What was predicted: The God-fearing folk of Yorkshire were given an almighty scare when a hen in Leeds started laying eggs bearing the message ‘Christ is coming’. Were the Earth’s last days really being predicted by a farmyard creature? Or was there fowl-play afoot?
What actually happened: Unsurprisingly this turned out to be a hoax. Some local character had written on the eggs and reinserted them into the unsuspecting hen. So no end of days. Just some rather startled chickens.
19 October 1814
What was predicted: In 1792 Devon native Joanna Southcott declared herself to be the woman spoken of in the Book of Revelation. She claimed she was going to give birth to the new Messiah in 1814 – at the age of 64.
What actually happened: Joanna didn’t deliver a new Messiah, or even a very naughty boy. However she did leave behind a mysterious box full of her equally mysterious predictions.
23 April 1843
What was predicted: This one came about when William Miller, a Baptist Minister from New England, thought doomsday was staring us in the face. Using the Book of Daniel he thought he’d worked out the exact day we’d meet our maker.
What actually happened: When Miller’s day came and went, he did what any self-respecting doom-mongerer does. He changed the date. Some of his followers, who’d already sold their possessions and homes, went on to form the Seventh Day Adventists.
What was predicted: Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, told his believers that in 1835 he’d had a chat with the big guy upstairs. Apparently, he’d told Smith that Jesus would be returning to earth within the next 56 years to usher in the end of the world.
What actually happened: While Smith’s predictions about the apocalypse didn’t come true, his church did manage to survive the choppy waters of its earliest days.
What was predicted: Halley’s Comet - big, bad, rocky, and on fire – was due to cross Earth’s path in 1910. Along with the usual fear that accompanies the presence of most space fireballs, this one had a sting in the tail – cyanogen, a highly toxic substance.
What actually happened: Fortunately, the early scaremongering proved to be unfounded. The Comet didn’t poison the entire world or snuff out all life as we know it. At least not as far as we’ve noticed.
What was predicted: Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem relatively harmless, but in 1914 they predicted something far more Earth-shaking than a knock on the door. They claimed that Jesus would pop back to call time on humanity.
What actually happened: As the hour came and went without signs, portents, or visiting Messiahs, the prediction changed to mean the day Jesus would begin to rule invisibly. The genius of this prediction is that it’s impossible to deny. Jesus could be behind you right now, pulling a face, and you would never know.
December 17 1919
What was predicted: In 1919 a meteorologist, Albert Horta, was at the centre of an apocalyptic hoo-hah. He claimed that when the planets aligned on this date it would lead to a magnetic current piercing the Sun, causing Doom with a capital D.
What actually happened: Given his background people were a little more willing to give credence to this one. After it became evident Horta had dropped a clanger, the only real Armageddon was his career.
What was predicted: This time it was the comet Hale-Bopp which, according to some, was being trailed by an alien spaceship. In San Diego the talk of an ET visitation led to the formation of the Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members prepared for the world to end with its arrival.
What actually happened: While the aliens never arrived, many members of Heaven’s Gate took their own lives anyway.
What was predicted: When it comes to predictions, Nostradamus is the boss. One of his most popular stated that in 1999, the ‘great king of terror’ would descend from the sky, possibly with an electric guitar. As you might expect, this caused panic among his believers.
What actually happened: The year came and went, without any obvious great king of terror coming from the sky. However, 1999 did herald the arrival of S Club 7, so maybe Nostradamus wasn’t entirely wrong.
1 January 2000
What was predicted: As the world prepared to celebrate a new millennium, the mood was dampened by worried scientists who feared older computers would go into meltdown when the date changed to 00. This led to the widespread fear of ‘Y2K’.
What actually happened: In short, not much. While the fear of Y2K caused some to head for the panic room, the deadline passed without any horrible incidents. The new millennium was ushered in, and we all went happily into a doom-free future. Until 2012 turned up, that is.