BALTIMORE - It's December 21. A loud bang outside startles you, and you jump out of bed. You run to the window to see people running around in the neighbor's yard. You think, "Is this Mayan calendar stuff legit?"
If that happens to you on December 21, the chance the ruckus is a doomsday party making light of the long-forecast event is far greater than an actual doomsday date – at least in the eyes of Mayan calendar doomsday gifts salesman Seth Franz.
Locked deep in the basement of a Baltimore area office building, Franz has been researching the Mayan calendar and doomsday forecast. His research led to a marketing campaign built on how he views the upcoming date – a great time for a party.
"There's going to be a lot of parties," Franz says.
Franz has sold from his Doomsday Jesters collection of nine t-shirt designs, DIESTRONG wristbands, VIP passes to the pearly gates, ascension robes, countdown clocks and other gag gifts to customers in nearly every region of the country.
He says he isn't the only one making fun of the Mayan doomsday prediction, and he believes that's a good thing.
"People are out there trying to stir up fears, and children are contemplating suicide," he says.
"There's nothing to back it up. It's just another doomsday date that will have its spot on the timeline of doomsday predictions, and we'll look back on it and say, ‘remember that? That was crazy. I can't believe people believed in it.'"
Don't take Franz's word for it, NASA released a report earlier this week that debunks Mayan calendar doomsday fears.
"There are things that make sense, and there are things that make no sense," Franz says. "…It's not something that anyone should believe. There's just no signs to back it up. NASA's come out a number of times, and NASA has actual things they need to be doing. Instead, they're doing press releases."
Franz is closing in on nearly 365 straight days of making fun of the Mayan apocalypse. Ask him how much time he has spent on developing products, marketing and helping customers, and he will struggle to come up with a number. But, when it's all over on December 22, he says it will have been worth every minute of work. He's found enjoyment in every day, even as demand increases the closer the calendar gets to the December 21 doomsday date.
"It's definitely picked up, and it's kept me very, very busy. It's been fun. …I'm getting orders all of the time. … It's hard to not think it's funny. This stuff is fun," he says.
Franz's products have been well-received. He's been on radio airwaves coast-to-coast and people everywhere are finding his Doomsday Jesters website and ordering products. His customer base has become a little wider than he expected. He says among those just looking for a good reason to party are actual preppers that see the satire in his temporary business venture.
"There's stuff for preppers and jesters alike," Franz said with a grin from ear-to-ear. "There's way more preppers than you would think."
How many? Franz said he's heard the community of those preparing for the next big disaster/war is as large as three million people.
"I was much better received by the preppers community than I thought I would be, which is fortunate. They are able to separate it. I'm really making fun of this particular Mayan apocalypse thing. They are not preparing for a Mayan apocalypse. They want to make sure they are prepared in case a disaster hits."
Franz says those affiliated with the show Doomsday Preppers found his website, and the feedback on his products has been good.
"One of the guys from National Geographic bought his whole team 11 insurances," Franz said. "He said that he buys them something every year that has some affiliation with a show that they work on, and this is what they found that relates to Doomsday Preppers."
As he helps provide others with the novelties they need to make their Mayan calendar doomsday party a success, he ponders how he will spend the day. He says he has several parties from which to choose.
Among doomsday parties are a party in Pennsylvania that is expected to see more than 1,000 people and a party hosted by 98 Rock in Baltimore at Voltage Night Club.
"December 21, 2012 is the best day that you can possibly have a party," Franz says.
And as you plan to party the night away Franz hopes you will order some of his stuff, because much of it is irrelevant on December 22.
"This was something that had a defined time period. You can only lose or make so much money from it," Franz said. "All of that was appealing."