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Rapture Bombing is a flashmob prank that involves arranging clothes and shoes on the ground in public places to stage a fake scene of Rapture, the Christian concept of “being saved” by God before the arrival of the Doomsday. The practical joke became widespread as part of Operation Rapture during the days leading up to May 21st, 2011, which was proclaimed as “The Final Judgment” by American radio evangelist Harold Camping.
In spring of 2011, Christian evangelist Harold Camping declared May 21st, 2011 as The Rapture, the day when those who follow the Christian faith will be taken to live eternally in a place called “heaven”, leaving the rest of the non-believers behind. As the date approached, it became a popular discussion topic online and spawned image macros and rapture-related hashtags on Twitter.
On May 19th, 2011, the Tumblr blog “FuckYeahDementia” posted an example image of “rapture bombing” with instructions indicating that clothes should be left out in public to make it appear as if the person wearing them had vanished.
The Christian doctrine of pre-Tribulation Rapture has been previously portrayed in popular literature and films, most notably through Tim LaHaye’s best-selling novel series Left Behind published in 1995. The idea of pranking Rapture believers was first introduced in a video titled “Fake Rapture Prank”, posted via MilksandCookies on August 15th, 2007:
The image spread rapidly via blogging services like WordPress and Tumblr. By the time it reached Reddit on the same day, the practical joke was dubbed “Operation Rapture.” On May 20th, 2011, Gizmodo posted an article titled “Let’s Punk the Rapture”, calling on the readers to participate in rapture bombing and share the images via Facebook and Twitter hashtag #rapturebomb:
The flash-mob campaign was further boosted by participation from celebrities like comedian David Copperfield and pro-skater Tony Hawk. Gizmodo’s follow-up post “Best Rapture Prank Pictures” was published on May 21st, 2011 and received over 5 million views in the first 72 hours.