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Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America's Doomsday Preppers

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America's Doomsday Preppers

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Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America's Doomsday Preppers

307 Seiten
4 Stunden
Apr 2, 2019


It seems like people are always talking about the end of the world, doesn't it? Y2K, the Mayan Apocalypse, Blood Moon Prophecies, nuclear war, killer robots, you name it. In Apocalypse Any Day Now, journalist Tea Krulos travels the country to try to puzzle out America's obsession with the end of days. Along the way he meets doomsday preppers—people who stockpile supplies and learn survival skills—as well as religious prognosticators and climate scientists. He camps out with the Zombie Squad (who use a zombie apocalypse as a survival metaphor); tours the Survival Condos, a luxurious bunker built in an old Atlas missile silo; and attends Wasteland Weekend, where people party like the world has already ended. Frightening and funny, the ideas Krulos explores range from ridiculously outlandish to alarmingly near and present dangers.
Apr 2, 2019

Über den Autor

Tea Krulos is a freelance writer and author who was born in Wisconsin and lives in Milwaukee. His previous books include Heroes in the Night, Monster Hunters and Apocalypse Any Day Now. He also contributed a chapter to The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History. He frequently gives presentations on paranormal and other unusual topics and is the organizer of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference and Milwaukee Krampusnacht; he also leads ghost tours for Milwaukee Ghost Walks. He writes a weekly column on his website ( called "Tea's Weird Week."

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Apocalypse Any Day Now - Tea Krulos



Two Minutes to Midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was created in 1945 by scientists at the University of Chicago who had worked on the Manhattan Project. After the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, the group realized that nuclear devices could not only easily destroy an entire city but, in an escalated firefight, the entire human race.

Two years later, the group created the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock face that gives a representation of how close we are ticking toward midnight, or the annihilation of the planet. Every year, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board evaluates how itchy humanity’s nuclear trigger fingers have become. The board members also now consider other factors like climate change, biotechnology, and emerging technologies, and update the Doomsday Clock accordingly. Is the big hand being sucked into the twelve at the top of the final hour, or is it slipping backward to give us a few more precious minutes?

The clock has rarely given us the comfort of being earlier than a quarter to twelve. In 1991, with the Cold War finally over, the clock spun back the furthest it ever has—to seventeen minutes to midnight. This was a huge improvement from 1984, the height of the mutually assured destruction days of the Cold War, when the Doomsday Clock hand hovered ominously at three minutes to midnight.

In January 2015 the Bulletin revealed that things weren’t looking so great. The minute hand had crept forward again to three to midnight, the first time since the 1984 Cold War days. It was, as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted in 2016, with the clock’s hands still poised at 180 seconds from the End, not good news.

Throughout 2015 and 2016 you could practically watch the minute hand twitch. During the bombastic 2016 presidential campaign, Republican candidates tried to outdo each other on how tough they would get on terrorist organizations. Future president Donald Trump told an audience during his campaign that he would go after ISIS-controlled oil fields to disable their finances.

I would bomb the shit out of ’em, he told a jubilant crowd in Iowa. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I would blow up the pipes … every single inch. There would be nothing left.

Not to be outdone, Republican candidate Ted Cruz said the United States should carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.

In 2017, with President Donald J. Trump in office just a few days, the Bulletin advanced the Doomsday Clock forward thirty seconds (the first time the clock has ever been set to a half minute) to 2.5 minutes to midnight. The board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the Bulletin stated. Although it noted Trump’s loose use of language, it cautioned,

Just the same, words matter, and President Trump has had plenty to say over the last year. Both his statements and his actions as president-elect have broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts. And his nominees to head the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency dispute the basics of climate science.

In short, even though he has just taken office, the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.

We are back to an age of great uncertainty, one of the Bulletin members said. They reminded us that President Trump had just been in office for six days, and unless things changed, we would continue to tick forward.

That prediction soon reflected reality. On January 25, 2018, I woke up early to watch the Bulletin’s announcement on a livestream from their press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It had been a year the Bulletin described as perilous and chaotic. The clock, the Bulletin revealed, had now moved to two minutes to midnight. This is the closest the clock has ever been, tied with one other time in history—the clock was moved to two to midnight in 1953, the year the Soviets detonated their first H-bomb.

To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger—and its immediacy, the Bulletin reported in their 2018 Doomsday Clock statement. The clock’s movement, they said, was an urgent warning of global danger. The statement, written by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, also said they were deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves—a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered.

