Reuters TV file
Harold Camping, the California evangelical broadcaster, predicted that Judgment Day would come on May 21, 2011. He died Sunday.
Harold Camping, the stubborn soothsayer who foretold of doomsday dates that proved wrong each time, died at his California home Sunday. He was 92.
Camping, a Christian minister, sustained unidentified injuries from a fall last month, sending him to the hospital, a representative said Tuesday.
“He passed away peacefully in his home, with his family at his side,” according to a statement. He is survived by his wife, Shirley.
Camping preached of Judgment Day through his Family Radio Network in Oakland. He last prophesied apocalypse for May 21, 2011, advising nonbelievers to repent.
Diehards quit their jobs, dumped their possessions and traveled the country in RVs to spread his macabre message.
Donations from his believers were used to buy billboards and ads trumpeting the end of days.
But the day came and went without a bang, and he blamed the misstep on a faulty mathematical calculation based on information in the Bible. Rejiggering the numbers, he instead offered a date five months later — Oct. 21 — for the end of the world.
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file
A volunteer from the U.S. religious group Family Radio, a Christian radio network, hands out pamphlets with warnings of an impending Judgment Day in May 2011 in Times Square.
A month after that initial failure, the retired civil engineer suffered a mild stroke.
In 1992, he had a similar rap about the Rapture, which he warned — again, incorrectly — would come in 1994.
Ex-listener Gary Vollmer, of Glenn Dale, Md., said he was drawn to Camping’s radio program several years ago. But by the time the preacher went public with another prediction two years ago, Vollmer said he was no longer interested.
“I turned him off in my mind,” Vollmer, 71, told NBC News on Tuesday. “I don’t believe any person can know the date or time (of Judgment Day).”
Camping and his wife went into hiding following the prophetic flop.
“If people want me to apologize, I can apologize,” he said in response to some listeners who gave away their belongings in anticipation of the Rapture. “I pray all the time for wisdom.”
Camping conceded in March 2012 that he was, in fact, wrong. He refused to make a new prediction.
Vollmer said he believes Camping will be “OK” in the afterlife.
“Technically, you’re judged by what you’ve done here,” Vollmer said. “He probably did more good than otherwise.”
After Camping's billboards warning of pending doom popped up across the country in 2010 and 2011, Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed his prophecies while atheists and revelers poked fun at him. Some also criticized Camping’s use of millions of dollars in followers’ donations to advertise Judgment Day.
Dave Muscato, of American Atheists, which supports the separation of church and state, said Camping and his poor track record should be remembered for giving people false hope.
“I hope that those people come to realize that he was just another person who had a voice just like everybody else,” Muscato told NBC News. “He wasn’t special.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published December 17 2013, 1:15 PM