Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doomsdays of Yesteryear: God in a Flying Saucer, March 31, 1998

From my "Psychic Vibrations" column in the Skeptical Inquirer, September/October, 1998:
As you might have heard, approximately 150 members of a Taiwanese UFO cult called Chen Tao (“Perfect Way”) came to the U.S. in 1996 expecting to meet God, who they said would arrive in a flying saucer. They first settled in San Dimas, California, a state where cults seem almost normal. Then suddenly they moved to Garland, Texas, the sort of town where a large crowd of foreign-speaking cult weirdos would not exactly pass unnoticed. A group of homeowners in Garland wrote the mayor and City Council complaining that this bizarre group was ruining their neighborhood. The mayor replied that these people were simply exercising their rights to free speech, and there wasn’t anything he could do. However, what he should have replied was, “Don’t worry, these people won’t bother you for long. They say they’re going to be carried away on flying saucers on the morning of March 31.” For according to the group’s leader Hon-Ming Chen, God was going to arrive at his house on that date at 10:00 AM Central Time with a whole fleet of flying saucers, swooping all of them up from the earth to rescue them from the coming Great Tribulation. Authorities, suspecting that the saucer fleet might not materialize, feared another mass-suicide like the Heavens Gate UFO cult last year, especially since many members carried neatly-packed backpacks with identical white clothing and sneakers for their anticipated heavenly rendezvous. The Taiwanese media had been reporting that Chen was encouraging newcomers to kill themselves so their bodies could be picked up by flying saucers. However, the church members denied having any thoughts of suicide.
cartoon by Rod Pudim
Large numbers of reporters, in addition to Chen’s followers, gathered at the appointed place and time but, alas, nothing happened. Chen had an explanation: God had already arrived, invisibly, and entered their souls. As soon as things quieted down a bit, Chen announced that God would not be gathering people up from Texas after all, but instead from the area of the Great Lakes. He and a small group of the faithful set off for Buffalo, New York.  Many of the others returned to Taiwan. While in New York, Chen had a vision of the numbers seventeen and eighteen, which he interpreted as a divine instruction to move his followers to the town of Olcott, where those two numbered road routes intersect. Should anyone care about Chen’s remaining prognostications, he sees Armageddon occurring in August of 1999. Of course, with the year 2000 fast approaching, if the Apocalypse does begin, the doomsayers will be lined up for blocks trying to get credit for the prediction. (For more information on the Chen Tao cult, see
I should note that I'm currently working on a book of my Psychic Vibrations columns. Rob Pudim has kindly agreed to let me use his cartoons from the Skeptical Inquirer - and there are a lot of them! I expect to have the book electronically published, and it should be available on and elsewhere by the end of the year, if not sooner. I'll keep you posted.

Also, I am this week's guest on CFI's Point of Inquiry Podcast, hosted by Karen Stolznow ( ). Have a listen!


  1. Congratulations on your column's 30th anniversary. Have you thought about republishing your other books as ebooks?

  2. Eric,

    Actually it's almost 34 years of Psychic Vibrations. The first one was Fall, 1977.

    As for the future of other my books, let's first see how things work out here. I'm planning to have at least one more book of Psychic Vibrations, assuming this one does OK.

  3. May 21 has come and gone. The earth still exists (I believe), as do the sun, moon and solar system.
    Mr Harold Camping admitted he made a calculation error when he got his 1994 doomsday prediction wrong, but insisted his May 21, 2011 would be correct. Does he, or will he, have an excuse for why his 2011 doomsday prediction was also wrong, and will he predict a new future date for our final destruction?

    These guys are not usually silenced by mere failure.

  4. cda,

    No word so far on specific excuses from the Camping crowd. Someone suggested that Camping could say that he forgot about the 18th century switch in the Anglo-American from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. That would give him another 11 days, placing the Rapture on June 1. However, if I were him I would not feel like making any more predictions.

  5. Mr. Sheaffer -

    "However, if I were him I would not feel like making any more predictions."

    Face it, Mr. Camping ain't a thing like you. If he was he would have quit after his 1994 debacle. More to the point, he would have never issued such patent nonsense in the first place.

    What will Mr. Camping do now? Perhaps the answer is in the Bible - Ecclesiastes 1:7. He (or someone more dangerous) will be back.

    You have another 30 years of work ahead of you. I look forward to more - from you.

    Best wishes.


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