Pungo resident believes Y2k is signal for the end

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Aug. 29, 1999

Pungo resident believes Y2K is signal for the end

BY CHRIS GRIER, The Virginian-Pilot Copyright 1999, Landmark Communications Inc.

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Melvin Bowers doesn't have any computers. Not a single one. But that doesn't keep him from worrying.

It doesn't matter, he explains. When the Y2K bug hits, the cities won't be safe. The banks will freeze accounts. The stores will run out of food. And the resulting mess will turn the cities into a bloody tangle of riots and looting as hordes of urbanites scratch and claw and shoot each other for the last of the bottled water and toilet paper.

That, he says, is why he's holed up in a faded yellow trailer on the edge of a Back Bay swamp, a place of weeds and cattails and not much else.

Because when all those countless billions of computer chips roll over on New Year's Eve and have to decide whether it's 1900 or 2000, Melvin doesn't want to be anywhere near the crowds.

``It was like the Holy Spirit got in me real bad,'' he says, fixing a pair of visitors with a serious stare.

``It's like I had to go.''

For the past few months, Melvin Bowers has been at his hideaway with a trailer full of canned goods and a head full of Jesus.

He's collecting rainwater from a gutter on his shed. He's storing the barrels in the nearby pines. On a tiny plot next to his trailer, he's growing pinto beans.

Melvin wouldn't be in Norfolk come New Year's Eve for a million bucks. No way, no how. He and his purified water and his generator will be right here, enduring whatever trials the Lord sees fit to throw his way.

And if it all turns out to be nothing?

Hey, that's fine. He'll give the stuff away to a church.

Still, he wonders, what if it doesn't?

Melvin is preparing for TEOTWAWKI.

It's not the name of a lost American Indian tribe. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It. The Y2K crowd talks about this possibility so much, they came up with an abbreviation.

Melvin Bowers, in other words, is not alone.

There are plenty of other people who share his views. Many of the ones predisposed to believing in the more apocalyptic scenarios have a distinctly religious bent.

Melvin has been helping to bring them together.

A couple of times now, he has shed his cut-off sweats for his three-piece suit and made the trek from the Carolina line to the Holiday Inn Executive Center on Greenwich Road in Virginia Beach.

He's involved with The Prophecy Club, a Topeka, Kan.-based outfit, the stated mission of which is to ``study and research Bible prophecy.'' Its newsletter is dominated with offers for books and videotapes with titles such as ``New World Order Mind Control,'' ``Technology and the Mark of the Beast'' and ``Judgment Day 2000.''

On a recent Friday at the Holiday Inn, Melvin introduces a crowd of about 40 folks to Rick Vannelli, a Prophecy Club speaker and self-described Y2K expert.

``It may be the catalyst for the end times, folks,'' Vannelli tells those in the crowd, who paid $7 a head to hear his three-hour talk. ``We don't know for sure. There's only one man who knows for sure. And when He's coming, we'll all know for sure.''

The folks here are inclined to believe Vannelli. Everyone in the room, almost to a person, responds with a hearty ``AMEN.''

Ted Woosley, a preacher from rural Zuni, was one of the folks who showed up for Vannelli's talk.

Outside the conference room, he explains his take on the Y2K bug, which revolves around a translation of the biblical passage that describes the creation of the Earth in six days.

The Bible, he says, actually meant for each day to translate into 1,000 years. So six days means 6,000 years. To Woosley, it's clear: Our time is coming up.

``The 6,000 years of human history, of human government, is coming to an end, man. January 1 is going to be the beginning of a whole lot of problems. We're preaching to whoever will listen. Not everybody's coming to the Lord, though.

``The Book of Daniel,'' Woosley says. ``It's all right here.''

Inside, Vannelli is going strong in front of the overhead projector.

He's hitting hard for a few minutes on the media conspiracy he says is hiding the truth about Y2K. A reference to ``CNN -- The Clinton News Network'' draws hearty laughs and even an ``amen'' from the mostly white, mostly middle-aged crowd.

``About 80 percent'' of government sources, he claims, ``have no idea what's going on out there.''

The Prophecy Club newsletter says Vannelli ``reads five newspapers a day,'' which qualifies him to ``provide the very latest accurate, unopinionated and detailed facts.''