But the statement concluded that it would still be possible to rewind the clock if citizens demand action from their governments: They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

Until that happens, tick tock.



How long, dear Lord, our Savior / Wilt thou remain away? / Our hearts are growing weary / Of thy so long delay


It seems like the world is always about to end, doesn’t it?

That was the thought on my mind the evening of September 27, 2015, as I hiked up a hill in Reservoir Park here in my hometown, Milwaukee, with a small group of friends. The top of the hill was soon scattered with people sitting on blankets and lawn chairs, armed with telescopes, binoculars, and cameras. This was the night of the blood moon, a rare alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth. At first, there was an air of disappointment as the sky was obscured with gray clouds. But then the clouds drifted away and there it was! A gigantic, magnificent deep orange of a moon suspended in the night sky.

Looking around the hilltop, I noticed that people seemed excited about the astronomical event, but in a calm, wonderstruck type of way, not in an Oh no, the sky is falling way. Not everyone on Earth was having such a casual evening, though, for this night had been predicted as the End. The blood moon prophecy, as it was referred to, had originated from calculations in 2008 by a pastor named Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries in Washington State.

According to Biltz’s calculations, the blood moon was the final sequence of a tetrad of total lunar eclipses that had begun on April 15, 2014. Piecing together clues from the books of Joel, Acts, and Revelation, he connected the lunar eclipses to a clear portent of the end times.

Biltz pointed out the lineup: blood moons on April 15, 2014, and October 8, 2014; a full lunar eclipse on March 20, 2015; more blood moons on April 4, 2015, and then boom, September 28, 2015. Four blood moons and a full lunar eclipse lining up like an apocalyptic slot machine in the sky. The significance, Biltz said, like so many end-time predictions, could be found in a couple of short verses from the Bible.* In this case, the main point was found in Acts 2:20: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. Oh! And then there’s Revelation 6:12: And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as a sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood."

Biltz wrote a book about his theory in 2014, Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs, and his prediction grew legs. John Hagee, the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and CEO of Global Evangelism Television began promoting the blood moon prophecy and wrote his own book on the topic, the bestselling Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. The prophecy was further spread through an online push by an Internet-based congregation called the eBible Fellowship.

Apocalypse predictions make for good ink, and soon the story was picked up by major media outlets such as USA Today, the Washington Post, CNN, and other major media outlets. Both the astronomy website and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints received so many queries that they had to issue statements. explained that the blood moon prophecy didn’t quite make sense from an astronomer’s view, as the blood moon and a lunar tetrad are two entirely different things.

The Church of Latter-Day Saints told Mormons via a public statement that they should remain calm and be spiritually and physically prepared for life’s ups and downs but should avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.

Angry God

Despite the hoopla, the blood moon set, the sun rose, life went on, and Angry God did not bring the hammer down on us. Happy God is the one who created the Earth and gave us fruit trees and grass, the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every living thing that moveth on the Earth. Happy God made Adam and Eve and gave them everything they could possibly want in the Garden of Eden.

Angry God, however, kicked them out of the Garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit, forced them to toil in the fields for their food, and imposed the pains of childbirth. He also flooded the Earth and killed everyone except Noah and his ark full of family and animals. Then there was the time he rained down ten vile plagues on Egypt—turning the Nile River into blood; sending swarms of frogs, lice, locusts, flies, and a bad case of boils; killing livestock and the firstborn; sending darkness for three days and fire and brimstone raining on the Earth. One time he even punked Abraham into almost sacrificing his son Isaac in a test of loyalty. The Old Testament God is the Angry God who created the Earth, but like a temperamental artist, also wants to destroy it. And this is what has worried people that the End is near ever since the ink dried on the first draft of the Bible.

The Great Disappointment

Predictions of when the world will end, as foretold in the book of Revelation, have placed the apocalypse just around the corner for thousands of years.

In American history, one of the first well-known end-of-the-world scares was predicted by William Miller, a New England farmer who grew up near the small town of Low Hampton on the border of New York and Vermont. As a young man, Miller developed a passion for reading, putting in a long day of chores and reading stealthily by candlelight at night—his father thought his late-night reading would affect his work performance. As an adult, he was elected to civil offices, including deputy sheriff and justice of the peace. Miller fought in the War of 1812 where he rose to the rank of captain and worked as a recruiter. After the war and the deaths of his father and one of his sisters, Miller began to ponder the afterlife and renewed his Baptist faith. He became especially interested in eschatology, the part of theology that studies death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul.

