The anonymous piece appeared unceremoniously halfway through the “Notes and Comments” section under the title “A Visit from Spacemen.” The piece begins by stating that the transformation of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt is “baffling” to “modern science.” The then author introduces the work of Soviet scientist Matest M. Agrest (1915-2005), who a few months earlier had published his theory that the events of Genesis 19 could be explained by extraterrestrials using nuclear weapons on Sodom and Gomorrah, thus killing Lot’s wife, before building the megalithic platform at Baalbek as a launch pad to return to their home planet.
The writer then adds that the Greek gods of Olympus were the “best-documented group of space visitors,” possessed of a “technology which in many respects surpassed our own,” including aerial propulsion systems hidden in helmets and shoes (Hermes and Perseus), invisibility systems (Perseus again), the ability to disguise themselves as others (think Athena in the Odyssey), control of the weather (Athena in the Odyssey; Zeus with his lightning), and “the astounding accuracy of their ballistic missiles” (I suppose these must be Zeus’ lightning bolts). The author was much taken with the idea, used promiscuously by later ancient astronaut authors, that any story, no matter how fantastic, must be taken literally.
The accompanying cartoon illustration shows a rocket beside a Greco-Roman temple offering a launch countdown in Roman numerals.
“But however ridiculous Mr. Argest’s suggestion may seem, it cannot be turned down out of hand. In the United States serious scientists think it worthwhile to turn a radio telescope on stars which might have inhabited planets to see if a powerful radio signal is being beamed towards us. If it is sensible to think that other living creatures can make radio transmitters of power incomparably greater than those on Earth, it is equally sensible to think that they might have had rockets big enough to pay us a visit. Argest’s plea is that biologists and nuclear physicists should take a look at some of the archaeological remains to see whether there are traces of other worldly [sic] visitors. The suggestion is not so screwy as it at first appears.”