saying “Give me a day, no interviews today … I’ve got to live with it, I’ve got to think it out.” He said he would make a public statement on Monday, May 23. Camping said he was “flabbergasted” that the rapture did not occur, that he was “looking for answers,” and would say more when he returned to work on May 23.
On May 23, Camping stated that May 21 had been a “spiritual” day of judgment, and that the physical rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the destruction of the universe by God. However, on October 16, Camping admitted to an interviewer that he did not know when the end would come, and made no public comment after October 21 passed without his predicted apocalypse.
In March 2012, Camping “humbly acknowledged” in a letter to Family Radio listeners that he had been mistaken, that the attempt to predict a date was “sinful”, and that critics had been right in pointing to the scriptural text “of that day and hour knoweth no man”. He added that he was searching the Bible “even more fervently […] not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.”
On December 15, 2013, after roughly 13 failed predictions, the end finally came for the 92-year-old Camping. He died in his Alameda home due to complications from a fall.