Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

This is not Camping’s first end-of-the-world prophecy. In a 1992 book, he predicted that the world would end in 1994. When he woke up in 1995, clearly something had gone wrong.

“It’s just like anyone who invents something or comes to a truth or any technician — they don’t immediately make a finished product,” he explained. “I did not come to the finished product until three years ago. It was at that time that God showed some exquisite proof.”

This time, he insists that he’s right, and by lunchtime Thursday, about 50 area residents joined up with the caravan to support his message. Among them was Gary Vollmer, who took a leave of absence from the Department of Homeland Security to spread the word. He’s supposed to go back on May 23. “But I’m not going back,” he said. “I’ll be gone on the 21st.”

That’s when a great big earthquake is scheduled to occur. “The remains of all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God,” Family Radio says on its Web site. “On the other hand the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed.”

Tony Moise, a 47-year-old insurance underwriter from Silver Spring, quit his job to prepare. “It will be hell on Earth,” he said, taking a break from handing out material. “You won’t want to be around on May 22. There will be no electricity, no power, no water.”

Camping, an engineer by training, says he came up with the very precise date of May 21 through a mathematical calculation that would probably crash Google’s computers. It involves, among other things, the dates of floods, the signals of numbers in the Bible, multiplication, addition and subtraction thereof. Camping describes his equations with absolute conviction.

“He seems to be the only one who understands the equation,” said Paul Boyer, a University of Wisconsin historian who studies apocalyptic beliefs. “But he has a very persuasive radio voice, and he preaches with absolute confidence, and there seems to be enough people that believe it all.”

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