Doomsday tourists flock to tiny French town for safety; mayor declares town ‘closed’

If the world ends on Dec. 21, as some doomsday theorists argue the Mayan calendar predicts it will, then the place to be is Bugarach, France.

But, good luck getting in. With thousands of Armageddon tourists descending on the tiny hamlet, the mayor has declared the town, and the foreboding mountain above it, closed.

Two years ago, mayor Jean-Pierre Delord first got wind of rumors circulating that his town would be saved from the Mayan apocalypse. And he wasn't happy about it. At the time, according to The New York Times, he alerted authorities and upped security measures, including putting the French anti-cult watchdog agency Miviludes on alert. He is now shutting down the area to tourists for the four days before the end of the world. (That's Dec. 21 if you haven't marked your calendars.)

According to internet forums and message boards, the 178-person town in the foothills of the French Pyrenees — and the people in it when the apocalypse comes — will be saved when the ancient Mayan calendar runs its course. And doomsday predictors are descending on the small town with that in mind.

Bugarach has long attracted UFO-seekers because of the mountain that rises above it and rumors that have circulated about strange goings-on among the mountain's peaks. One theory now argues that aliens living inside the mountain, in a type of UFO garage, will come out and whisk all the people in the nearby town away — thus saving them from the end of the world. A competing argument suggests that when the intergalactic planet hurtling towards us crashes into Earth, Bugarach will be spared.

In the meantime, the locals are cashing in on their sudden good fortune.

The Daily Mail is reporting that residents are selling souvenirs, like "authentic" Bugarach stones and vials of water from the local springs. A local winemaker is selling an "End of the World" vintage (or you can buy his "Survivor" wine the week after Dec. 21), and restaurants have added menu items like "Apocalypse Pizza." One enterprising local is offering up his house for more than $2,000 per night and camping spots on his land for $400 per night.}

He reportedly told the local paper, "I possess a rare asset, the land of immortality."

Why will this town be spared? It's unclear.

The mysterious stories about Bugarach have been around for years. The mountain, Pic de Bugarach, is an imposing figure and has the distinction of being upside down — as in its peak is actually made of rock older than its base. Scientists theorize that at one point it exploded and the mountain flipped over.

The mountain is said to have inspired both "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The nearby village of Rennes-le-Château also inspired Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," with stories of its hidden treasure. At least one local has reported a UFO sighting, and there was a mysterious disappearance of a hiker that led to more speculation. There's even been a book on the subject of Bugarach's secret past, "The Village of the End of the World."

For now, the villagers are making do (and making money) being the fortunate survivors of the coming doomsday. If they can just survive the tourists.