Back in 1981, a newspaper article arrested my adolescent attention. It was so striking that I clipped and saved it, and here it is all these years later.
By CHARLES HILLINGER
Los Angeles Times
TUCSON, Ariz. — The “liftoff” is just a trumpet call and a day away, Bill Maupin says.
Tomorrow, June 28, a trumpet heard around the world will sound in the heavens and “all of us on Earth who have accepted the Lord will slowly rise from the ground in our bodies and drift into the clouds,” he says
“Millions of people will ascend into the heaven toward evening on June 28. It is prophesized in the Bible.”
Maupin, 51, founder and president of the 50-member Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation here, has been predicting this day of “rapture” since 1976. Now, he and the other group members believe they are spending their final days on Earth.
“We know we are going to ascend into heaven June 28.”
Holmer Pappageorge, 53, former owner of a restaurant, says the Lord led him to Maupin’s door. “I’m saying my goodbyes to my friends,” Pappageorge says.
“Television news crews and newspaper photographers all over the world will be filming us going up,” Scott Braun, 28, predicts.
“I was a merchant seaman sailing on a ship in the Far East when the Lord told me one night to go to Tucson. I had no idea why he wanted me in Tucson. He led me to this house.”
Joe Wade, 20, a busboy at a local restaurant, says his mother told him God is coming back. “He will meet us in the clouds and take us with him to heaven.”
“It’s going to happen soon. I‘ve got goose bumps all over.” Wade displayed his arms, which were indeed covered with goose bumps.
Maupin, his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children live on an estate in northeast Tucson on an acre of land. Their living room is the size of a chapel and is filled with folding chairs, a podium, a piano and musical instruments and religious tracts.
The Maupin bedroom is a greenhouse crowded with scores of trees and plants. A spiral staircase leads from the foot of their bed to the ceiling.
Maupin says Satan will take over the world for seven years after the massive ascension on the last Sunday of this month. “Satan and his cohorts will chop off the heads of a billion people still on Earth who turn to the Lord during a 50-day period begnning Dec. 2, 1984,” Maupin says.
“It’s all in the Bible. On May 14, 1988, one day before the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, Christ will come back to Earth. bringing along all of us who went to heaven June 28.
“When he returns to Earth he will reign for 1,000 years.”
Maupin says the prophecies all are in the Bible but it takes years of study to determine the dates on which the prophecies will be fulfilled.
What if the prophecies do not come true? Maupin was asked.
“There is no question in my mind. I’m absolutely conviced without a doubt.”
“Trust in the Lord,” chanted his assembled followers.
“Every human being since Adam who has been saved will rise from their graves and join the living in the liftoff,” Maupin says.
Now once you’ve lived a while, and you’ve seen rapture movements come and go, you see how silly it all is. But despite growing up in a Millennial church, this was the first time I’d seen someone predict the End of the Times so unambiguously, and I’ll be honest — I was a little freaked out. Of course, the guy wasn’t a Mormon, so what did he know? But despite the semi-sarcastic tone of the article, a part of my brain said, “What if he’s right?”
The day came and went, and then on June 29, a follow-up article appeared in the paper. How would Maupin explain the failed prediction? He made a move that failed rapture predictors typically make the first time around: reschedule.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The mass, bodily ascension into heaven erroneously forecast by a fundamentalist sect for June 28 will occur instead on Aug. 7, the group’s leader says.
“This time, I’m absolutely positive,” said Bill Maupin, spiritual leader of the Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation. It’s Aug. 7.”
Maupin, 51, and the approximately 50 members of the church-like foundation received nationwide publicity last month after predicting the ascension, or rapture, based on an interpretation of dates and “signs” related in the Bible.
Maupin said “a slight miscalculation” caused the incorrect date.
“There was a period of time there (in the Bible) that I just didn’t see,” he said. “It had to do with Noah and the flood and the 40 days and 40 nights. I got out my Bible on the 30th of June, and the Lord showed it to me.”
And after August 7 passed uneventfully? Maupin declined to set another date, but instead claimed that the rapture was no big deal really, and that ‘the important thing’ was that they were making people aware of Jesus or some crap like that.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Fundamentalist leader Bill Maupin has once again postponed the day on which his followers are to ascend to heaven, saying the auguries that were to precede the event have not occurred.
Maupin declined to set another date for the “rapture,” or ascension, “It sure isn’t very far away,” he said Saturday.
Maupin, who heads a group of about 50 followers of the Lighthouse Gospel Tract Foundation here, first predicted that the faithful would experience rapture on June 28.
When that deadline passed, Maupin said there had been a “slight miscalculation” and said the ascension should occur by noon Saturday.
This time, however, he hedged his bets, saying that it would ﬁrst necessary for Israel to capture Damascus, Syria and Lebanon and for someone from the United States to intervene in that holy war.
“The rapture is not main thing I expected to occur,” Maupin said. “When we started, it was not so much the date of the rapture. It was making the people of the world aware of the events that precede the rapture. The events have not occurred.”
Maupin still believes a Mideast war is imminent. He said he expects Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s government to attempt to regain Israel’s biblical borders.
Maupin said he does not know if his followers are disappointed to find themselves in Tucson instead of in heaven, but he said he believes they remain strong in their faith.
There have been a lot of raptures since then, and whenever they’ve come along, I’ve thought of ol’ Bill Maupin and these clippings. In a way, the non-event helped me become a skeptic and helped me understand how ridiculous religious people can be and how shifty their advocates are when they’re proven wrong.
I only just found these clippings, or else I would have posted them just after the failed Harold Camping prediction as a way of showing how eerily similar their rationalisations were. But never mind, there will always be more, whether in 2012 or beyond. That’s another thing I learned from rapture predictors.