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Howard Camping: Fortunately, His Calculations Were a Little Off

If Howard Egbert Camping had been right, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

The radio evangelist wasn’t the first to predict a specific date the world would end, based on a mathematical formula divined from the Bible. (Perhaps the best known: The Rev. William Miller famously got the date of the last day wrong twice, in both 1843 and 1844.) But Camping, who died on Dec. 15 at age 92 in Alameda, Calif., might well have held the record for predicting the end incorrectly the most times – at least 12, dating back to 1978.

Howard Camping's Judgement Day billboardNo one could question Camping’s sincere belief that the end was near. He was unique among apocalyptic seers in that he spent a vast sum – $100 million, according to an article in the Christian Post – to make sure the world knew that time was up on May 21, 2011. With that money, Camping bought billboards, printed millions of pamphlets and dispatched followers on a cross-country tour to warn others to prepare. “When the Judgment Day begins, there will be no more salvation, no more possibility of becoming right with God,” Camping warned at the time, according to a 2011 New York Times article.

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But the evangelist was nothing if not humble. When the supposedly fateful day passed and the sun rose uneventfully on May 22, he announced that his calculations had been wrong. The world actually would end on Oct. 21, he explained.

That, blessedly, didn’t happen either, and Camping made no more public pronouncements.  In 2012, he apologized to his followers, saying that “we must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world.”

Camping’s errant prophecies overshadowed a remarkable 50-year career in which he built a broadcasting empire that, at its peak, controlled at least 140 radio stations on four continents, and a pair of TV stations as well, according to his New York Times obituary. But it was being wrong – and conspicuously so – that made his name known nationwide.

Here are a dozen facts about the mistaken visionary and his most famous moment:


Photo: O’Dea via Wikipedia

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