Apocalypse Believers Flock to Mountain

Like a scene from the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," hundreds of people are being drawn to a uniquely formed mountain peak in the Carpathian Mountains hoping that its magnetic force will save them from a coming apocalypse.

The pyramid shaped peak, the legend goes, was created by aliens many thousands of years ago.

"We all know that aliens have been there for thousands of years," says Vladimir Petrovic, the editor of a Belgrade-based publishing company specializing in esoteric literature. "They may be the forces who will help us get through this time."

The end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar, is scheduled for eight days from now on Dec. 21.

Their theory is that Mt Rtanj's pyramidal structure which rises 5,400 feet (1.656 meters) in the Serbian Carpathian Mountains was shaped by aliens many thousands of years ago, and that it will radiate a force field that will protect everyone in its vicinity from the end-of-the-world disaster.

The legend has drawn hundreds from the region as well as Austrians, French as well as Australians.

There are several problems for these fear-filled folks, including the fact that so many have flocked to Rtanj that hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts are booked solid and overflowing.

Village inn-keeper Milorad Jovanovic, who normally offers rooms in summer only, said he had received numerous calls from people wishing to book rooms from Dec. 14 through early January.

"People know I'm closed in the winter," claims Jovanovic. "But those people said they wanted to come a week before the apocalypse and book over a week afterward to see what happens."

Another problem is the blizzard that has buried the area in snow.

"I don't know how they plan to get here with so much snow around," says Jovanovic.

"We are 50 locals, mostly elderly people," says Snezana Jablanovic from a near-by village of Ilovo. "We don't know what to do with hundreds of apocalypse believers showing up. My place is for four people. Now I already have six of them staying."

In Rtanj, even the most pragmatic visitors acknowledged the special atmosphere of the place, silent and vibrant.

"Things appear more clearly there," said Zlatko Scepanovic, a blogger who researched the mystery of Rtanj and spend time there last year. "When you climb Rtanj, you feel that it is the beginning of a new life, a turning point."

Some reports the making rounds on the Internet suggest that planes never fly over the mountain because of supposedly strong magnetic waves.

Says Zoran Milosevic, a businessman from the mountain town of Boljevac, "People built an entire myth around the magnetism of the mountain."

For some it's more than myth. A conference entitled the Rtanj-Galactic Contact has been scheduled for Dec. 21 to discuss the mountain's alleged magnetism, and any possible connection to the apocalypse predicted in the Mayan calendar. In an expression of optimism, perhaps, there are meetings scheduled for Dec. 22 and 23, and all of this will get live TV coverage by the privately-owned broadcaster Prva Srpska TV.

Fear of a 2012 apocalypse has gone pandemic, with people buying candles and survival shelters in the U.S., Russia and China.

But for those who have found shelter on Mt. Rtanj, there is an added benefit. For survivors of the apocalypse, there is a morning-after treat, a taste of Rtanj's famous mountain tea, made from savory, and the local legend says, a powerful aphrodisiac. Nothing alien about that.

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