Harold Camping, self-appointed Biblical scholar and head of California-based Christian organization Family Radio Inc., predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994. Then, on May 21, 2011. Then, when that didn't happen, he rescheduled it for October 21, 2011.
Moral of the story: Camping is a charlatan or a crazy person or a shitty mathematician. The 91-year-old suffered a stroke before his third prophecy failed, but his organization hobbled along, despite the fact that its leader, whose condition forced him into retirement, had turned this Christian community into a national punchline.
So it's no huge surprise that after raising $100 million to fund 5,000 billboards and other forms of End of the World propaganda, Family Radio's finances are in the red, as a Contra Costa Times investigation discovered. Picked up by the AP and Tennessean, the report found:
The group lost more than $100 million in assets from 2007 to 2011, according to Associated Press, falling from $135 million in 2007 to $29.2 million at the end of 2011. It’s had to sell off three of its largest radio stations.
Taken over by board member Tom Evans, Family Radio apparently didn't spend all its money before May 21:
“Sufficient funds were in the bank and, thankfully, we didn’t spend everything,” he said, referring to the May 2011 prediction. “But it did force us to make quick changes.”
Keeping their money was a seemingly hypocritical detail that Camping defended at the time: When doubters asked why the non-profit hadn’t donated everything in anticipation of Judgment Day, Camping would repeatedly answer that after May 21st, there would be no use for money. Except, boy, they could really use some now.
Update: The original source here was Matthias Gafni at the Contra Costa Times, whose reporting credit was lost when other outlets picked up his investigation. His story details the church's woes and layoffs after the May 21 fiasco. For example, only at the last minute did Family Radio realize that maybe, just maybe, they couldn't afford to hire a skywriter. Yeeouch.
To contact the author of this post, email firstname.lastname@example.org.