It's easy to see how
this story would grab the attention of Christians. It's almost as
though it were tailor-made to fit with the book of Revelation.
And... it was.
Unlike most urban legends, we have a clear trail that leads to
where the story came from.
There are various printed
versions of the story that date back to 1973, but the most widely
circulated early account appeared in Christian Life magazine in
Three months after publishing
the story, Christian Life received a letter from Christian author
In it, he explained that the Beast Computer of Belgium did not
exist in reality, but in fantasy.
Musser said that he created the scenario for a novel he wrote,
titled Beyond a Pale Horse, and for a screenplay for the David
Wilkerson film, The Rapture.
In the letter, Musser said that for three years he had seen the
story he had created being passed along as fact.
The possibility for confusing
fiction with fact was there from the outset.
As a part of the promotion for the David Wilkerson film, some mock
newspapers had been printed which had convincing-looking news
stories about events that could be associated with the rapture,
including the Beast Computer of Belgium.
Unless one read the small print next to the copyright notice,
there was nothing to indicate that it was fiction.
As with other urban legends,
some thoughtful evaluation of the facts would cast doubt on the
For example, anybody who is
savvy enough about computers would know that it's not going to
take a computer occupying three stories of a major building to
catalog all the people on the earth.
Today's computers can handle the task in a fraction of that space
– assuming there was some way to know who all the people were.
Also, some versions of the story
stated that the computer was self-programming, suggesting that
perhaps it had a life of its own outside of the humans who
Artificial intelligence is a fascinating subject, and computers
are getting smarter every day, but no computer expert that I know
of is worried about whether a database program could become the
Additionally, even if a decision
were made to track all humans, it is not clear that the European
Common Market would be the entity to initiate or control it.