Josh Gates Walks Back Endorsement of Ancient Astronaut Theory, But Claims Ancient Achievements Cannot Be Explained
This week’s episode of Expedition Unknown: Hunt for Extraterrestrials was really boring. It involved host Josh Gates listening to a group of Zimbabweans describe a mass UFO sighting that occurred in 1994, followed by a trip to Rendlesham Forest to listen to yet another iteration of the same routine set of mystery-mongering interviews with the UFO profiteers who have made a thirty-year career out of an alleged encounter with a spacecraft that has been debunked over and over again. We saw this a few months ago on Ancient Aliens (not to mention several times before), and the Science Channel, and Destination America, and some online articles, and practically everywhere UFOs are sold. Gates added nothing to the discussion except to give far too much credence to some fairly dubious claims, to the exclusion of reasonable explanations.
Chapman University Survey Finds Majority of Americans Now Believe in Ancient Advanced Civilization, While a Third Believe in Ancient Astronauts
Something bad is going on in America, and I’m not entirely sure whom to blame. For the past few years Chapman University has conducted a Halloween-themed study of paranormal and superstitious beliefs tied to Americans’ worst fears. Included in the survey questions were items related to subjects of interest to us: ancient astronauts, lost advanced civilizations, etc. The latest survey was released this week, and for the first time a clear majority of American now professes to believe in a lost Ice Age civilization similar to Atlantis. Across the board, fringe history beliefs reached new heights. People write to me all the time to ask why I bother to talk about “crazy” topics like aliens and Atlantis. I am flabbergasted to report now that it is because more Americans now believe in Atlantis than do not.
Last week the Travel Channel launched Expedition Unknown: The Hunt for Extraterrestrials, and in the second episode, “Ancient Visitors,” which aired last night, host Josh Gates got down to ancient astronautics and went in search of evidence of prehistoric alien contact on Easter Island, a popular location with the Ancient Aliens crowd. He also delved into to the panspermia hypothesis, another popular recent fixture of Ancient Aliens. As with the previous outing, there wasn’t much content, but it is probably worth noting the influence of History’s flagship show in that Gates refers to ancient astronauts as “ancient aliens,” the trademarked term popularized by his cable rival. The real news, however, occurred in the after show, when Gates and the production crew seemed to express their own belief in the ancient astronaut theory and their conviction that the past is essentially unknowable.
Jason Reza Jorjani's Efforts to Expand Alt-Right to the Alt-White End in Predictable, but Satisfying, Failure
Fringe history, ancient astronauts, and UFOs have a long history with Nazis. A recent booklet explored how some of the earliest UFO researchers (who also wrote ancient astronaut material under the guise of ufology) were connected to Neo-Nazi groups. Jacques de Maheiu was a Vichy official who later headed a Neo-Nazi group and Miguel Serrano literally worshiped Hitler. Frank Joseph headed the American Nazi Party, and even Chariots of the Gods, officially credited to Erich von Däniken, was in reality largely rewritten and edited by Wilhelm Utermann, a Nazi author and editor who worked at the Nazi party’s official newspaper. It’s pretty much Nazis all the way down
Since there was no new episode of Ancient Aliens this week, I am left with a bit of space to fill. Here in Albany, we’re enjoying some unusual summerlike weather on this first weekend of fall. I will confess to feeling a bit lazy, and the fringe history crew seems to be unusually quiet this week. I guess I could write about David Wilcock’s recent claim that unknown forces attempted to murder him by cutting his brake lines, but then I’d have to discuss his claim that this was related to alleged UFO contactee Corey Goode’s allegation that these same forces are responsible for Child Protective Services investigating his admittedly unstable household—after all, he pretends that he spends half his time traveling from his living room to outer space while his kids are presumably sleeping upstairs. (Nothing resulted from the investigation, according to Wilcock, and both men allege that one of their many enemies made a false report to CPS as a malicious attack on Goode.) But the whole thing is just so sad in light of Wilcock’s discussions of his mental health issues that I do not feel comfortable giving this story too much space. Wilcock, for what’s it worth, also now claims that the Jewish world conspiracy tried to recruit him as a double agent against Goode, through the offices of the Rothschild Jewish world controllers. It just gets sadder and worse from there, and the folie à dieux of Wilcock and Goode two depresses me greatly.
