Though the Mayans never really predicted that the world would end on Friday, some New Agers are convinced that humanity's demise is indeed imminent. Or at least that it's a good excuse for a party.
Believers are being drawn to spots where they think their chances of survival will be better, and accompanying them are the curious, the party-lovers, and people wanting to make some money.
In Mexico, about 1,000 self-described shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, and swamis are gathering in a convention center in the city of Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula about an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, convinced that it was a good start to the coming ''New Era'' that is supposed to begin around 5 a.m. local time Friday. These are not people who believe the world will end on Friday: The summit is scheduled to run through Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, Mexico's self-styled ''brujo mayor,'' or chief soothsayer, Antonio Vazquez Alba, warned followers to stay away from all gatherings on Dec. 21. ''We have to beware of mass psychosis'' that could lead to stampedes or ''mass suicides, of the kind we've seen before,'' he said.
In France, according to one rumor, a rocky mountain in the French Pyrenees will be the sole place on earth to escape destruction. A giant UFO and aliens are said to be waiting under the mountain, ready to burst through and spirit those nearby to safety. But here is bad news for those seeking salvation: French gendarmes, some on horseback, are blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people.
For $1,500, a Russian museum is offering salvation from the world's end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's underground bunker in central Moscow — with a 50 percent refund if nothing happens.
The bunker, located 210 feet below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Now home to a small museum, it has an independent electricity supply, water, and food — but no more room, because the museum has already sold out all 1,000 tickets.
In Britain, hundreds of people have already converged on Stonehenge for an ''End of the World'' party that coincides with the Winter Solstice.
Arthur Uther Pendragon, Britain's best-known druid, said he was anticipating a much larger crowd than usual at Stonehenge this year. But he doesn't agree that the world is ending, noting that he and fellow druids believe that things happen in cycles.
Some Serbs are saying to forget that sacred mountain in the French Pyrenees. The place to go Friday will be Mount Rtanj, a pyramid-shaped peak in Serbia already drawing cultists.
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 Thursday there were more journalists and security officials present there than cultists — to the great disappointment of local restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners.
Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, in southern Italy, plans a big party Friday with hot-air balloons and music in the main piazza.
For some in the United States, doomsday will be a chance for mockery.
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, producer and host of the History Channel's ''Ancient Aliens'' program, is throwing a party in New Orleans on Friday where he will descend onstage in a mock spaceship. Tsoukalos is a leading proponent of the idea that ancient myths arose from visits by alien astronauts, an idea rejected by many mainstream researchers.