Speculation about end times escalated throughout the eighteenth century. New England preachers portrayed the French and Indians during the Seven Years’ War as tools of the Antichrist, and patriot preachers during the Revolution painted the British and Anglicanism in the same lurid colors.

Miller owned English reverend George Faber’s Dissertation on the Prophecies, published in three editions between 1804 and 1811, which examined the end times discussed in the Bible. Sprinkled throughout the New England region were sects like the Shakers, who believed Jesus had already returned and instituted the millennium. A similar group, the Dorrilites, was established by the prophet William Dorril in the 1790s; they lived in two communities in Vermont and Massachusetts, where they practiced vegetarianism and promiscuous free love. Another Vermont sect was the New Israelites, led by Nathaniel Wood (a.k.a. Old Man of All) in Middletown, Vermont. The group, about one hundred strong, practiced polygamy and spent spare time searching for buried treasure and other revelations with dowsing rods. Wood predicted that a destroying angel would usher in the apocalypse on January 14, 1802. There was such a ruckus of panic on that date that local militia were called in to clear crowds and restore order.

Miller moved to Poultney, Vermont, where he met his wife, Lucy, and they eventually moved back to the Miller farm in Low Hampton in 1815. Miller’s study of the book of Daniel led him to work out math equations that led him to believe the Second Coming of Christ was going to happen sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.

He was inspired to begin preaching about his prediction after a dream in which celestial guides led him to an upper room filled with light and pilgrims singing ‘Hallelujah to the Lamb!’ But Miller waited years before actually getting into the preaching biz because he was intimidated. He finally gave his first speech in 1831. Author David L. Rowe describes the circumstances in his book God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World: While he had been feeling the compulsion for many years, this was so powerful that he promised God he would go if someone would invite him to speak. Since as yet no one had, Miller felt safe. That same afternoon a nephew arrived with an invitation to preach the next day to Baptists in Dresden, sixteen miles northwest across Lake Champlain.

Miller was an effective speaker. One commentator described his voice as strong and mellow, and though his style was not remarkable for grace or eloquence, simplicity was a virtue. He was humble and often used self-deprecating humor. He was unintimidating in appearance,

short and heavyset with a ruddy, round face, but listeners could see something of themselves in this man whose limited schooling, plain clothes, and lack of pretense matched their own. To all appearances, he was just like them, and he reaped the benefit of a democratic culture that valued commonness. Age was no handicap either. In his early fifties, Miller may have been ten years beyond the average life expectancy, but survivorship lent his words gravity and wisdom. Jackson-era Americans did not so glorify youth that they had forgotten the respect owed to the fathers.

A marginal group of believers began to form, and Miller began to persuade more people, including ministers, that his prediction would be accurate. A pamphlet he had printed in 1833 titled Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ About the Year A.D. 1843 and of His Personal Reign of 1000 Years helped Miller plead his case.

New Millerites helped expand from a crusade to a mass movement, especially Joshua Vaughan Himes, pastor of the Chardon Street Chapel in Boston. Himes worked to attract skilled workers, mobilize supporters, and fundraise donors. To help with his process, he assembled Views of the Prophecies and Prophetic Chronology, a collection of Miller’s lectures and writings in print, and edited and produced Millerite newspapers that were published semiweekly, and eventually weekly. The movement’s first newspaper was the Signs of the Times, and more regional papers followed, including New York’s the Midnight Cry, the Philadelphia Alarm, the Advent Shield and Review, and the Advent Message to the Daughters of Zion (edited by and marketed to women).

Miller had predicted that the End would happen sometime between spring 1843 and spring 1844. When those dates passed, Miller was badly shaken. However, Samuel S. Snow, a new name in the Millerite movement, brought a fresh view to the prophecy. Snow’s interpretation led to a calculation that October 22, 1844, was the true midnight cry. The Millerite inner circle seized on this prediction and began promoting it in their papers.

The Second Great Awakening coincided with the explosion of Millerism. This was the same time and place (Vermont and New York) that Joseph Smith formed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and presented the Book of Mormon. Another religious leader, Robert Matthews (a.k.a. Matthias the Prophet), established a cult following in New York. They created a settlement called the Kingdom, where Matthews claimed authority from God to judge the world.

When writing about the apocalyptic craze of the Second Great Awakening, editors couldn’t resist the alliteration of Mormons, Matthias, and Millerites, and lumped them together, to the chagrin of Miller, who never claimed he was a prophet or messiah. There were many titles people tried to bestow upon him, but he preferred Father Miller.

