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A Mysterious Failed Prophecy From the Smithsonian’s Archives

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Today is Dec. 21, 2012—the day that the Maya long-count calendar turns over. Just in case you’re stockpiling food, we thought we’d share an apocalyptic prophecy from almost a century and a half ago that thankfully didn’t come true.

It was April 1866, and one “Benjamin the Anti Christ” was preaching the end times in the city of San Francisco. So far, we know nothing about Benjamin except for the doom he foretold, which 10 of his fellow San Franciscans transcribed and notarized. But it’s clear that he knew his audience. His apocalypse started believably—with politics.


According to the nine-page prophecy that eventually made its way into the Smithsonian’s archives in Washington, the end would begin in 1867 when the U.S. president would “be put out of office.”

The Senate would fill the vacancy but in 1871, before the next election, “the great Earthquake” would destroy the Western coast of North America. Mexico City, most of California, up through the Puget Sound: all gone, followed by 2.5 million dead and plagues of cholera and “Brain Paralisis.”

A land bridge would form between Florida and Panama, turning the Caribbean into a lake. The U.S. would annex Mexico, Honduras, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and Italy. A Protestant “Grand Head King” would be crowned and rule from the nation’s new capital, on Arizona’s new bay: the “Holy City of the New Jerusalem.”


God would destroy the warring Catholic countries of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Protestants and Jews would join together for 190 years of liberty, freedom, and love under the star-spangled banner of God and the American eagle.

Happily, the Judeo-Protestant jingoism of “Benjamin the Anti Christ” didn’t pan out—but part of his prophecy still could. On March 4, 2057, Benjamin claimed, a flood would wipe away the Earth except for the nations inhabited by the Seven Tribes of Israel.

Here’s hoping that if one-half of a prophecy goes bust, the other half goes, too.

A Failed Prophecy

Page 1 of Benjamin the Anti Christ’s apocalyptic prophecy. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA), Washington, D.C. Citation: RU 7508, Box 17 (National Institute, 1839-1863 and undated), Folder: Miscellany; SIA. Image negative reference number: SIA2012-9666.

If you want to help solve the mystery of Benjamin the Anti Christ, visit the website of the new online history journal, The Appendix, for the full transcript and set of scans of the document.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Institution Archives.