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FEATURES Armaggedon or the Boy Who Cried Wolf? By Randall Carlson

We all remember the well known fable told by the ancient Greek slave and sto- ryteller, Aesop, about the shep- herd boy drafted to keep watch over a flock of sheep, and who, out of boredom, decided it would be great fun to fool the nearby villagers by pre- tending that a wolf was attack- ing the sheep. After the villag- ers rushed out to save the sheep a number of times based upon the boys fabrications they refused to believe him when the wolf actually did show up and began to con- sume the sheep. The obvious declared moral of the story is generally expressed as “There is no believing a liar, even when he is telling the truth.” However, there is, I submit, a second, unstated moral to the story as well. In spite of the shepherd boys prevarications the wolf was real. And the wolf did, in the end, show up to devour the poor sheep.

Illustration compliments of:

North American mainland and sinking into the Pacific ocean, an occurrence which was widely believed to be impend- ing by a con- siderable num- ber of folks back then. A few years later, in 1973, with the approach of Comet K a h o u t e k , a p o c a l y p - tic predictions were prolifer- ating, causing fairly wide- spread conster- nation among the astronomi- cally chal- lenged. I next recall the date of November, 1978 being foretold as a time of exten-

Which brings us to the point of this article. For cen- turies various predictions have been made about the end of the world on certain dates by assorted means and on quite a number of occasions these predictions have been believed by a significant number of people. Obviously the world did not perish in late December of 2012, the most recent date proffered in a long tradition of doomsday predictions that failed to materialize.

My first encounter with such notions came about in the late 1960s while still in high school. I had a poster on my bedroom wall entitled ‘Goodbye California’ and it showed the entire state of California breaking off from the


sive global disasters. Then came the early 1980s and more predictions about a series of escalating disasters brought about by planetary alignments. The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in May of 1980 was interpreted as being the opening act of this apocalyptic succession. The culminating date was usually given as March, 1982, when all hell was going to break loose. When that date passed without incident others claimed that December 31, 1988 was actually the date. Of course that date came and went as well. Then there were the prophe- cies of Nostradamus, which foresaw July of 1999 as the arrival date for the ‘King of Terrors,’ inciting widespread fear among believers of a looming apocalypse. Only a year later came the turn of the Millennium and fears of a planetary pole shift in May of 2000 that was going to wipe out civilization. One book from the early 1980s which made this prediction went through multiple reprints up to the year 2000, but, needless to say, has not been reprinted since. Not to mention Y2K, which

Oracle 20/20 March 2013

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