(Adds details, background about prophecy; reaction of follower;
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES Dec 17 Evangelical broadcaster
Harold Camping, who rallied thousands of followers and stirred
an international media frenzy with a failed doomsday prophecy
two years ago, has died at his home near San Francisco, a
spokeswoman for his radio outlet said on Tuesday.
Camping, who was 92, died peacefully in Alameda, California,
on Sunday surrounded by members of his family, said Nina Romero,
marketing manager for the Oakland-based Family Radio network.
Camping drew international followers and headlines in 2011
with broadcasts predicting the biblical Judgment Day would occur
on May 21 of that year, launching an end-of-the-world countdown
that prompted some believers to spend their life's savings in
anticipation of being swept into heaven.
To publicize his forecast, Family Radio posted more than
2,000 billboards around the country declaring that Judgment was
at hand, and believers carried the message on placards in
shopping malls and street corners.
As far away as the Philippines, volunteers donned
neon-colored T-shirts and walked the main thoroughfares of
Manila, handing out pamphlets to passersby.
Some atheists observed Camping's forecast in their own way,
with one group organizing a party under the banner of "countdown
to backpedaling," on the assumption that Camping and Family
Radio would end up altering their prediction.
Days after the apocalypse conspicuously failed to
materialize, Camping emerged from a brief seclusion to say he
had merely miscalculated, and he pronounced a new Judgment date
for Oct. 21.
Asked what advice he would give to followers who gave up
much of their worldly possessions in the belief that his
doomsday forecast would come true, Camping drew a comparison to
the nation's economic slump.
"We just had a great recession. There's lots of people who
lost their jobs, lots of people who lost their houses ... and
somehow they all survived," he said.
It was not the first time the tall, gaunt former civil
engineer had been wrong. More than two decades before, he
publicly acknowledged a failed 1994 prophecy of Christ's return
to Earth. His repeated pronouncements of specific Judgment dates
put him outside the Christian mainstream.
In June of 2011, Camping was said by his radio network to
have suffered a stroke that left him hospitalized but he was
believed to have continued to lead a small, low-key Sunday
prayer group in Alameda.
Despite Camping's failed track record in predicting the
apocalypse, at least one follower denied disillusionment.
"Amazingly, when I go back and look at some of these things
in the Bible, I have to conclude that he was largely correct,"
retired transit engineer Robert Fitzpatrick, 62, said when
reached by telephone on Tuesday at his Staten Island home in New
Fitzpatrick said he harbors no bitterness even though he
spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from his nest egg to
pay for subway ads promoting Camping's 2011 prophecy and his own
self-published book about it, "The Doomsday Code."
"I know that his teaching has been discredited in the eyes
of the world," Fitzpatrick said, adding he still believes the
Judgment is coming but that no one can accurately predict it.
And, unlike Camping's original forecast of cataclysmic
earthquakes ripping the world apart, he now believes the end
will be "very quick, very merciful."
(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by
Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Andrew Hay)