French village spared from Mayan doom wary of fame
The Bugarach mountain peak in southern France is seen June 24, 2011. / AP Photo
BUGARACH, France The end of the world is nigh, according to some interpretations of Mayan predictions, but some say the tiny village of Bugarach in southwestern France will be saved from Friday's impending doom.
The village's status as one of Earth's last refuges prompted the local mayor to ban access to it, concerned the place will be overrun with New Agers seeking salvation.
Bugarach, population 180, seems perfectly ordinary at first sight, save for the mountain rising suddenly above it, as if out of nowhere.
It's this mountain, the Pic de Bugarach, that seems to be at the heart of most of the rumors surrounding the place.
To start, it's upside down, created when the earth's plates pushed against each other millions of years ago, flipping the older rock on top.
And it stands alone, so you can see for miles in every direction at the top.
Many people believe it has mystical properties.
Bugarach isn't the only safe place to ride out the apocalypse. CBS News correspondent Holly Williams found a tiny, cobblestone-lined village in Turkey that will also supposedly be spared Friday. Watch her report at left.
Some say the mountain is home to aliens, ready to abandon Earth ahead of the predicted apocalypse.
Not everyone is convinced of Bugarach's supernatural standing, but locals say there is something there, and people have been flocking to the area for decades - though most say they chose to stay for the region's natural beauty, rather than its esoteric reputation.
Englishwoman Valerie Austin has lived in Bugarach for 24 years and has never seen so much as a light in the sky.
"As long as I've been here, there have been people who have talked about strange things," she said. "There have been people who come here expecting to see strange things."
Village Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord said the mountain has always been a little bit mystical and attracts a wide variety of people.
"There are people who believe in aliens, in people living inside the earth, in UFOs," he said. "And there are those who believe the mountain has magical healing properties because of its magnetic force."
Irishwoman Jennifer Harpur lives in the region and loves to go walking on the mountain. She doesn't believe the rumors of aliens, but she, too, has felt something there.
"There is a strange kind of feeling," she said. "As you turn around, the wind either makes lots and lots of noise in your ear, but you turn around slightly to the left or slightly to the right and it's very, very silent. So it's a kind of eerie feeling."
Patrice Etienne runs a small local cafe and does a brisk trade in T-shirts and postcards of the mountain with superimposed orbs.
He has no doubt there are strange goings-on on the mountain.
"We can see flying objects," he said. "It's moving so fast you cannot see it with your eyes, without a camera ... During the night, there's a lot of strange lights, like falling stars, going down and up again. It's really strange."
It's those reports that have attracted New Agers and healers and the simply curious for years.
With the latest rumors that Bugarach will be saved, the mayor has called in the army and banned access to the mountain during the weekend, concerned the tiny village will be overrun by thousands of outsiders.
"The police don't know if there will be no one, or throngs of people, so we had to put some security in place," Delord said.
Some local residents, like Austin, believe the mayor should have kept quiet, and blame him for stirring up all this interest in Bugarach.
Austin said it's not brought anything to the town but, in fact, quite the opposite. Tourists who would normally seek out the tranquility of the area have been frightened off by rumors of hordes of New Agers descending on the place all year long, Austin said.
"The people who normally would have been coming here in the summer, in the late summer, autumn, just haven't come," Austin said.
Another woman who moved to the area years ago, Sarah McMeekan, said she, too, believes there's a special energy about Bugarach, but she laughs at the rumors that the end is nigh for anyone not actually in the village.
"I shall be sitting, drinking a nice glass of wine with friends, and if it comes, well, OK," said McMeekan. "But I'm not expecting ... In fact, we're having a We Have Survived party on the 22nd."
Like many other skeptics, she believes if the Mayans were that good at predictions, why didn't they see their own end coming?
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