I’m scheduled to begin a long journey to the southwest Oregon coast tomorrow, and thus have spent a good deal of the morning getting ready for the trip. While making sure that my digital recorder had enough battery juice to serve me well, I had an unexpected twinge of worry: What if the nutters handing out leaflets at the Times Square subway station are right, and tomorrow really is Doomsday? Will U.S. Airways credit me for the ticket, or will I simply be out the $422?
My moment of panic didn’t last, however, as my mind quickly turned to past Doomsday predictions that have proven wholly incorrect. My favorite of recent vintage was April 23, 1990, which the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) said would mark the beginning of a global nuclear holocaust; CUT’s members would weather the annihilation in a Montana fallout shelter, then presumably emerge to enjoy some sort of post-apocalyptic Paradise free of sin, gun-control laws, and processed foods.
CUT and its leader, the deliciously named Elizabeth Clare Prophet, have largely faded from our collective memory. But fortunately for the history books, they did leave behind an important artifact of their lunacy: The Sounds of American Doomsday Cults, an album that collects Prophet’s sermons against all that allegedly ailed American society. Audio samples here, along with this brief description of how Prophet rolled when at the pulpit:
This record features live recordings of Clare Prophet ‘speaking’ out against the evils of rock music. She sounds perfectly normal as she introduces her ‘psalms’ or ‘songs’ or ‘speeches’ or whatever they are. But when she gets going, it’s amazing. And so goddamn insane sounding. Her rapid fire high pitched testifying sounds a bit like an impossible mix of an auctioneer, a yodeller, the guy who sings the directions at a square dance, Neil Hamburger huffing helium and variations of baseball’s ‘hey batter batter’ chant only faster. It’s like that sound you make when you sort of hum/breathe out and move your finger up and down between your lips making a sort of ‘bebubebubebubebubebubebubebubebu’ sound. It’s one of the most amazing things we’ve ever heard!
When 4/23/90 passed without incident, the CUT took up a new cause of slightly less importance: preserving its tax-exempt status by any means necessary. I assume the May 21st-ers will shift over to something similarly benign once they wake up in their own beds on Sunday morning.