The French village of Bugarach has enjoyed a colourful reputation for decades.
Nestled in the Corbieres mountain range in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwestern France, Bugarach lies at the foot of Pic de Bugarach which is commonly referred to as the "upside-down mountain" due to its odd geological features. Since the 1960s, Bugarach has enjoyed a strange reputation with New Age supporters who have been frequent visitors over the years due to persistent rumours relating to the mountain and its surroundings. According to one rumour, an underground civilization lies hidden beneath the mountain in the extensive limestone caves known to exist there. Early writers such as Jules Verne have openly speculated on the mysterious cavern structure in the region, many parts of which remain unexplored.
Despite having only 200 inhabitants, settlements have sprung up in the surrounding area resulting from a predication that Bugarach will be one of the few places to survive the impending devastation of December 21, 2012. The settlements were established by members of J.Z. Knight's Ramtha School of Enlightenment. Acting as an agent for Ramtha, a Lemurean warrior who fought Atlanteans 35,000 years ago, Knight has made repeated predictions relating to the coming destruction in 2012. Although a local representative for the Ramtha movement has denied apocalyptic teachings or any links with the village of Bugarach, French authorities have expressed concerns about the influx of apocalypse watchers and the potential effect on the Bugarach residents.
The French agency MIVILUDES has been monitoring events in Bugarach and has alerted the French government about the risk of mass suicides occurring as December 2012 approaches. MIVILUDES head, George Fenech, has recently told news agencies that he informed the prime minister and other government officials about the potential impact the the "message of fear" could have on "fragile members of the French population". The fear of mass suicide has been heightened by a 2002 incident in Nantes, France involving an end of the world prophecy and several suicides among a small circle of believers. Also uppermost in many minds is the rash of murders and suicides that occurred in the late 1990s in France, Switzerland, and Canada by followers of the Order of the Solar Temple.
Fenech carefully stressed that "We know from history and experience that apocalyptic discourse can lead to tragedy. This is why we have taken measures to notify police and other public authorities in order to monitor the situation." He added that "Around 500 000 French people belong to cults. They affect all kinds of people from all kinds of social backgrounds, including children." Fenech has also commented on the increasingly worrisome attention that Bugarach is receiving.
With numerous Internet sites declaring the Pic de Bugarach to be an "alien garage" housing alien visitors, properties being bought by cultists in surrounding areas, and reports of underground bunkers with extensive food supplies being built, Bugarach is receiving thousands of visitors who have disrupted local life with their frequent processions and mass prayer sessions. Although national suicide organizations in France have not received any calls about the 2012 phenomenon to date, Suicide Ecoute president, Isabelle Chaumeil Gueguen, has commented that "It's certainly true that people who are mentally unstable can react strongly to dramatic announcements in the press. If it begins to be mentioned a lot in the media, especially on television, we can expect to have calls about it. People of a weak mental disposition are also much more likely to be influenced by cults, and messages spread by social networking sites can be equally dangerous."
In the meantime, residents of Bugarach are waiting anxiously as December 21, 2012 comes nearer although their threatened apocalypse seems far closer to home.