Though the Mayans never really predicted that the world would end tomorrow, some New Agers are convinced that humanity’s demise is imminent. Or at least that it’s a good excuse for a party.
Believers are being drawn to spots where they think their chances of survival will be better, and accompanying them are the curious, the party-lovers and people wanting to make some money.
Here are some of the world’s key doomsday destinations.
According to one rumour, a rocky mountain in the French Pyrenees will be the sole place on earth to escape destruction. A giant UFO and aliens are said to be waiting under the mountain, ready to burst through and spirit those nearby to safety. But here is bad news for those seeking salvation: French gendarmes, some on horseback, are blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people.
One believer, Ludovic Broquet, a 30-year-old plumber, made his way to the mountain after a year of preparation, hoping to find a “gateway, the vortex that will open up here (at) the end of the world”.
Local residents are angry at having their peace disturbed. “What is going on here is the creation of an urban legend,” fumed resident Michele Pous, who blamed those who spread internet rumours.
For 1,500 dollars (€1,120), a museum is offering salvation from the world’s end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s underground bunker in central Moscow - with a 50 per cent refund if nothing happens.
The bunker, 65 metres (210 ft) below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Now home to a small museum, it has an independent electricity supply, water and food – but no more room, because the museum has already sold out all 1,000 tickets.
Hundreds of people have already converged on Stonehenge for an “End of the World” party that coincides with the Winter Solstice.
Arthur Uther Pendragon, Britain’s best-known druid, said he was anticipating a much larger crowd than usual at Stonehenge this year. But he doesn’t agree that the world is ending, noting that he and fellow druids believe that things happen in cycles.
“We’re looking at it more as a new beginning than an end,” he said. “We’re looking at new hope.”
Some Serbs are saying to forget that sacred mountain in the French Pyrenees. The place to go will be Mount Rtanj, a pyramid-shaped peak in Serbia already drawing cultists.
A local legend has it that the mountain once swallowed an evil sorcerer who will be released on doomsday in a ball of fire. The inside of the mountain will then become a safe place to hide as the sorcerer goes on to destroy the rest of the world. In the meantime, some old coal mine shafts have been opened up as safe rooms for the dozens who have arrived already.
“We got calls from as far away as Holland from people trying to seek shelter,” said Vlada Minic, a local villager.
A small Turkish village known for its wines, Sirince, has also been touted as the only place after Bugarach that would escape the world’s end. But today there were more journalists and security officials present there than cultists to the great disappointment of local restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners.
Nobody was quite sure where Sirince’s alleged powers to survive the Mayan doomsday come from, but the idyllic village in western Turkey is close to an area where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived her final days.
Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, in southern Italy, plans a big party with hot-air balloons and music in the main piazza. “Nobody will want to sleep anyway as they await the end of the world,” Mayor Donato Baccaro was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Stampa.
A fringe Christian group has been spreading rumours about the world’s impending end, prompting Chinese authorities to detain more than 500 people this week and seize leaflets, video discs, books and other material.
Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, also called Eastern Lightning, which preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China. Authorities in the province of Qinghai say they are waging a “severe crackdown” on the group, accusing it of attacking the Communist Party and the government.
For some, doomsday will be a chance for mockery.
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, producer and host of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens programme, is throwing a party in New Orleans where he will descend onstage in a mock spaceship. Tsoukalos is a leading proponent of the idea that ancient myths arose from visits by alien astronauts. Still, he scoffs at the idea that the world will come to an end tomorrow.