Chicago, December 1954.
A housewife named Sister Thedra announces that aliens from the planet Clarion have sent warning of an apocalyptic flood. She incites a group of neighborhood eccentrics to abandon their jobs and families and promises that a few select believers will be rescued by the intergalactic Clarion spaceship. On the eve of the expected cataclysm, the small group now known as "the Clarion Cult" assembles to wait for a rescue UFO.
Five minutes pass after midnight, and then ten. The cult begins to panic. At 4 AM, Sister Thedra starts crying-- the Clarion Cult will be drowned with the rest of the global population. But at 5 AM, Sister Thedra receives an "automatic" (Ouija-board) message from the aliens: Apocalypse cancelled.
The flood has been called off, explains the much-relieved Sister Thedra, because "the little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction." Members of the Clarion Cult immediately call up local television stations and newspapers to inform rest of the world of their good deed.
The rest of the world snickers.
But this is what really happened that night: