Now zombies and rogue planets are making apocalypse news.
A radio preacher's claim that Saturday is Judgment Day seems to have spurred further speculation about cataclysmic sucker punches.
The good news, though, is another theory: Hostile aliens didn't land at Roswell, N.M,, little disfigured Soviets did as part of a terror plot by Stalin.
It's enough to make a grave-spinning Franklin Roosevelt revise his famous dictum to: The only thing we have to fear is media coverage of fear.
Here's a rundown of horrors on the loose.
Rapture not for everybody. Almost everybody knows by now that California evangelist Harold Camping, 89, says he can "absolutely guarantee" that on May 21, a grave-opening earthquake will let 200 million blessed souls get "caught up" or "raptured" into Heaven, while remaining billions "will exist in a world of horror and chaos" until Oct. 21, "when God will completely destroy this earth," according to his website, www.familyradio.com.
The arithmetic is clear, he says. Basically, according to the Bible, "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" so the "seven days" referred to in the great flood wipeout story really means 7,000 years. If the flood was in 4990 B.C., 7 millennia later is 2011 (accounting for the lack of a year 0). The flood started on "the second month, the seventeenth day of the month," and "amazingly, May 21, 2011, is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day."
Wait! It's eight days after Friday the 13th, and 13 plus 8 is 21! And 13 minus 8 is 5, and May is the 5th month! OMG!
Zombie Apocalypse. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control did something that went viral. On a blog, they posted: "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse." "You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this," it advised. It addressed such questions as "Where do zombies come from and why do they love eating brains so much?" Citing popular lit and movies, the piece reviews medical causes of so-called Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome, from radiation to mad cow disease to prions.
In actuality, the CDC simply found a fun way to publicize how to make a family emergency-preparedness kit, good in case of natural disasters - not just ghoul invasions.
Zombie-neutralizing techniques, such as baseball bats to the head, were not included.
"When we were tweeting about Japan and radiation releases, someone tweeted back asking us if it could set off a zombie attack," and the idea took off from there, CDS spokesman David Daigle told the New York Times.
Whether Saturday's rejected quake-awakened dead will be zombies was not addressed. (See: http://bit.ly/ikth7k.)
Rogue planet deathblow. Scientists reported in the journal Nature this week that for every star, there could be two free-agent Jupiters roaming the Milky Way. "Are we in danger from these puppies?" wondered astronomer Phil Plait, writing in his Bad Astronomy blog for Discover Magazine. His calculations suggest, if rogues are as common as stars, there's one for about every 100 cubic light-years - or one closer to Earth than Alpha Centauri, the closest star besides the sun. "That's pretty cool," he writes. That's such "a vast, mind-numbing volume of space," there's no reason to fear earthquake-inducing gravitational effects from a rogue floating out there. Jupiter's a relative neighbor but its gravity is no problem here. Or, could a rogue unleash a torrent of deadly comets from the Oort Cloud out past Pluto? The odds, again, are "incredibly small," he figures. Of course, a head-on crash would obliterate the Earth, but Plait isn't losing sleep. The world, after all, has avoided being a cosmic billiard ball for billions of years.
"The odds of a rogue planet heading our way are so small it would be like simultaneously holding a winning lottery ticket in your hand while getting hit by lightning and eaten by a shark," he emailed.
Roswell spells relief? In the summer of 1947, something fell out of the sky in Roswell, N.M., and legend likes the theory of an alien spacecraft carted off by the feds to top-secret Area 51, although a weather balloon is a lot more likely, scientists say. And a lot less scary. Now comes another blame-us-humans theory: The Soviet Union sent a craft flown by surgically-altered tiny teenagers in hopes of fomenting mass panic, a la Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast, according to Annie Jacobson's new book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. "The Horton Brothers created this flying disc originally for the Third Reich, and then Stalin stepped in and took away a lot of their scientists," Jacobson told Comedy Central's Jon Stewart.
"It really did land in New Mexico, according to my source, who received the equipment at Area 51," she said.
No aliens, she said - not even from rogue planets.