UPDATE: In a statement to The Huffington Post, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment said that the French watchdog agency Miviludes mistakenly identified the school as being one of the sectarian groups present at Bugarach Peak. The statement said that the Ramtha School of Enlightenment does not hold apocalyptic beliefs and has no settlements in France.
Miviludes did not respond to multiple calls asking for comment.
Sects of doomsday believers have started descending on the tiny French town of Bugarach in the belief that it's the only place in the world that will survive the apocalypse they expect will occur on December 21, 2012, the BBC reports.
Many spiritual groups believe that Bugarach, a farming village of just 200 residents nestled on the French side of the Pyrenees, has magical powers that emanate from the overlooking mountain, the Pic de Bugarach, according to Time Magazine.
For years, Internet users have speculated that the mountain is inhabited by extraterrestrials that will emerge on the December 21, 2012 and take followers with them as human civilization comes to an end.
Since the beginning of the year, over 20,000 people have climbed to the top of the mountain to stake out the site and perform rituals, according to the town's mayor Jean-Pierre Delord.
"They think Pic de Bugarach is 'un garage à ovnis' [an alien garage]," Delord told The Independent. "The villagers are exasperated: the exaggerated importance of something which they see as completely removed from reality is bewildering. After December 21st, this will surely return to normal."
As more and more New Age visitors trek to the mountain, government watchdog agencies have begun tracking the sects as the town becomes increasingly vulnerable to scammers looking to capitalize on the growing apocalyptic fervor, Reuters reports.
Georges Fenech, president of the French watchdog agency Miviludes, told Reuters in 2011 that he flew over Bugarach in a helicopter and saw six settlements started by the American Ramtha School of Enlightenment. The group claims to follow the mystic teachings of an ancient warrior named Ramtha who battled the residents of Atlantis over 35,000 years ago and discovered the secret to immortality.
Another group referenced by Miviludes in connection with Bugarach, profiled in a 2010 annual report, is the Raelians, a religion founded by race car driver Claude Vorilhon that focuses on the belief that life on earth was designed by extraterrestrials.
Fenech told Reuters that in the months leading up to December 21st -- during which the population of Bugarach could balloon to 100,000 -- government agencies are taking special precaution to prevent mass suicides and other dangerous activities.
"I think we need to be careful. We shouldn't get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people," Fenech told Reuters.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed information about alleged Ramtha School of Enlightenment settlements in France to a 2010 report published by the French Agency Miviludes. Though the report did provide its own profile of the Ramtha School of Englightenment, it did not specifically say that the school had six settlements in France. That information came from the Reuters article "French village bemused by Apocalyptic strangers,” which stated that "the head of Miviludes, Georges Fenech says he flew over the area in a helicopter recently and saw six settlements of the U.S.-based Ramtha movement, founded by J.Z. Knight in 1998."
Watch CNN's report on the Bugarach activity below:
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