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Saturday, July 3, 1999 Published at 03:45 GMT 04:45 UK


Say goodbye on Sunday?

The film Last Night is set during the world's final six hours

Some people aren't looking forward to Sunday at all. Believers in the prophecies of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus are convinced that the world will come to an end on 4 July.

But the Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, presenter of Channel 4's Fortean TV as well as a writer and expert on the unexplained would like to reassure any worried people out there. He firmly believes Armageddon is not just around the corner.

[ image: Nostradamus prophecies: Predictions, warnings, or rubbish?]
Nostradamus prophecies: Predictions, warnings, or rubbish?
"It will be business as usual. You may safely plan your Sunday as you have always done. If anything happens, I shall be the most surprised arrival of all in the hereafter," he says.

Back in 1555 the pessimistic Frenchman Nostradamus predicted that during the seventh month of 1999 there would be a cataclysmic 27-year world war, which would destroy at least one third of the world's population. At least that is what translators have extrapolated from his confusing writings.

Six hours to go in the cinema

In Japan - the home of several Nostradamus cults - it is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the population believe that a world war is about to start.

Nostradamus fans in the UK can have a preview of Armageddon early this weekend with the opening of the Canadian film Last Night, which depicts how a small group of people choose to spend their final six hours before the world's end.

Elsewhere, it appears people intend to spend their last few days reading about the end of the world. His collected prophecies have sold more than six million copies around the world - a record beaten only by the bible. New editions have hastily been brought out just in time.

Ambiguous verses

[ image:  ]
Michel de Nostradame, educated in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, mathematics and astrology, was famous for prophecies in his lifetime - correctly predicting the death of King Henri II in a jousting match. He wrote his thousands of prophecies in an unintelligible mixture of medieval French, Provencale and Latin.

Believers say he has predicted everything from the rise of Hitler to the death of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana.

"The problem with all of Nostradamus's prophecies is that they are all incredibly ambiguous," says Rev Fanthorpe, "and you need to be a 16th century historian and linguistics specialist to understand them."

Although the generally accepted day for the rise of the "King of Terror" is Sunday 4 July - it could also be the 24 July, or even 28 July - or not at all.

The Rev Fanthorpe believes that the whole prophecy has been mis-translated due to an early printing error and instead it predicts nothing more scary than the rise of "a good and kindly king".

More accurate than chance?

[ image: Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe:
Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe: "There is nothing too fear"
But the Reverend still has respect for some of Nostradamus' prophecies.

"What I find most fascinating about Nostradamus is that he is right rather more often than simple statistical theory would allow."

He believes the prophecies do not predict the future - but are instead are "grim warnings" of what could come to pass.

"They are the red signals on life's track," he says. But adds: "People read a great deal into Nostradamus. This Sunday people have absolutely nothing to fear."

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