"Ancient Aliens" Launches New Novelty Product Line; Plus: Travel Channel Visits Kensington Rune Stone
Let’s start today with depressing news from the world of cable fringe history. A+E Networks, the parent company of the History Channel, announced that it’s creating a new line of novelty toys and gifts based off of their hit series Ancient Aliens to be sold in Spencer Gifts. If there is any good news from the announcement, it’s that the merchandise will be sold at Spencer Gifts, a retail store in those weird, abandoned ritual centers known as “malls” that have become archaeological sites since their wholesale abandonment a decade ago.
“As fan enthusiasm for Ancient Aliens continues to move from strength to strength, we are thrilled to partner with a retail trend leader like Spencer’s to develop a product line around the property’s totally unique appeal,” A+E Networks Brand Licensing vice president Jill Tully said in a press statement. “From science fiction to memes, the range of merchandise is a really fun way to extend the brand.”
I’m not sure whether it’s more depressing that the History Channel consider lies to be a “brand,” or that they are happy to mislead viewers as long as it makes money.
To that end, I was somewhat surprised that the PR team for History’s Ancient Aliens fan convention, Alien Con, contacted me three times to ask if I would be willing to talk with the Alien Con team for a potential blog post about the upcoming convention. I called their bluff yesterday and said that I would be delighted to speak with them about the convention. The PR guy told me that he would try to find someone who was “willing” to speak with me about Alien Con by phone, and then I heard nothing the rest of the day. I’ll follow up on Monday, but it seems that my reputation precedes me.
Speaking of cable’s interest in fringe history, last night Mysteries at the Museum on the Travel Channel offered a segment on the Kensington Rune Stone as the lead off segment to its newest episode, “Kensington Runestone, Smile! You’re being Hijacked and Harriet the Spy,” which sounds more like a Chinese spambot than a TV show title. The episode opens with Alexandria’s giant Viking statue, followed by a trip to the Runestone Museum.
I have never been to the museum, so I was, frankly, a bit surprised to see its strip-mall aesthetic, and I’m not sure I would have held up a canoe and a bicycle as prized possessions. The narrator didn’t quite explain what any of those objects have to do with the Kensington Runestone (KRS), but I gather that the museum offers a mix of Minnesota history and Scandinavian history to complement its most famous artifact.
David Krueger, who wrote a book about the stone last year that I greatly enjoyed, appears on the show as the sole talking head to discuss the stone. The narrator calls the KRS “bizarre,” which seems about right, if somewhat inappropriate. Some cheap reenactments tell the familiar (to us) story of how the stone was uncovered in 1898, but it’s clear that Mysteries at the Museum didn’t spend too much time or money on the segment. The Runestone was discovered in the fall of 1898, but the reenactment clearly was filmed in early summer, complete with lush grass and verdant trees. The jaunty music also suggests that the producers didn’t take the story very seriously, either.
The narrator relates the story told on the KRS, namely that it tells of a Norse expedition to America in 1362, and the show explains some of the early controversies over whether the stone was a genuine medieval artifact or a modern hoax. The production relates the early analysis that the KRS contains runes inconsistent with a fourteenth century date, making it a hoax. There is no mention of any geological evaluation, secret codes, Templar land claims, or Jesus’ secret kids.
The segment concludes with a sop to true believers by saying that “no one knows” whether the KRS is genuine, and, having thrown its hands into the air, the show takes off for more pleasant climes in Miami. The impression it gave, however, from the only evidence the producers chose to include, is that the stone is a hoax but that those with “Scandinavian heritage” in Minnesota don’t want to accept this.
All in all, it was a slight, rather superficial segment.
10/1/2016 12:19:46 pm
"I’m not sure whether it’s more depressing that the History Channel consider lies to be a “brand,” or that they are happy to mislead viewers as long as it makes money."
10/1/2016 02:10:31 pm
Don't forget that Leif Erikson's famous luck helped him persuade his fellow Greenlanders to become Christian, over 300 years before 1362 !
10/1/2016 06:12:31 pm
Hi David. Certainly, there would have been some confusing crossover time when Vikings were being Christianized, but one has to wonder whether these new converts could still be called Vikings, even at the end of the Viking Age, if the term Viking usually denotes ripping other people off.
10/1/2016 06:25:03 pm
Leif Erikson was almost certainly a first-generation Greenlander. It is most unlikely that any Greenlander could strictly be called a Viking. Quite the opposite if anything, they were peaceful settlers sometimes troubled by raids from "remigantibus" ("rowers", per Adam of Bremen).
10/2/2016 06:53:21 am
Hey David Bradbury,
10/2/2016 06:58:13 am
10/2/2016 05:30:18 am
It's becoming clear to me that for Gunn, aka Bob, proving the KRS real has nothing to do with pre-Columbus explorations by Vikings but very much about proving Christianity was the 'original' established religion in the Americas.
10/2/2016 12:12:24 pm
Hi flip, you seem to have flipped your lid. I don't need to "prove" the KRS; it proves itself quite handily, since it has never been proven to be a hoax...and...right, it never will.
10/2/2016 06:57:34 am
10/2/2016 12:21:47 pm
How about if Time Machine skips down the Yellow Brick Road to get new clock-related innards from the Wizard of Oz (Maybe Sinclair in disguise)? While there, ask the Wizard why there are no more templar secrets. (And please tell Toto hi for me, too....)
10/1/2016 12:23:01 pm
I can't wait to invest in a Giorgio Tsoukalos action figure. If I hold on to it until aliens actually do get here, I can probably get $1.27 for it.
10/1/2016 01:28:49 pm
I can only imagine the squeek of dismay when someone up the chain of command finds out that the PR guys offered to get you involved in AlienCon.
10/1/2016 01:36:36 pm
Frankly, I'm just glad Mysteries at the Museum talked about the anachronistic runes, and pretty much left it at that.
10/1/2016 07:33:31 pm
I think Jason was kinda harsh about the reenactment. Unless the actors were wearing hoodies and Nike sneakers, I don't think Average Joe viewers care about accuracy
10/2/2016 07:10:46 am
Good job there's an afterlife.
10/1/2016 07:09:07 pm
Wait. What the hell did Harriet the Spy have to do with it all, then?
10/2/2016 06:51:17 am
Hey Clint old boy
10/2/2016 08:11:54 am
"Jesus’ secret kids",,, They are still out there you know ? In the sixties three of them formed a folk group and sang about puffing on magic mushrooms or something.
10/2/2016 08:21:44 am
You can't put the genie back into the bottle once it's out.
10/2/2016 08:41:34 am
The pronouncements of Professor Morton Smith and Jens Jorgen Thorsen during the 1970s about the sex life of Jesus Christ, and Scorsese's 1988 film "Last Temptation of Christ" -- that caused much controversy, all seem millions of light years away in 2016.
10/5/2016 02:43:05 am
Ha ha ha ha, oh stop Scott, you're killing me!
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.