Before his talk, Vannelli said he based his information -- and the book and videotapes he's selling -- on ``just research, 24 hours a day.''

Before he took a job as a paid Prophecy Club speaker, he said, he worked in the construction business in Ohio.

As a preacher, Woosley advises his flock on how to prepare for Y2K problems.

Where does he get his information?

``From groups like this, right here,'' he says, pointing in the conference room toward Vannelli's podium. ``These folks know what's going on, man.''

Melvin Bowers isn't much different from anybody else in and around Pungo. He's just a good ol' boy from Tennessee who joined the Navy as a young squirt because he wanted to get out and see a bit of the world. He put in 20 years, and then got a job mowing the golf courses at the Navy base.

It was in 1997 that he first started worrying about Y2K. Read about it in the newspaper, he says. Then he started cruising the AM dial, listening to Prophecy Club speakers and tuning into folks such as UFO broadcaster Art Bell. Then came some news about asteroids and more news about hurricanes, that 1999 was supposed to be worse than normal.

It wasn't long before he quit his job as an assistant greenskeeper and moved to the middle of nowhere.

Melvin doesn't own anything with any of those pesky ``embedded chips'' that could go haywire. His aging blue Ford Escort is probably too old to contain any of the computer parts that run most modern engines these days.

Still, he's growing food. And hoarding canned goods and water. He's even practicing fasting.

``The first 24 hours is a little rough,'' he says. ``After that, you don't really notice it.''

It would be way too easy to paint Melvin as a nut case. He knows this. He knows how out there all of this sounds. Quitting his job, moving to the edge of a swamp, going out of his way to spread the word about the Lord and Y2K to anyone who will listen.

Melvin has the same information most everybody else has. More, probably.

It's just the way he's decided to react to this information that sets him apart.

``Nobody's called me crazy,'' he says. ``Nobody I know.

``Not point-blank, anyway.'' Reach Chris Grier at 222-5560 or cgrier@pilotonline.com


Related story:Y2k hysteria is good for business

Web link: For more information about taking preparations for Y2K, contact the American Red Cross at 446-7753 or online.

TalkNet: What do you think will happen on Jan. 1, 2000?

Archives: Locals should prepare for Y2K glitches


-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), September 02, 1999


yup, this guy is a basket case. there isnt one redeeming thing about him and he shows what a nut he is with every word he speaks.

this wont help people get into y2k at all, it will spook them into staying out of any y2k efforts.

he shows they are right-wing, christian, republican, clinton-hating, ufo watching nuts (probably a half dozen other traits as well).


-- skank (skank@uglyjoes.com), September 02, 1999.

Saw the article--it ran on the front page along with a picture of Mr Bowers. Nothing personal, but the picture of Mr Bowers shows him as a long-haired, hippy-looking person and from the camera angle he looks like a wild man. I'm sure the camera angle was intentional so that there is a subliminal message sent to the reader that y2k preparers are slightly off-center. It really made me angry. So much for the "impartial" media..... Kitty in VA

-- Kitty in Chesapeake, VA (Kittyfelton@webtv.net), September 02, 1999.

Another slap in the face for y2k preparedness al-la Time Magazine. They could have just as easily phrased the statement

There are plenty of other people who share his views. Many of the ones predisposed to believing in the more apocalyptic scenarios have a distinctly religious bent.


Many of the ones predisposed to believing in the more apocalyptic scenarios have a keen understanding of technology and the potential of systemic failure as the world's infrastructure is being pushed to its limits.

But words like that would go over the heads of 99% of their readership.

-- a (a@a.a), September 02, 1999.

now THAT is O T !

-- Perry Arnett (pjarnett@pdqnet.net), September 02, 1999.

Melvin Bowers = Andy or INVARiably STUPid or Will Continue Not Thinking? I've got my money on Andy, but I could be wrong...

-- Y2K Pro (y2kpro1@hotmail.com), September 02, 1999.

When there are food shortages and the power goes out it'll be Melvins fault. Thats the way "they" are starting to set the whole thing up as. Crazy doomers, self fulfilling prophecy- just another reason to keep your preps to yourself and your mouth shut!

-- Johnny (JLJTM@BELLSOUTH.NET), September 02, 1999.

Is Chris Grier one of Declan's pseudonyms?

-- Tinfoil (and@proud.ofit), September 02, 1999.

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