Miller faced many critics who mirrored his tactics to criticize him and declare that he was deluding people and profiting from his work. A cottage industry of anti-Millerite newspapers and pamphlets were produced with titles like The Theory of William Miller, Utterly Exploded and The End of the World Not Yet.

Belief in the Second Coming date of October 22, 1844, was so strong that it was reported that ecstatic Millerites settled old quarrels, gave away or sold their earthly possessions to pay off old debts, or donated the money toward keeping the Millerite printing presses rolling to help spread the word. They left their fields of crops unattended and left their shops closed. On October 22, it was reported some stood on the roofs of their house, hoping to be closer to the incoming Messiah.

Nothing happened. October 22 became known as the Great Disappointment. The world kept turning.

In addition to disappointment, many Millerites had to come to terms with the decisions they made believing the world was coming to an end. Many were left in the poorhouse and had to endure the ridicule of their peers and the press.

The Millerites began to dissolve. A now-feeble Father Miller gave his last speeches in 1847. People flocked to these events out of curiosity, but many viewed him as misguided at best, crazy and crooked at worst. He was threatened with tarring and feathering in Sandy Hill, New York. He had a particularly rough reception in Vermont. In Stowe, fire crackers, squibs, and home-made rockets were thrown at him, and in South Troy eggs, clubs, and rocks were hurled at him.

Family surrounded Father Miller, singing his favorite hymns as he died on December 20, 1849.

Estimates of the number of Millerites in their heyday range from fifty thousand to five hundred thousand. Even today, their influence lives on in their descendants, the Advent Christian Church and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

For Miller and many of his followers, the world did indeed come to an end on October 22, 1844, not melted in divine fire but dissolved in bitter tears, Rowe reports in God’s Strange Work. Hope did not necessarily die, but expectation did.

Apocalypse Later

Like the rest of my Milwaukee neighbors taking in the spectacle on top of the hill in Reservoir Park that September night in 2015, I wasn’t vexed by the blood moon prophecy. I had already survived many predicted apocalypses.

The first memorable one for me was the Y2K bug. We were told that when the calendars rolled over from the year 1999 to 2000 on New Year’s Eve we would face a global computer meltdown over the date change. There was indeed an issue with some older computer programs, which stored only the last two digits of the current year and would thus confuse the year 2000 with the year 1900 unless someone fixed the coding. Many believed this problem had the potential to cause widespread blackouts and other major system failures. Sensationalists added their own twists to the story—nuclear missiles flying around willy-nilly, bank accounts completely disappearing. A concerned public emptied store shelves and bank accounts to buy canned food, bottled water, flashlights, and emergency kits to weather the Y2K storm about to drop down upon them like a deadly giant New Year’s ball descending at midnight in Times Square.

Minor complications happened during the rollover, but nothing that destroyed society. Life went on into the new century.

In 2011 the end times began to get publicity again. A pastor named Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, based out of Oakland, California, had done the math and come up with a bottomline rapture date: May 21, 2011. Camping, a jowly eighty-nine-year-old preacher, had made failed apocalypse predictions in the past, claiming the end was upon us in 1994 and then again in 1995. This time, he assured everyone, he had remembered to carry the one and everything checked out.

A campaign to publicize this date mirrored the Millerites—billboard ads and signs on the sides of trucks proclaimed, JUDGEMENT DAY: MAY 21. Camping’s followers spread the word online, over the air, and on the streets. I encountered the message myself on the streets of Milwaukee, where I saw a group of doomsdayers spread out across four corners of a busy downtown intersection, wearing brightly colored T-shirts with the judgment date in bold type, handing out pamphlets with Camping’s predictions.

May 21 came and went without incident, but Camping had a new story. This retrofitting and reinventing are examples of cognitive dissonance, a term we’ll encounter again while talking about end-time predictions. Camping now informed anyone still willing to listen to him that May 21 had been a silent judgment from God and was the beginning of a quiet rapture. October 21, he explained, was the actual date to mark on your calendar as the End.

After that day passed as well, many decried Camping as a false prophet. A humbled Camping himself expressed regret and Family Radio took a huge hit in credibility and financial support. Camping suffered his own end times and died in 2013.

Humanity didn’t have to wait long for the next doomsday scenario to crop up: 2012 brought a new perceived threat, the so-called Mayan apocalypse. December 21, 2012, marked the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. However, this

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