Jeremy Hobson: There’s a billboard up on my commute to work that says the world is going to end on May 21. Apparently, the more accepted date among those who believe the end times are near is December 21, 2012. And again — according to the true believers — there are going to be a handful of places on earth that will be safe.
One of those, apparently, is Southern France.
And Christopher Werth reports the locals are getting ready for an influx of visitors.
Christopher Werth: The tiny, picturesque village of Bugarach takes its name from the giant, flat-topped mountain that towers above it. Population here is just 189 people.
Dominque Lemmens is one of them. As he throws feed out for his chickens, he says peculiar things happen here.
Dominique Lemmens: I see in the sky strange light.
Lemmens described a light zigzagging across the sky.
Lemmens: Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. And I’m sure it’s not plane. It’s not Airbus or Boeing or helicopter.
Whatever it was, alleged sightings like this are becoming more common. The village has become a magnet for new age belief groups who predict the world is going to end next year on December 21 — some convinced the mountain will be a landing site for UFOs rescuing people from the mayhem.
The mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, says he’s seen websites imploring people to go to Bugarach.
Jean-Pierre Delord: My concerns are simple. We can’t accommodate people arriving here en mass. It would disrupt the tranquility of the town.
But even the mayor admits those newcomers could be a boost for Bugarach’s economy. The local B&B is getting calls about booking rooms for the apocalypse. And others have begun moving to the area to start businesses.
People like Odile Massaonnaud, who goes by her spiritual name, Omkara.
No, that’s not a UFO. Omkara specializes in “sound massage.” So I gave it a go.
Omkara: Christopher is in harmony.
She places a big metal bowl over my head and begins ringing it with a mallet.
Omkara: Now you let the energy coming up.
Omkara plans to open a spiritual center here for therapies like this.
Omkara: People are coming here from all over the world, but here, they are very afraid of all these people coming like this.
So afraid, the mayor says he may decide to block off the roads leading into the village next year.
In Bugarach, France, I’m Christopher Werth for Marketplace.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.