ALAMEDA -- Harold Camping, the Doomsday radio preacher who sparked international media attention by predicting the end of the world last month, has been hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his Alameda home Thursday night.
The 89-year-old radio evangelist and president of the Oakland nonprofit Family Radio was taken by ambulance from his house Thursday night, a neighbor said, but his well-known, gravelly voice that led many believers to donate millions of dollars to his cause may never be the same.
"He had a stroke, it was on his right side," said the neighbor, who declined to give her name but said she and her husband helped and comforted Camping's wife, Shirley, as the drama unfolded Thursday night.
Her husband spoke again with Shirley Camping on Friday. "His speech appears to be a little bit slurred but otherwise he's OK," the neighbor said. "(Shirley) said he was doing good "... and the only thing that's affected is his speech."
There was no answer at the door of the Camping home Saturday afternoon and all of the curtains and blinds were drawn. A GMC pickup with a Family Radio bumper sticker and a white Buick sat in the driveway.
Charles Menut -- the regional manager for Family Stations Inc., Family Radio's parent company, and the station manager and chief engineer for an affiliated station in West Orange, N.J. -- posted a Yahoo group message early Saturday morning reporting Camping's stroke to Family Radio supporters.
Menut could not be reached at his home or office Saturday.
"We will be praying for Mr. Camping and his family," one supporter wrote in reply to Menut's posting. "The Lord has been so merciful to allow Mr. Camping to faithfully teach the scriptures for over 52 years. I'm sure Mr. Camping is thinking right now that he wants God to receive all the glory the for the ministry of Family Radio."
Camping gained notoriety in recent months as the calendar closed in on May 21, the Saturday on which the Doomsday prophet said Judgment Day would occur and true believers would be taken to heaven.
That attempted prophecy gained the world's attention primarily because Camping wanted it that way. Family Radio, an empire of more than 70 radio stations that was estimated to be worth $72 million in 2009, spent more than $100 million over the past seven years publicizing the Rapture. Billboards guaranteeing the end of the world were present throughout the world and some followers drove RVs all over the United States to alert people.
But Camping was mocked nationally by talk-show hosts and the subject of protests, both by believers and nonbelievers alike. Some Christians called Camping a false prophet, and the American Atheists paid $27,000 for five weeks of billboard space in San Francisco, denouncing the Rapture, along with hosting a party that May 21 weekend.
Camping said he took his wife to a hotel during the weekend of the predicted Rapture and that the phone in his Alameda home rang constantly and strangers knocked on his door. It was, he said, "a very difficult time for me."
When the world did not end, Camping told reporters that the world would instead end Oct. 21 and argued that despite no physical evidence to the contrary, his point of view was correct.
Contact Josh Richman at firstname.lastname@example.org.