Apart from the free publicity, one of the first effects of the end-of-the-world prediction was a boost to the village’s real estate market. “Fifteen houses are currently for sale. I have been mayor of Bugarach for 34 years, and I have never seen this before,” says Jean-Pierre Delord. The prices asked are four to five times higher than usual…

This is because the apocalyptic prediction is only the latest in a long line of crazy theories about Bugarach. “This place is bubbling with activity!” admits the mayor. It seems there are a hundred reasons to come to this town in the middle of nowhere. Ufologists often visit, convinced that the peak is a garage for UFOs. None has ever sighted a vessel here, but believers say this makes sense because they travel so fast. Other visitors are eager to benefit from the magnetic waves emitted by the “magic mountain,” and find its “vortex,” or the secret passage towards a lost civilization. And yet others come looking for a treasure that an abbot is supposed to have hidden more than a hundred years ago.