the World End in 2012?
Thousands Worldwide Prepare for the Apocalypse,
Expected in 2012
By CHRISTINE BROUWER
July 3, 2008
Two years ago, Patrick Geryl, then 51, quit
his job as a laboratory worker for a French oil
company. He'd saved up just enough money to last
him until December 2012. After that, he thought,
he wouldn't need it anyway.
Unprecedented catastrophe will precede the
end of the world in 2012, believers say, such
as massive earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic
eruptions, among other calamities.
(ABC News Photo Illustration)
Instead, Geryl, a soft-spoken man who had studied
chemistry in his younger years, started preparing
for the apocalypse. He founded a "survival
group" for likeminded men and women, aimed
at living through the catastrophe he knew was
He started gathering materials necessary to survive
— water purifiers, wheelbarrows (with spare
tires), dust masks and vegetable seeds. His list
of survival goods runs 11 pages long.
"You have to understand, there will be nothing,
nothing left," Geryl told ABC News from his
home in Antwerp, Belgium. "We will have to
start an entire civilization from scratch."
That's because Geryl believes the world as we
know it will end in 2012. He points to the ancient
Mayan cyclical calendars, the longest of which
last renewed itself approximately 5,125 years
ago and is set to end again, supposedly with catastrophic
consequences, in 2012. He speaks of the ancient
Egyptians, who, he claims, saw 2012 as a year
of great change too. And he points to science:
NASA predicts a sharp increase in the number of
sunspots and sun flares for 2012, he said, sure
to cause electrical failures and satellite disruptions.
All this adds up, Geryl said, to unprecedented
catastrophe. First, a polar reversal will cause
the north to become the south and the sun to rise
in the west. Shattering earthquakes, massive tidal
waves and simultaneous volcanic eruptions will
follow. Nuclear reactors will melt, buildings
will crumble, and a cloud of volcanic dust will
block out the sun for 40 years. Only the prepared
will survive, Geryl said, and not even all of
These may sound like the ravings of a madman,
or perhaps the head of a small apocalyptic sect.
But Geryl is not the only one who believes in
the apocalypse. Thousands of people worldwide
seem to be preparing, in one way or another, for
the end of days in 2012. Survival groups exist
in Europe, Canada and the United States. A simple
Google search for "2012" and "the
end of the world" brings up nearly 300,000
hits. And the video-sharing Web site YouTube hosts
more than 65,000 clips informing and warning viewers
about their fate in 2012.
"It's bigger than Y2K," said Mark van
Stone, a specialist of Mayan hieroglyphic writings
and author of a forthcoming book on 2012. "The
year is like a pop song or a popular movie. You
type in 2012, and you get hundreds of thousands
Dennis McClung, 28, a project manager for Home
Depot from Phoenix, Ariz., runs one of the Web
sites dedicated to 2012, an online
survival supply store, which sells gas masks,
knife kits, bullet-proof vests and more.
"I'm not a firm believer in one specific
prophecy," said McClung, who runs his site
with his wife, Danielle. "But I think we
ought to be prepared for anything."
Even with December 2012 still 4½ years
away, McClung said business is booming. His Web
site, which features an "official 2012 countdown"
clock and exhorts customers to "be smart,
be ready," averages several thousand visitors
a week. McClung's best-sellers, he said, are emergency
medical supplies and water purifiers.
"I get a lot of hits from India. I get a
lot of hits from the Netherlands," McClung
said. "But my No. 1 customer is the U.S."
One of those customers is Thomas Lehmann, a 25-year-old
factory worker from Cape Girardeau, Mo. Lehmann
said he started researching 2012 when he was 12
years old, and still spends about two hours a
day reading about the topic both online and in
books. He said he is saving money for survival
"Whatever happens, I'm just trying to be
prepared for it," Lehmann said. "I'm
just learning to be independent of the system.
I mean electricity, vehicles, alternate sources
of energy. I'm learning to live without gas, basically
"If this stuff does happen," Lehmann
said, adding, "I have a way to eat. I can
hunt, I can fish and I can purify water. I think
it's people in the big cities that need to be
worried. People that can't provide for themselves."
But for all the hype, there is little evidence
the ancient Maya ever intended for the end of
their calendar to be read as a portent for disaster.
"These prophecies of doom really don't have
any basis in what we know about the Maya,"
said Stephen Houston, a professor of anthropology
at Brown University and a specialist of Maya hieroglyphic
writing. "The Maya descriptions barely talk
about this event."
Instead, Houston said, the Maya saw their "long
count" — the longest of their cyclical
calendars — coming to an end in 2012 but
also beginning anew on that date, without disastrous
"Really, it's a conversion of people's anxieties
about our times, and finding some remote mythological
precedent or prediction of it," Houston said
about the origins of the current 2012 myths. "People
like to believe that ancient wisdom is somehow
predicting this time of upheaval."
John Hall, a professor of sociology at the University
of California Davis who is writing a book on the
history of apocalyptic ideas, agreed. He said
movements predicting the end of the world often
reflect a much larger nervousness about the state
of our society.
"Terrorism, 9/11, ecological disasters,
floods and earthquakes," Hall said. "[There
is] a sense that modern civilization has had its
run. Those kinds of anxieties are much more widely
shared than simply among people who believe in
the exact date."
To Lehmann, though, those very events are warnings
of what's to come.
"We had Hurricane Katrina, the recent cyclone
in Myanmar," Lehmann said. "We've got
major flooding in Iowa. We're always going to
have natural disasters. But they are picking up
quite frequently now."
Lehmann said he eventually hoped to move away
from Cape Girardeau, built on the banks of the
Mississippi River, to the higher plains of southwest
Missouri to keep safe from the floods sure to
follow the earthquakes of 2012.
Geryl and his Belgian and Dutch followers have
similar intentions, though their plan will take
them much farther from home. They are looking
to buy a plot of land high up in African mountains,
where they'll be able to withstand the monstrous
tidal waves and wait out the cloud of volcanic
dust that they said would block out the sun.
Geryl said the group has recently zeroed in on
a location, but won't reveal his find for fear
of tipping off rival survival groups in the United
States and Canada. On that land, Geryl's group,
whose core membership consists of 16 people but
whose wait list supposedly lists hundreds, will
build concrete dwellings or outfit caves for survival.
After the cloud clears, Geryl said, they will
attempt to create a new, better civilization.
"A guiding principle will be to keep the
world population as small as possible so as not
to get into the same problems we face now,"
Geryl said, adding that the group is currently
looking for sponsors and hopes to move to Africa
in 2011. "There is too little oil, too little
grain in the world now. Those are the kinds of
problems we want to avoid."
One of the group's members, Jan, a 57-year-old
carpenter from Amsterdam whose name has been changed
because he doesn't want to be identified in the
press, recently drove five hours to attend one
of Geryl's meetings in Antwerp.
"I thought, if there's a chance that we
can start a new civilization, I want to contribute,"
Jan told ABC News. "Because whether I make
it or not, and there's only a small chance I will,
this is important."
Jan, who has never been married and has no children,
said he has lost friends over 2012.
"All the people I've ever told about this
have declared me crazy," he said. "It
makes people feel uncomfortable. Now I just keep
it to myself."
Geryl said he found comfort in sharing his knowledge
with others. Since "discovering" what
the future holds, he has written three books on
2012 and maintains
a Web site on the subject.
When asked what would happen if December 2012
were to come and go without the earthquakes and
tsunamis of his predictions, Geryl fell silent.
"I don't really contemplate that possibility,"
he said. "[My predictions] are so spectacular,
they can't possibly be wrong."