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Pic de Bugarach: French commune home to 20,000 ‘doomsday cultists’ awaiting alien salvation

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An estimated 20,000 New Age believers who say the "upside down" mountain is home to aliens who will rescue them from an impending apocalypse have saturated a small French commune near the foot of the picturesque Pic de Bugarach.

The Independent reports the growing flock, whom locals refer to as "esoterics," believe the world will come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012. They also reportedly believe that the unique mountain is in fact home to a race of alien beings that will emerge to rescue the gathered humans and transport them to a new civilization.

Pic de Bugarach has long been famous because rock samples taken from its peak are actually older than points measured at lower elevations. Scientists say that is because when the 1,230-meter (4,040-foot) mountain erupted, its peak flipped upside down before crashing back down upon the mountain's base. The mountain is said to have played a role in inspiring everything from Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" to Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

The BBC reports that the French government is concerned about mass suicides taking place near Pic de Bugarach in advance of the Dec. 21 date and that there have been reports of "strange rituals" taking place there as well.

Last year, CNN filed a report on the apocalyptic rumors surrounding Pic de Bugarach:

The Independent notes some other rumors surrounding Pic de Bugarach, which included speculation that both Israel's Mossad and Nazis have performed "mysterious" excavation digs there.

"The apocalypse we believe in is the end of a certain world and the beginning of another," one of the New Age pilgrims going only by the name "Jean" tells the paper. "A new spiritual world. The year 2012 is the end of a cycle of suffering. Bugarach is one of the major chakras of the earth, a place devoted to welcoming the energies of tomorrow."

Up to 100,000 visitors are expected to flock to the scene before Dec. 21.

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