|The Morning After the World Didn't End: Photos from Inside Harold Camping's Church The Morning After the World Didn't End: Photos from Inside Harold Camping's Church|
I was the first journalist to contact or speak with Harold Camping after the end-of-days scenario he predicted failed to materialize. I rang his doorbell just before 10 a.m. on Sunday. He answered and stepped outside. He appeared troubled and was not dressed in his standard uniform of a suit and tie.
"I’m in shock, I’m totally bewildered," he told me. "I have no answers." When I asked him if he thought the members of his congregation would show up for church in the next hour, he said, "I hope not, they all know we weren’t having a meeting today." Then he went back inside.
Partying visitors left behind a mock rapture scene outside the Family Radio office on Saturday. People commemorated the occasion with jeering posters and pitchers of Kool-Aid, a reference to the mass poisoning of other doomsday groups.
I left Camping’s home and drove the four minutes to the Veterans Memorial Building, where his congregation meets every Sunday. Slowly about a dozen congregation members trickled in to the empty building. Everyone was looking for Camping and, more importantly, answers. Groups of two or three took out their Bibles and began discussions. Various theories were passed around. “I think it must be happening on October 21st, we’re just five months off,” said one member. The mood was not defeated but rather confused and bewildered.
Louie flew to Oakland from New York to spend his last month among Camping and his followers. On Sunday morning, Louie was visibly distressed. “Something was off, something was off!” he shouted as the congregation members began showing up to the empty building. At one point, growing exasperated, Louie told me to stop making photographs and give some answers or input to the conversation. He will fly back home this week but says he wants answers from Camping.
Scott Noble, a member of Camping's congregation, stands in the empty sanctuary on Sunday, May 22. Noble stopped attending a traditional church to follow Camping’s ministry because of the doctrine, and he was disappointed at how few of his fellow followers showed up for church the day after the predicted rapture.
It wasn't the first time Camping's prophesies let him down. Noble had also believed the religious leader's 1994 rapture prediction.