Doomsday: February 20, 1524
Predicted by: Johannes Stofﬂer, a German mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, and professor at the University of Tubingen
End Times: In 1499 Stofﬂer calculated that 20 planetary “conjunctions,” or appearances of two or more planets in the same put of the sky, would occur in 1524 and that 16 of these would occur under the astrological sign of Pisces (February 19—March 20).
Pisces is the water sign, so Stoffler took this to mean that the world would be destroyed in a second Great Flood. His prediction was taken seriously. Thanks to the invention of Gutenberg’s priming press a few decades earlier, pamphlets telling of his prediction were spread far and wide.
As the date drew near, many people built boats and loaded them with provisions. One wealthy German nobleman, Count von lggleheim, built a three-story ark.
Moment of Truth: The year 1524 began with much of central Europe in a drought, which soothed fears… until it began to drizzle on February 20, sparking a panic. A terrified mob descended on Count von lggleheim’s ark and tried to force their way onto it. In the riot that followed, von Iggleheim was stoned to death and hundreds of people were crushed or trampled. Then the skies cleared… and the mob realized it had all been for nothing.
Aftermath: Stoffler tried to save face by “recalculating” the date to 1528, but few people paid attention. He died in 1531.