Mike Curtiss (23
Subculture of Americans prepares for
(Reuters) - When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home
overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia,
she sees trouble on the horizon.
"In an instant, anything can happen," she told Reuters. "And I
firmly believe that you have to be prepared."
Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to
themselves informally as "preppers." Some are driven by a fear
of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about
terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating
series of natural disasters is leading to some type of
They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who
set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a
materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who
were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an
increasingly secular and oppressive government.
Preppers, though are, worried about no government.
Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a
"survival center," complete with a large generator, portable
heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food
that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present. She
says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely
in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon.
"I think this economy is about to fall apart," she said.
A wide range of vendors market products to preppers, mainly
online. They sell everything from water tanks to guns to
Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck seems to preach
preppers' message when he tells listeners: "It's never too late
to prepare for the end of the world as we know it."
"Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of
our modern technological society, the chances of a societal
collapse are increasing year after year," said author James
Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding
light of the prepper movement.
A former Army intelligence officer, Rawles has written fiction
and non-fiction books on end-of-civilization topics, including
"How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It," which is
also known as the preppers' Bible.
"We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls,
stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass
street protests, and riots," he told Reuters. "The worst-case
end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency
collapses, and long term power grid failures."
A sense of "suffering and being afraid" is usually at the root
of this kind of thinking, according to Cathy Gutierrez, an
expert on end-times beliefs at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.
Such feelings are not unnatural in a time of economic recession
and concerns about a growing national debt, she said.
"With our current dependence on things from the electric grid to
the Internet, things that people have absolutely no control
over, there is a feeling that a collapse scenario can easily
emerge, with a belief that the end is coming, and it is all out
of the individual's control," she told Reuters.
She compared the major technological developments of the past
decade to the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s and 1840s,
which led to the growth of the Millerites, the 19th-Century
equivalent of the preppers. Followers of charismatic preacher
Joseph Miller, many sold everything and gathered in 1844 for
what they believed would be the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Many of today's preppers receive inspiration from the Internet,
devouring information posted on websites like that run by
attorney Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse
blog out of his home in northern Idaho.
"Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the
old days," he said. "You could be living next door to a prepper
and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare
rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on
Like other preppers, Snider is worried about the end of a
functioning U.S. economy. He points out that tens of millions of
Americans are on food stamps and that many U.S. children are
living in poverty.
"Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly
wrong, but that doesn't mean that they understand what is
happening," he said. "A lot of Americans sense that a massive
economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it."
So, assuming there is no collapse of society -- which the
preppers call "uncivilization" -- what is the future of the
Gutierrez said that unlike the Millerites -- or followers of
radio preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end
last year -- preppers are not setting a date for the coming
destruction. The Mayan Calendar predicts doom this December.
"The minute you set a date, you are courting disconfirmation,"
Tegeler, who recalls being hit by tornadoes and floods in her
southwestern Virginia home, said that none of her "survival
center" products will go to waste.
"I think it's silly not to be prepared," she said. "After all,
anything can happen."