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French village shuts down over apocalypse tourism

They are sick of doomsday in Bugarach.

They are sick of doomsday in Bugarach.

"I am making an appeal to the world – do not come to Bugarach," Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord begged the apocalypse tourists threatening to swamp his tiny village in southwest France.

Rumor has it that Bugarach, a community of 200 on the French-Spanish border, will provide the only shelter from a global apocalypse predicted for December 21 based on readings of the Mayan calendar. Hundreds of believers, cults and media have descended on the village.

"We can’t live normal lives, people come and look at us like strange creatures," resident Valerie Austin told Metro, unnerved by a wave of campers in the nearby forest. "I’m very excited for it to be Saturday soon and everyone can leave."

The Internet and media have been widely blamed for placing Bugarach at the heart of the Mayan storm. But author Elizabeth van Buren, granddaughter of US President Martin van Buren, flagged the issue in the 1980s.

"Her books made the area a shelter at the end of the world – I believe she was the first," historian Val Wineyard told Metro. "But Bugarach has always been considered magic – from the geology to flying saucer sightings."

Such rumors, and the distinctive flat Pic de Bugarach mountain are believed to have inspired Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

But there is a dark side that worries the authorities. "We are worried about manipulation from sect movements," a spokesman of French cult monitoring group Miviludes told Metro, recalling the mass suicide of 48 ‘Solar Temple’ members in 1994.

Miviludes have already found "dangerous" groups in bunkers near the town and a heavy police presence will block routes to the mountain. Ten sites are under surveillance. This sleepy part of France will be grateful to see Saturday.

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