According to legend, the mountain once swallowed an evil sorcerer who will be released on doomsday in a ball of fire that will hit the mountain top. The inside of the mountain will then open up, becoming a safe place to hide as the sorcerer goes on to destroy the rest of the world. In the meantime, some old coal mine shafts have been opened up as safe rooms.
On Friday a New Age group called "The Spirit of Rtanj" was holding a conference there. Participants, however, said they expect not the end of time but the start of a new time cycle. Locals turned out to sell brandy and herbs.
"There will be no tragedy, no doomsday," said resident Dalibor Jovic. "It was supposed to happen at 12:12 and I think that time has passed. So, we can now go on with our lives and be happy to be alive."
A small Turkish village known for its wines, Sirince, has also been touted as the only place after Bugarach that would escape the world's end. But on Friday journalists and security officials outnumbered cultists. This outcome disappointed local business people who had prepared a range of doomsday products to sell, including a specially labeled Doomsday wine and Turkish delight candy whose "best before" date was Dec. 21, 2012. One restaurant prepared a special "last meal" menu that included a "heaven kebab" and "forbidden fruit dessert."
Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, a beautiful small town in southern Italy in an area of trulli, traditional dry stone huts with conical roofs. The notion that Cisternino could be a safe haven at world's end derives from an Indian guru, Babaji, who said "Cisternino will become an island" at world's end. His followers built a community in Cisternino centered on an ashram built in 1979. Hotel bookings are up this weekend.
Mayor Donato Baccaro told the AP that the beauty of the place has inspired many foreigners to live there. "This confirms that this place has a special energy," he said.
A fringe Christian group has been spreading rumors about the world's impending end, prompting Chinese authorities to detain more than 500 people this week and seize leaflets, video discs, books and other material.
Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, also called Eastern Lightning, which preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China. Authorities in the province of Qinghai say they are waging a "severe crackdown" on the group, accusing it of attacking the Communist Party and the government.
Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday. The fears were exacerbated by the recent shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, which "changed all of us," the school system in Genesee County said. "Canceling school is the right thing to do."
Associated Press writers Florent Bajrami in Bugarach, France; Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow; Peppino Ciraci in Cisternino, Italy; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey; Paisley Dodds in London; and Dejan Mladenovic in Mount Rtanj, Serbia, contributed to this report.