Lifestyle & Belief

South African rapture believers stuck with huge hotel bill


Nothing says "Happy New Year!" like throwing fridges and televisions off high-rise buildings in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A group of South Africans who expected to ascend to heaven on May 21 have instead found themselves stuck with a massive hotel bill.

Johannes Coetzee had traveled the country spreading the word about the impending apocalypse, Afrikaans newspaper Beeld reports. Coetzee is said to be a devotee of American TV evangelist Harold Camping, who believed that May 21, 2011 would be “Judgment Day,” when the “good people” would be taken up to heaven and everyone else left to perish in earthquakes and other natural disasters.

In preparation for Judgment Day, Coetzee and about 80 of his followers on Friday checked into a mid-range hotel in downtown Johannesburg. The group had booked 50 rooms — some of the rapture believers were sharing — and had not let hotel management know when they were planning to check out, hotel staffer Shaun O’Reilly told Beeld reporters.

The rapture hasn't come (so far), and now Coetzee's group is left with a hotel bill in the thousands of dollars. A single room at the Orion Devonshire Hotel, which is in the Braamfontein area of Johannesburg, costs $98 a night (meals not included) and a double room costs $168.

When Beeld reporters visited the Orion Devonshire Hotel, Coetzee refused to talk. He wouldn’t answer his cell phone or respond to messages.

Harold Camping was similarly hard to find on Sunday. Reuters reported that the curtains of his house were drawn shut and no one opened his door. Camping has since emerged to say that he is "flabbergasted" that the world did not end.

Coetzee’s Facebook profile has reportedly been inundated with messages from sympathizers — and people making fun of him.

"Johannes, you can come out of your hiding place now, the danger is gone,” one man wrote.

Erin Conway-Smith