Camping did name dates, but he was more careful than he was portrayed in some stories. Camping warned his followers that his predictions could be wrong and told them not to sell their belongings.
But Camping’s predictions were spread on billboards, T-shirts, bumper stickers and radio broadcasts, getting out his message in a way that most groups haven’t been able to, so he drew quite a bit of attention. Camping died in 2013 at 92.
McCann, a father of four from Darby Borough, Pa., believed Camping’s predictions back in 2011, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. At the time, he told his 150 followers that he thought it was their last Sunday.
McCann’s group is small, reporting just $94,915 in revenue to the Internal Revenue Service in 2013. The organization took in about $900,000 in contributions between 2007 and 2011, with contributions increasing leading up to 2011, the Daily News reported.
The group, which meets once a month, received about $361,000 in contributions in 2011, compared with about $94,000 in 2012, according to their recent tax filings. McCann did not appear to take a salary in 2011 and 2012, but in 2013, he reported an annual compensation of $33,325.
Zeke Piestrup, a documentary filmmaker who created the film “Apocalypse Later” about Camping’s ministry, said most of the excitement surrounding Camping switched over to McCann because McCann provided a specific date.
“These concepts are super popular among Americans, but it’s funny how angry people can get at date setters,” Piestrup said. “There’s always human fallout and blame.”
McCann believes that God used the initial date of May 21, 2011, to devote 1,600 days to decide which non-churchgoers to save, which is why he landed on Oct. 7, 2015. McCann’s predictions are based partly on the blood moon — a lunar eclipse combined with a super moon, which took place Sept. 27.
“God destroyed the first Earth with water, by a flood, in the days of Noah. And he says he’ll not do that again, not by water. But he does say in 2nd Peter 3 that he’ll destroy it by fire,” McCann told the Guardian.
Calls and e-mails to McCann and his group were not returned immediately Wednesday.
“There’s a strong likelihood that this will happen,” McCann told the Guardian. “Which means there’s an unlikely possibility that it will not.”
There have been four blood moons within 18 months occurring during Jewish holidays. Several books last year tried to capitalize on the blood moon events, including “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs” by Washington state author Mark Biltz, and “Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change” by Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, which was on bestseller lists.
There are at least two major blood moon references in the Bible: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” from Joel 2:31, and “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord,” in Acts 2:20.
About 40 percent of Americans believe Jesus is coming back before 2050, compared with 46 percent of the public which does not believe the same thing, according to a Pew Research Center study in 2010.
The Guardian’s article about McCann’s predictions began to draw quite a bit of attention Tuesday, even though McCann’s group is relatively small and unknown in the United States and his predictions were not widely publicized before Tuesday. For whatever reason, the British enjoy watching Americans’ apocalyptic predictions, which feeds a larger interest in apocalyptic narratives, said Matthew Sutton, a history professor at Washington State University and author of “American Apocalypse.”
“There’s an American’s fascination with these things,” Sutton said. “It gives us an escape from the horrors of the world to see someone’s imaginary horrors of the world.”