Next month, the Travel Channel is sending Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates on a “special event” in which he goes in search of “the mother of all questions.” Do I even have to say that he’s doing a multi-episode hunt for ancient astronauts and UFOs? While I have every confidence that Gates will fail to find ET (since he’s never found any other myth he’s looked for), the fact that the ancient astronaut theory—for which, read “ripping off the more popular Ancient Aliens”—is seen as a ratings-grabbing “event” is about as depressing as it gets in the shady world of unscripted cable TV. Almost a decade after Ancient Aliens debuted, it remains the platonic ideal of cable TV programming: lazy, cheap, and wildly popular. Stay on the air long enough, and every program ends up talking about space aliens.
And becomes repetitive. That, too. Ancient Aliens has covered the Stone Age Turkish site of Göbekli Tepe, a 12,000-year-old stone temple complex, many times in the past. Off the top of my head, I know of at least six episodes that discuss it, but I’m sure I am forgetting some. It should probably be obvious that the producers of the show were paying attention a few months ago when some Graham Hancock super-fans decided to try to cast Hancock and Andrew Collins’s speculations about the astronomical orientation of the ancient temple complex in academic language in an obscure academic journal, spawning a media frenzy among the uncritical who failed to realize that the academic authors basically just repeated Andrew Collins (though I am surprised that they did not mention the article by name). I give them this much credit, however: Ancient Aliens makes no bones about revisiting a well-worn topic. The title of S12E16 is “Return to Göbekli Tepe,” conceding that we have been down this path before.
Daughter of Ancient Astronaut Believer Plans to Continue Father's Effort to Find Ecuadoran Cave of Alien Gold
Oh, joy… The Ecuadoran cave of gold is back again. More than 40 years ago astronaut Neil Armstrong joined an expedition to find and explore the supposed repository of extraterrestrial artifacts that had been brought to popular attention in ancient astronaut theorist Erich von Däniken’s 1972 book Gold of the Gods. In that volume, von Däniken claimed to have descended into a cave in Ecuador where he saw fabulous golden artifacts and books made of gold written in no earthly language. However, in an interview with Playboy magazine, he admitted that the story was false, that he had never gone down into the cave, and that the story of the golden library was “dramaturgisch Effekte” or “theatrical effect.” He then claimed that he lied because he feared that the Ecuadorian government would assassinate him should he actually do what he pretended to do.
I guess when a favorite piece of evidence for ancient astronauts is debunked as little more than a hoax, you have two choices: You can accept the verdict of reason, or you can fight it. Ancient Aliens has made the unusual choice to try to rehabilitate the fake Dropa Stones, a hoax that first appeared in a German vegetarian magazine in July 1962 before being popularized by books like Peter Kolosimo’s Not of This World. The Dropa Stone hoax became popular enough that Sputnik magazine used a picture of one such stone as part of the cover illustration for an article on Uzbekistan “alien” cave art that Erich von Däniken later mistook for the art itself. The stones, it goes without saying, have never been shown to exist outside of the imagination of ufologists. Ancient Aliens takes the lack of evidence as proof of a massive conspiracy to suppress the truth.
Good news, everyone! Robert Bauval, the purveyor of The Orion Mystery, has finally admitted to being an ancient astronaut theorist. I’ve suspected this for decades, ever since Bauval admitted in The Orion Mystery that his inspiration for the book was the ancient astronaut speculation of Robert Temple. His frequent appearances on Ancient Aliens were also a strong hint. But Bauval has long pretended to be interested only in Graham Hancock’s lost civilization. However, in December he will release a new book with panspermia advocate Chandra Wickramasinghe called Cosmic Womb: The Seeding of Planet Earth (Bear & Company, 2017) in which Bauval and Wickramasinghe argue that Earth life was purposely seeded from the stars by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization and that ancient people were aware of this fact. This is an early review of the forthcoming book courtesy of galley proofs made available by the publisher
Tonight’s episode, “A Spaceship Made of Stone,” focuses on the Ishi-no-Hōden (“Stone Treasure-House”) megalith in Japan, a large roughly cubic rock carved out of the side of a hill between 500 and 700 CE, and it is said to hold the spirit of the deity of the Jinja Shinto shrine in which it sits. It weighs about 500 tons, and its most impressive feature is the clever way its base was carved into a narrow pedestal to give the illusion that it floats above the water atop which it sits. The monument has been known to the West since at least 1832, when Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German who disguised himself as a Dutchman in order to sneak into an isolationist Japan, published a picture of it in the first volume of his Nippon. The monolith appears on tonight’s show because last year, when the current batch of episodes was being planned out, an article and video about the cube made the rounds of the fringe history message boards and spam sites, where Ancient Aliens gets all its ideas.
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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