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Doom-seekers disappointed at Griffith Observatory event

December 21, 2012 |  9:10 pm
Griffith Observatory visitors on Friday. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

It was rumored to be the end of the world, but the only disaster at Grffith Observatory  on Friday night was the parking situation.

Hundreds of Angelenos jammed the roads leading to the observatory at a special gathering dubbed "NOT the end of the world." They lined up to peer through a telescope that can magnify the night sky by a thousand times and attend programs titled "Time's Up!" And "Doomed...or Not."

Danny Frankel, of Watts, endured a two-hour bus ride to the observatory to check out the event. He's never believed the Maya prophecy for a minute and doesn't know anyone who does.

"I don't even think people really think the world's ending," Frankel said. "But they just like to talk about it."

Rick Matlock, 40, of San Pedro, said he came to the observatory to help his son, a Cub Scout, earn an astronomy badge. The rumors have never troubled him.

"I woke up this morning and  checked Facebook, and guess what? Everyone was still alive," Matlock said.

Quashing the Maya apocalypse rumor has taken nearly a decade, said Griffith astronomical observer Anthony Cook. The rumors began in 2002, when conspiracy theorists decided that the observatory's closing was an attempt to hide the passage of a secret planet, Nbiru, which according to one theory is supposed to crash into the earth Dec. 21.

"Of course, we were just under renovation," Cook said.

Director Ed Krupp said media attention of "this Mayan calendar business," began to create public anxiety. He fielded calls from nervous parents and teachers, while observatory guides reported that Maya apocalypse questions dominated the conversations on tours.

Finally, as the day approached, the observatory staff decided to respond.

"We decided, well, we'll stay open and get everyone past the 13th Baktun," Krupp said, referring to the Maya calendar period that is supposed to end.

Krupp says the rumor has largely run its course.

"For the most part, it's just kind of a hoot," Krupp said.

But if the world does end in Friday's final hours, then Michael Kirkpatrick is going to be out $1,000.

The 61-year-old retiree was fed up with "people believing what they want to believe" and struck a bet with his sister, who he called a "crystal gazer." He plans to collect when he heads over to her house for Christmas.

"I know she's going to [skip out] on it, though," Kirkpatrick said.


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 -- Frank Shyong

Photo: Griffith Observatory visitors on Friday. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times