I wanted to offer a bit more detail on something I mentioned in my previous blog post where I discussed David Hatcher Childress’s shifting ideas and his attack on me. In that post, I did not get into the whole of Childress’s strange claims, and I wanted to be sure I set the record straight.
Let’s begin at the beginning. In the 1980s, Childress began writing a series of books on “lost cities,” mixing a frothy blend of Victorian pseudoscience, “alternative” history, and New Age mysticism derived from the Lemurian Fellowship, which believes in lost continents (Lemuria and Mu) and an origin of humanity from planes beyond the human. At the time, the original ancient astronaut craze of the 1970s was dying out, and Childress’s books found a new niche, preserving the mystery without the aliens by revisiting old lies about Atlantis and Lemuria and Mu.
However, times changed, and by the mid-1990s, pop culture events like the X-Files and Alien Autopsy had made aliens hot again. Childress therefore published in 1994 a book called Extraterrestrial Archaeology, in which he claimed (or rather, in the manner of these “theorists,” suggested) that aliens had left archaeological remains on Mars and the moon. He even included material from H. P. Wilkins arguing that the moon was an alien spaceship, and he quoted so-called “legends” about Martians who came to earth to create the human race. He quoted Zecharia Sitchin for support of his views. He was an active member at the time (and still is, as far as I know) of the AAS-RA, commonly called by its old name, the Ancient Astronaut Society. He appeared in many network and cable documentaries in the 1990s that explored alien influence theories, and his official biography stated that he was an “expert” on UFOs. Childress was listed as an “extraterrestrial archaeologist” in the publication Alien Encounters.
From this, I concluded that Childress could be described as a type of ancient astronaut theorist since he advocated (as much as any of these authors ever state anything definitively) aliens (“astronauts”) who were active in the deep past (“ancient”) and left archaeological remains.
But the 1990s alien renaissance was short lived, from roughly 1995 to 2005, under the influence of John Anthony West, Robert Bauval, and Graham Hancock (the last two would also, in The Mars Mystery, speculate on ancient aliens), alien ancestors were out of fashion in alternative history circles and lost civilizations were in. Childress did not want to be known as an “ancient astronaut” theorist. He actually took pains to come up with (ridiculous) alternative explanations to discredit the ancient astronaut theory. In his continuing Lost Cities series of books, Childress included claims that ancient ruins were not the work of aliens but evidence of “a man-made apocalypse,” probably a chemical one (Lost Cities of Atlantis, 1996). Then, still later, he said the evidence used by ancient astronaut theorists “can be alternatively explained in the time travel hypothesis” (Time Traveler’s Handbook, 1999) whereby future humans traveled back in time to inspire ancient cultures. Time travel, yes; aliens, no.
When I first started writing about archaeology in 2001, I wrote an article about Childress’s earlier claims that the Grand Canyon contains a Tibetan-Egyptian underground citadel, something that I endeavored to demonstrate was a hoax. Following that, I wrote an article criticizing Childress’s idea that prehistoric people had engaged in nuclear warfare. Versions of both articles are now included in my eBook Ancient Atom Bombs.
Well, Childress did not like these articles, and he made it known that he considered my examination of his claims an attack on him personally.
I had meanwhile incorporated my research into The Cult of Alien Gods (2005), which devoted seven pages to Childress and placed him in the context of 1980s alternative historians who emerged in the wake of Erich von Daniken and Zecharia Sitchin. That, of course, was the last straw. Childress was not about aliens. Not in 2005, anyway. Therefore, in an interview with the Chicago Reader in 2006, Childress attacked me for linking him to the then-unfashionable ancient astronaut theory:
“[M]y whole thing is that this stuff is from this planet. These giant ruins aren’t built by extraterrestrials. I say they were built by humans. Mankind and civilization goes back 50,000 years or more. What else can I assume is inaccurate in this book [Cult of Alien Gods]? This guy just plain doesn’t do his research.”
Strangely, when scholar Diana G. Tumminia used the same evidence I had used to call Childress an ancient astronaut theorist in a 2007 academic book, no criticism emerged from Childress. This may well have been because at the very same time that Childress issued his complaint, he was busy writing The Mystery of the Olmecs (2007) in which he discussed the ancient astronaut theory and suggested that early human groups deformed their skulls to look like aliens. (Like all ancient astronaut authors, he never makes a direct statement himself but instead “suggests” that “others” may claim this.) Unlike his earlier works, there was no dismissal of the ancient astronaut theory, only a generally positive citation of it. Perhaps sensing that the pop culture pendulum was swinging away from Atlantis and back to aliens, in 2009 Childress joined Ancient Aliens and for the past three TV seasons has been opining on the doings of “the aliens” for the History Channel, blithely unconcerned with his own previous views.
So, by my count Childress has “suggested” Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, lost civilizations, time travel, and extraterrestrials as explanations for ancient cultures in his various publications and media appearances. So, on the one hand Childress was right. Describing him as an “ancient astronaut theorist” was perhaps a failure of research on my part; “slipshod scholar and opportunist,” however, I still think seems a bit harsh.
6/19/2013 06:30:57 am
After watching Ancient Aliens Season one episode 4 Close Encounters, about 8 times I think Ancient Aliens got it wrong about the Mediterranean Sea.
8/29/2015 07:19:48 am
You must have spooked David H. Childres off as I can not find the guy's email to talk to him.
2/18/2016 02:16:27 pm
The reason that Children's and do not say that ancient aliens definitely built the pyramids, or Atlantis was definitelyma continent that sunk into the ocean, or any of the other theories they offer as definite fact is that they don't know and they are more than willing to state that they do not know. They are just opening up possibilities for discussion. You and your obviously closed mind have to admit that there are tangible things in our world that are unexplained. The people that you so blatantly malign are at least trying to come up with very plausible explanations for some of these mysteries of our world. All you can do is put them down for trying and espouse your often uninformed reasons why these theories are impossible. You sir are not a scientist. Scientist have open minds and are willing to express a theory to explain an unknown and not turn tail and run if this theory is disproven by scientific facts. You on the other hand would take your toys and run home to mommy!
Robert Dean Holland
11/23/2016 07:20:35 pm
If you would be kind enough to send me Giorgio Tsoukalos' email address I will be forever in your debt. If this is impossible, could you please send my email address to him with the request that he drop me a note. My sincere thanks,
9/6/2018 06:48:58 pm
Childress is a massive fraud. Gullible people are taken in by him and he never proves his point.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.