- Bugarach – population: 176 – has been earmarked by doomsday cults as the only place in the world which is going to survive Armageddon
- It is based on an interpretation of the Mayan calendar which claims a planet is on a crash course with Earth and will impact on December 21 2012
- According to prophecy aliens will emerge from their ‘spaceship garage’ in the town’s Pic de Bugarach mountain and pluck believers to safety
- ‘Authentic Bugarach stones’ are on sale for €1.50 a gram while a bottle of water from the local spring will cost an eye-watering €15
- One landowner is offering up his four-bedroom home for £1,200 a night and can offer a camping space in his field for £324
- ‘Apocalypse pizza’ and ‘End of the World vintage’ wine also available
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the French Pyrenees, market day in the tiny farming community of Bugarach has never been busier.
But shoppers aren’t there to sample the fresh meat, wine and dairy for which the town is locally famed, they are there to pick up their own piece of end-of-the-world memorabilia.
It is because Bugarach – population 176 – has been earmarked by doomsday cults as the only place in the world which is going to survive Armageddon, scheduled for December 21 this year by an ancient Mayan prophecy.
Modern interpretations of the forecast, heavily stoked by internet rumour, predict that aliens will emerge from their ‘spaceship garage’ hidden deep within the town’s imposing Pic de Bugarach mountain and pluck anyone in the vicinity to safety.
Now, Armageddon tourists and UFO spotters hoping for salvation are swarming to the two-street hamlet to collect a slice of Last Day history.
And it is an opportunity the village’s shrewd inhabitants are eager not to pass up.
Souvenirs include ‘authentic Bugarach stones’ from Pic de Bugarach’s rock-face itself, on sale for €1.50 (£1.20) a gram, and ‘natural pyramids of pyrite iron’ from underground.
Meanwhile, a bottle of water from the local spring, which can apparently cure a range of ailments, costs an eye-watering €15 (£12).
One landowner is even offering up his four-bedroom home with close up views of the mysterious peak for £1,200 a night.
But for those on a budget, he can offer camping space in his field (tent not included) for 400 euros a night.
‘I possess a rare asset, the land of immortality,’ he told La Depeche du Midi, the area’s local daily.
On the evening in question, tourists can pop to the local Italian restaurant for an ‘Apocalypse pizza’, washed down with a local vintner’s ‘End Of The World’ vintage.
If the predictions turn out to be wrong, they can celebrate with the same wine-seller’s ‘Survival Vintage’, on sale a day later.
But Bugarach’s mayor, Jean Pierre Delord, is worried about the numbers of New Agers arriving in the town.
Police and troops have been drafted in to deal with the sudden influx and stop believers from scaling the mountain. Although many believe this is merely a cover for the investigation of dozens of recent UFO sightings.
David, who quit his telecoms job in Tours to move to Bugarach, told The Sun: ‘There are serious things going on here – I want to know what these objects are.
‘Things exist and people have a right to know.’
While David, who would not reveal his surname, said he wasn’t sure the world would actually end in three weeks, added: ‘I do think the capitalist system is going to collapse then.’
But others have expressed anger at the town, blaming it for taking advantage of ‘gullible’ New Agers.
Eric Freysselinard, the prefect of the Aude county which includes Bugarach, said this week: ‘I find it really outrageous to abuse the naivety of people and rush into commerce that defies common sense.’
The prophesy is based on an interpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar which claims an intergalactic planet is on a crash course with Earth and will impact on December 21 2012.
The French government has even warned of the risk of mass suicides in the country by people who believe the world will self-destruct next year.
Recent disasters – including the earthquake in Japan – as well as anxiety over pandemics and economic concerns – are creating a global climate of fear, which for some are omens of impending doom.
A report published yesterday by watchdog Miviludes said the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the lead-up to the end of 2012.
Miviludes president Georges Fenech said: ‘I think we need to be careful. We shouldn’t get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people.’
The internet is awash with myths about the hamlet.
These include beliefs that the mountain is surrounded by a magnetic force, that it is the site of a concealed alien base, or even that it contains an underground access to another world.
Patrice Etienne, who runs an organic cafe in the village, said there have been an increased number of reports by walkers in the area of cameras jamming when they tried to take pictures and strange noises rumbling underground.
‘We have seen military aircraft, police and soldiers,’ he added. ‘It’s like a Spielberg movie. They are looking for something. There is something in this mountain, definitely.’
Meanwhile, panic is spreading throughout Russia at such a rate over the Earth’s pending doom, that Moscow’s minister of emergency situations has told its citizens that the world will not end on December 21.
Ancient Mayans claimed that is the day a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Many in Russia, where mystical thinking is popular, have taken notice.
Some are hoarding everyday items such as sugar, matches and candles, while inmates in a jail are said to have experienced a ‘collective mass psychosis’.
The ministry said it had access to ‘methods of monitoring what is occurring on Earth’, and could say with confidence all will be well.
However Russians were warned they still face the threats of ‘blizzards, ice storms, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply’.
An official from the Russian State Church has also spoken out to reassure frightened people.