Broadcaster silent as "Judgment Day" hours tick by
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - With no sign of Judgment Day arriving as he had forecast, the 89-year-old California evangelical broadcaster and former civil engineer behind the pronouncement seemed to have gone silent on Saturday.
Family Radio, the Christian stations network headed by Harold Camping which had spread his message of an approaching doomsday, was playing recorded church music, devotionals and life advice unrelated to the apocalypse.
Camping previously made a failed prediction Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1994.
In his latest pronouncement, he had said doomsday would begin in Asia, but with midnight local time come and gone in Tokyo and Beijing and those cities already in the early hours of May 22, there was no indication of an apocalypse.
The Oakland, California, headquarters of the network of 66 U.S. stations was shuttered with a sign in the door that read "This Office is Closed. Sorry we missed you!"
Family Radio officials, with the help of supporters, had posted over 2,000 billboards around the country warning of a May 21 Judgment Day.
The headquarters, which appears to be normally closed on Saturday, was also shuttered on Friday.
Camping, whose deep sonorous voice is frequently heard on his radio network expounding the Bible, could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The shades were drawn and no one answered the door at his house in Alameda, California.
Sheila Doan, 65, who has lived next door to Camping since 1971, said he is a good neighbor and that she is concerned about Camping and his wife, because of the attention his pronouncement has received.
"I'm concerned for them, that somebody would possibly do something stupid, you just don't know in this world what's going to happen," she said.
Atheists in different parts of the country were planning celebrations and get-togethers to mark the failure of Camping's May 21 prediction to come true.
In Oakland, the same city where Camping's network is based, over 200 people gathered at an atheist convention at a Masonic lodge where speakers jokingly took note of the Judgment Day pronouncement.
"It's kind of crazy, but there's actually a dark side to it too," said Stuart Bechman, national affiliate director of a group called American Atheists.
"There are a lot of silly and even unfounded beliefs that go on in the religious community that cause harm," he said.
Tom Evans, a spokesman for Camping, said earlier this week that at least several tens of thousands of people listen to Family Radio's message.
The network is heard in more than 30 languages through international affiliates, according to Family Radio.
In New York, at least one of Camping's followers continued to hold out hope Judgment Day would come.
Retired Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker Robert Fitzpatrick, 60, said he spent more than $140,000 of his savings on subway posters and bus shelter advertisements warning of the May 21 Judgment Day.
"God's people are commanded to sound the warning, to sound the trumpet so to speak so people know," Fitzpatrick said of his advertising blitz.
He said Camping led him to believe Judgment Day would be May 21, but added that he disagreed with the broadcaster's prediction it would begin in Asia.
In Fitzpatrick's view, from his reading of the Bible, Judgment Day would begin around 6 p.m. Eastern Time. He said on Saturday he still had no doubt Judgment Day would come this day.
"I wouldn't even entertain that question because there's too much proof from the Bible," he said.
(Additional reporting by Erik Tavcar: Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jerry Norton)