BUGARACH, France (Reuters) - Rumours the tiny French hamlet of Bugarach will be spared by a looming Apocalypse have sparked a storm of media interest, with journalists flocking in search of Doomsday believers who are so far proving few and far between.
Less than a day before the world is due to end according to an ancient Mayan prophecy, there were no survivalists to be found in the picturesque village or on its rocky outcrop, the Pic de Bugarach, nestled at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
At last count some 250 journalists were accredited for the much-anticipated event, outnumbering the 200 or so locals, who were becoming increasingly irate.
Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord said he expected Bugarach to still be standing next week, along with the rest of the world. His message: Don’t show up, not even if you’re curious.
“Don’t come here. You’ll only be making things hard for yourself, and there’s even a risk of physical danger. So just don’t come,” he told reporters.
The origins of Bugarach’s supposed immunity are unclear, although the area has been steeped in legend for centuries.
It was once inhabited by the mysterious medieval heretics the Cathars, and is even said to be the burial site of Jesus and possibly Mary of Magdalene.
The Pic de Bugarach, meanwhile, is said to be upside down, containing older layers of rock at the top than at the bottom.
More recently those myths have morphed into claims the mountain shelters an alien spaceship that will take off on Judgment Day, or even that it conceals a door to another world.
In 2011, the government’s anti-sect watchdog Miviludes warned of a possible influx of New Age believers, after spotting six settlements in the area and noting that messianic groups had been holding conferences at local hotels.
Since then, media speculation has raged.
As a precaution for Friday authorities have closed off access to the village and mountain and drafted in extra police.
Some locals are even cashing in on the exposure, setting up a makeshift “End of the World” bar and selling a local wine labelled “Bugarach - The End of the World - I Was There.”
Just in case the world does end, however, they’ve thoughtfully laid on a first-aid tent.
Judging by appearances though, if the prophecy does come true the only people saved will be locals and the hordes of international media. Whether they will make a fitting post-apocalyptic population, only time will tell.
Reporting By Vicky Buffery and Reuters TV, editing by Paul Casciato