This week I thought I would introduce you to the Magic Mountain or the Pic de Bugarach which is close to Rennes-le-Chateau . The mountain is a bit of a geological freak in that its upper layers are considerably older than the lower ones owing to some upheaval of the Pyrenees way, way back in time. This gives the mountain its other name – the Upside-down mountain. The rock is limestone and a network of underground caverns and a river have occupied the hearts and minds of numerous believers in hidden worlds and magic going-ons for several centuries.
Most recently is the belief that the mountain provides a vast underground parking lot for alien spacecraft. According to the Mayan Apocalypse prophecy our world as we know it was to end in December 2012. That I missed the event is entirely due to my own lack of responsibility. However, those in the know (and more responsible), knew that some nice aliens would be on hand to airlift anyone on the mountain to safety. Between January and July 2011, the farming village of Bugarach (pop.200)received an influx of over twenty thousand visitors anxious to stake their place in the queue. Reports of strange rituals and men creeping around in white dresses emerged and the village made headlines in worldwide media.There was talk of a mass suicide and eventually after a government inquiry, the police blocked off access to the mountain. I don’t know if there is still a queue of hopeful emigrés waiting to hitch a ride.
Go back a bit further in time and we arrive at the story of Daniel Betex, a Swiss and a respectable security guard by day and explorer/truth seeker in his spare time. He was interested in the Medieval Cathar sect and fossicked about on the mountain, digging in to its secrets. He found a blocked entrance – possibly the gateway to the centre of the earth. He opened up the entrance and found the underground river with some sort of “mandmade” quay and other stone structures. But who lived and worked there? Betex then started to explore the basement of the ruined Chateau de Bugarach which, along with the village has Cathar associations, (those pesky Cathars – they get everywhere!) However, in the bowels of the chateau Betex found stones with carvings showing a container on a stretcher. Let’s not jump to conclusions but…does the Arc of the Covenant come to mind? No? Well not for me either. Yet it did attract the attention of Israeli general, Moshe Dayan and the Mossad (Israel secret service).
In 1988, Betex became really, really excited and wrote to a colleague about a fabulous deposit. Of what? A pile of fossilsed Woolly Mammoth poo? Who knows? He wrote to a colleague that he only needed four or five more days and then “you will be fabulously rich”. Alas, three days later the poor man was dead and his fabulous deposit died with him. Naturally there are questions about his death and different causes attributed. An interesting side point is that the French authorities concreted over the basement of the chateau where Betex had found the stones and refused to give permission for his work to be continued. All I will say is that in my experience the French are not particularly health and safety conscious.
The mountain is shrouded in mysteries as well as mist. It is said to give off a strange energy which I, being an insensitive soul, cannot say I noticed. Yet planes are not allowed to fly over it since it makes their instruments go haywire but being practical as well as insensitive I wonder if magnetism might not be the culprit rather than a bunch of aliens protecting their parking lot. Down the centuries, stories and legends have accumulated. There are some said to have secret knowledge about the secrets of the mountains but being secret, no-one actually knows of what this secret knowledge comprises. That’s the problem with secrets isn’t it?
But what an inspiration it has been to authors, particularly to French writers such as Gaston Leroux, George Sand, André Malraux and many others. Not forgetting of course Jules Verne with “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “Clovis Dardentor” in which he wrote about a secret entrance leading to an underground world where a mythical race lived. More recently, the mountain and, I guess, its history is thought to have provided Stephen Spielberg with the inspiration for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Perhaps it will prove an inspiration for one of the stories in my next book but I can’t say because it’s a secret.