A mountain in the French Pyrenees that doomsday cultists claim will be the only place still standing after the end of the world, slated December 21, is to be closed to visitors to avoid pandemonium on its peak.
New Agers and UFO watchers will be barred access to the flat-top mount outside Bugarach, population 179, during a four-day period around the date they are convinced represents Armageddon.
Harbingers of doom base their apocalyptic prediction on an ancient Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world will happen on the night of December 21, 2012.
They believe the Pic de Bugarach is an "alien garage" and that extraterrestrials are quietly waiting in a massive cavity beneath the rock for the world to end, at which point they will leave, taking, it is hoped, a lucky few humans with them.
To avoid a sudden, massive influx of esoteric outsiders, the mayor has banned gatherings of any sort, and anyone landing in a light aircraft will be arrested.
But some from among the end-of-the-world crowd claim the real reason authorities are shutting down the area is that they are really there to investigate dozens of recent UFO sightings.
Local police are also clamping down on those hoping to cash in on doomsday fever by selling end-of-the-world memorabilia at out of this world prices.
Local press reports say one landowner is offering to rent out his four-bedroom house on the slopes of Bugarach for 1500 euros a night next month, or an empty field for those wishing to camp at 400 euros.
"I possess a rare asset, the land of immortality," the owner is cited as claiming in La Depeche du Midi.
Intergalactic hitchhikers can book a place in a bed and breakfast room 19km away on December 21 for the cut price of 500 euros, even though it is outside the "pick up zone".
A local winemaker is even marketing an End of the World vintage – and a Survival Vintage next year for those who make through to the other side.
Eric Freysselinard, the prefect of the Aude department, or county, which comprises Bugarach, expressed outrage over the trade last week. "I find it really outrageous to abuse the naivety of people and rush into commerce that defies common sense," he said.
With the clock ticking, a government-backed anti-cult watchdog is warning against a repeat of the 1995 mass suicides by the Order of the Solar Temple sect in the Alps when their predicted Doomsday failed to take place.
Monday, 3 December 2012