Minister Harold Camping not seen after doomsday fails

By Dennis Cauchon

USA Today

Published: Sunday, May 22 2011 6:25 p.m. MDT

The religious broadcaster who predicted the world would end Saturday — and convinced hundreds he was right — was nowhere to be seen publicly Sunday after his prediction didn't come true.

Minister Harold Camping, 89, founder of the Family Radio network, said the Bible and numeric analysis revealed that the Earth would be destroyed Saturday at 5:59 p.m. through a series of earthquakes. He said 200,000 believers would be sent to heaven in the Rapture.

On Sunday, Camping's radio headquarters in Oakland was closed and nobody answered the door at his home a few miles away. The company's website wasn't responding. It wasn't clear when the Christian network would return to the airwaves, where it is broadcast on 66 U.S. stations and in other countries.

Some Family Radio staff members said last week that most employees planned to be at work today and that most workers were skeptical about the doomsday prediction.

Camping, who was trained as a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley, had built media operation that had assets of more than $100 million and $18 million in donations in 2009, the most recent year available.

He had previously written a book saying the Rapture would occur in 1994 but, when that did not happen, revised his calculation to May 21, 2011. His method was a combination of Biblical analysis and numerology. He detailed his views in a booklet, We Are Almost There, available free to whoever wanted it.

Camping's faulty prediction was met with a mixture of ridicule and sympathy.

"Only a fool would believe a fool saying the world is over and the Bible told me so," said Rod Traylor, 56, eating lunch at a Pataskala, Ohio, fast food restaurant after church Sunday. He said he had joked with co-workers about the doomsday prediction.

But his mother, Jeanine, 81, was more forgiving. "We all believe something, and I think he was just trying to help people by warning that something bad may happen," she said. The retiree said she didn't believe the end was going to occur but thought there was a slight possibility.

James Ford, 34, watching his daughter play at the restaurant playground, said he was surprised people had time to worry about such predictions. "You know they're wrong," he said. "People are looking for excuses."

Camping and his supporters had put up thousands of billboards and taken out advertisements announcing the apocalypse was near. His employees had been given Friday off with pay, and the minister said he planned to spend his final hours with his family.

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