You have heard the stories, you have seen movie trailers and maybe you even know someone who believes. Did the ancient Maya civilization actually predict the end of the world in December 2012?
Shanil Verani, director of the John C Wells Planetarium at James Madison University, said the Maya were very smart.
"It's absolutely true that they had a fantastic calendar,” said Verani. “They were fantastic astronomers. They knew about the position of the planets in the nighttime sky. They could know, they were able to tell when the planets would rise and set, but many cultures did this," Verani said.
Verani explained, this is where the facts and the theories start to deviate from the truth. He said people have taken a kernel of truth and exaggerate it.
"The kernel in the Maya myth is that they had a calendar and that it's turning over. That's true. Both of those things are true. But, then they extrapolate from it into nonsense," said Verani.
The Maya long count calendar started over 5000 years ago and on Dec 21, the calendar does not end. It just marks the end of the 13th cycle. This long cycle is called a Baktun and each one lasts 144,000 days or 394.26 years. Verani said the calendar is really just resetting and not predicting a catastrophe.
"This is absolute nonsense, complete rubbish. The calendar comes to an end, our calendar comes to an end every year. It's called December 31. We flip the calendar, or we get a new one I should say, and we throw the old one in the trash can. That's exactly what they would have done. They would have just started a new cycle," said Verani.
He said that "massive solar storms," "an alignment of planets," or even an "alignment with the center of our galaxy" do not pose a threat.
"These are all scare tactics. These are all meant to either find some way to funnel money from you to these people to come up with some kind of gizmo that they can sell you, or to scare you," said Verani.
So who are the believers?
It was tough to find anyone in the area who did believe the world would "end" this December, but we did find people preparing for a change.
Freda is from the Valley and she has been preparing for the worst.
She is preparing, but not for what many people are calling the end of the world. Rather she wanted to prepare for big, world-wide changes.
She is stock piling years worth of food, saying that she has “just about run out of mason jars.”
Freda's stock pile also includes weapons and antibiotics.
"It could be a situation where somebody's got a wound, and they're getting infections or bronchitis, or pneumonia, or things that used to kill our forefathers," said Freda.
These "preppers," as they are often called, say the Maya calendar may have first incited their curiosity and fear. Further research has led many of them to believe the date may just mark a new era of human history. It is a new era that they believe deems preparation.
Freda said preppers simply take a sense of self responsibility to be able to survive as best they can on their own.
"I can not express enough my concern about women's hygiene. Get those tampons stacked up and pads," said Freda.
Freda has her own YouTube channel and runs her own business to try and help others.
If we have a devastating storm, earthquake, economic collapse, viral outbreak or any other disaster, Freda explained she wants to be able to help herself and won't need to rely on anyone else or the government.
For those who still may fear the December 2012 apocalypse, Verani said to view the Maya calendar like an odometer in your car.
"It's just like your odometer that's at 99,999 miles and the next mile you drive, it turns over to 100,000 miles right? That's exactly what this calendar is going to do," said Verani.
Archaeologists also believe as recently as 2010, they found a new Maya calendar that carries on an additional 4,000 years beyond the 21st century.
© Copyright 2014 WHSV / Gray Television Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.