Offbeat
4:22 pm
Fri May 20, 2011

Don't they know it's the end of the world?

Harold Camping runs the Family Radio network of religious stations. He wants you to know that the end is near.

Camping says Judgment Day will be May 21, 2011.

The 89-year-old broadcaster has created quite a stir. Some people are taking his warning literally and they're trying to persuade the rest of us to take heed.

But others are having fun with the idea. They're throwing end-of-the-world parties and planning for post-Rapture looting.

And then there are the folks who take it all in stride -- no more so than in Hell, MI.

Nancy Hughes is a bartender at the Dam Site Inn, one of the three businesses in Hell, which is really no more than a bend in the road.

"Yeah, I've heard about it," Hughes says of the Judgment Day prophecy. "I think people have been predicting the end of the world for hundreds and hundreds of years, and one day somebody's gonna be right. Hopefully, it's not tomorrow."

This is a big weekend in Hell. On Sunday, there's the annual Blessing of the Bikes. More than 6,000 motorcyclists are expected for the ritual that's part of Motorcycle Awareness Month.

Hughes says the end-of-the-world prediction means the Dam Site Inn is going to be a bit crowded.

"Busy, very busy. A lot of characters. Lots of religious groups," she says. "Like on 6-6-6, we had a lot of church groups down here, and they protested. And that's what makes it interesting."

Hughes was referring to June 6, 2006 -- or 6-6-6 -- which is considered by some to be the symbol of Satan.

Emily Haigh works at Hell in a Handbasket -- also known as Hell's Kitchen. They make sandwiches and pizzas and sell Hell paraphernalia. They're very popular at Halloween.

Haigh hadn't heard about the end-of-the-world prediction. Now that she has, she's not buying it.

"Um, I think it's a bunch of baloney," she says.

If there's one thing journalists are notoriously poor at, it's numbers. But not to worry, because Family Radio's Mr .Camping has studied up on  this. He says the countdown calendar started with Noah  and the Ark.

"The math is 4990 plus 2011 minus 1 equals 7000," he explains. "One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament BC calendar date to a New Testament AD calendar because the calendar does not have a year zero."

Camping says the math adds  up to May  21, 2011 -- so we'll know soon enough if the prophecy will  be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, back in Hell, they're making preparations.

"Yup, a lot of motorcycles. Campers. People opening up their cottages," Hughes says. "It's a great time of year for Hell."