At least seventy artifacts at Berlin's Museum Island museums, including paintings and Egyptian sarcophagi, were sprayed with an oily substance earlier this month in what officials describe as the largest attack on museum artifacts in postwar German history. The attack occurred on October 3 but was only made public this week. While the attacker is unknown, German police tied the attack to social media posts from Attila Hildmann, a conspiracy theorist with fringe ideas about COVID-19, who claimed that the famous Pergamon Altar of Zeus, on display at the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island, was the "throne of Satan." The altar is currently undergoing conservation and is not on display. A digital recreation of it was attacked, however.
This week two more celebrities announced their supposed encounters with space aliens, and it was about what you would expect. The less surprising was Miley Cyrus, who told Interview magazine that she was traumatized by a flying saucer that she witnessed while high on drugs:
I am pleased to announce that my new nonfiction novel exploring midcentury moral panics through flying saucers and the life of movie star James Dean has been picked up by a New York literary agent, who will be representing it to publishers. My agent also represents an Oprah Book Club selection and several award winners. In the coming weeks, we will be working together to sharpen the book proposal for submission to some of the larger publishing houses. Of course, this means that I actually have to stick the landing on this one and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Up until now, that was a theoretical concern.
Not long after celebrating Leif Erikson as the first European to “discover” America, the White House issued another proclamation marking the Columbus Day holiday with a dark message mixing effusive praise for the violent explorer with angry ranting about ideologues who are trying to destroy traditionally heroic historical narratives. The proclamation began on an odd note, praising Italian-Americans in stereotypical terms straight out of a 1950s Hollywood movie, writing of immigrants being inspired by Columbus to journey to the United States to bring to these shores their “rich Italian heritage,” “warmth and generosity,” and “love of family.” It was not Columbus that drove Italians to America, but the rampant poverty of southern Italy and the indifference of the Piedmont ruling class to the plight of the conquered peoples of the south they had recently added to the new Kingdom of Italy. But, sure, whatever. Then the proclamation got weird.
A powerful storm hit eastern New York on Wednesday and took out electrical service for much of the area. While some parts of the region are still without power, fortunately my power has been restored. My internet service came back on just before 10 PM last night. As a result, I have been unable to keep up with my usual work this week. However, I could not let the week pass without noting the proclamation that Pres. Trump issued yesterday declaring Oct. 9 to be Leif Erikson Day, in honor of the Norse explorer often credited as the first European to reach the Americas.
Last week, I wrote about the recent appearance of Brian Muraresku on Joe Rogan’s podcast to discuss the use of psychedelic drugs in ancient times, particularly in the mixed drink known as kykeon served to initiates during the Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece. Part of their conversation revolved around the 1978 book The Road to Eleusis, whose coauthor, Carl Ruck, consulted with and advised Muraresku in his own work. This past week, I heard from Ruck, who argued that my commentary was incorrect and has asked me to retract my blog post due to the “dismay and distress” it has caused his associates. He copied the email to Muraresku.
This week, Graham Hancock appeared alongside his self-described protege, author Brian Muraresku, on The Joe Rogan Experience to discuss spirituality, archaeology, and psychedelic topics. Truthfully, I don’t really have a lot to complain about in the general thesis that ancient people were aware of and used mind-altering substances, or that such substances may have impacted their experiences of the divine. However, I feel like Muraresku overstates the case, particularly when he argues that scholarship has forbidden any discussion of the subject since a damnatio memoriae pronounced on the 1978 book The Road to Eleusis and its argument about psychedelics in Greece. For decades, dozens of books have covered the subject, so it is not a forbidden topic, or at least hasn’t been in thirty years.
Kevin Burns, the prolific Emmy-winning producer of such pseudohistorical and reality television programs as Curse of Oak Island and Ancient Aliens, died yesterday, according to social media posts from friends and colleagues. Burns was 65 years old.
War of the Gods: Alien Skulls, Underground Cities, and Fire from the Sky
Erich von Däniken | New Page Books | Sept. 2020 | 214 pages | ISBN: 1632651718 | $17.95
Years go by with the inevitable cycle of the seasons repeating their majestic rounds. After winter, summer. After summer, winter. And with the regularity of the season, so too does Erich von Däniken release a new book, and with the same repetition as the seasons. Each book is the same as all the books before, and each one begins with the ritual of pretending otherwise. War of the Gods, originally published in German 2018 but released in English for the first time this month, starts with a letter in which von Däniken (henceforth EVD) proclaims with great excitement news that he imagines will surprise his readers: “In this book, I present new findings!” Unfortunately, there is an ominous note: “But it is only possible by building on previous experiences.” Each winter brings a different snowstorm but you always know it will snow. So, too, do you know that whatever soupçon of new material appears in War of the Gods will be buried in a blizzard of recycling. He frequently refers to his own books, the books of guests on Ancient Aliens, and to claims made on the Ancient Aliens television show itself, recycling in an endless loop of previous claims tracing back to his own earliest efforts to recycle Morning of the Magicians to his own advantage.
Most people who have studied the weirder parts of the twentieth century are aware that L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame had a longstanding antagonistic relationship with the Feds. In my research for my new book, I discovered how Hubbard’s Dianetics intersected with a Red Scare flap that sparked federal interest in Hubbard at exactly the wrong time and set off a decades-long hostile relationship. As best I can tell, no one has previously written about the impact of the now-forgotten Reuben L. Revens scandal on the FBI’s eventual interest in Dianetics, so here is the outline of a disturbing story. I compiled it from FBI documents, Ben Bradlee’s memoir, and a year’s worth of reporting in the Washington Evening Star. I’ll caution you here that some of the details about sexual exploitation are upsetting.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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